Sake is a wine made from “polished” or milled rice kernels, yeast, koji (an enzyme), and pure clean water. It has been a part of Japanese tradition for thousands of years and is even used in various Shinto ceremonies.
It used to be cloudy in color until a disgruntled (so the legend goes) brewery employee threw ashes into a batch, settling the particles and making it the smoother, clear liquid it is today. sake, the sugar needed to produce alcohol must first be converted from starch.
However, the brewing process for sake differs from beer brewing as well, notably in that for beer, the conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol occurs in two discrete steps, but with sake they occur simultaneously.
Alcohol content also differs between sake, wine and beer. Wine contains from 9 to 16% of alcohol, beer contain from 3 to 9% of alcohol and Sake without diluted it is 18 to 20%, when diluted with purified water lowered it to 15%.
It can be served hot or cold with the finer usually being served cold. It’s best consumed within 2 or 3 hours, to finish the sake within 2 days. Sake is usually drunk from small cups called choko and poured into the choko from ceramic flasks called tokkuri. Saucer-like cups called sakazuki are also used, most commonly at weddings and other ceremonial occasions.
In general, it is best to keep sake refrigerated in a cool or dark room, as prolonged exposure to heat or direct light will lead to spoilage. Sake stored at room temperature is best consumed within a few months after purchase. The traditional cheer when consuming this most sacred beverage is to say “Campai!” It is also customary that one never serves his own sake. Enjoy!