How can we skip Sake when we talk about alcohol in Japan? Definitely not. Sake usually contains 18% to 20% alcohol contents during production and may lower the ratio to 15% by adding water for bottling sales. Many people may have already known sake is made from rice. However, people may often get confused when they try to differentiate sake from Chinese baijiu or Korean soju.
An easy high level way to separate them is by alcohol contents. Baijiu is usually made from sorghum, and is the strongest distilled spirit among the three. Baiju contains usually 40-60% alcohol by volume (ABV). On the other side, Korean soju across the widest range of ABV from 15% to above 50%. It can also be made from all kinds of things, e.g. wheat, rice, potato.
Rice and water are really the main ingredients of traditional sake although in the modern world, manufacturers start to add different favor to expand the tasting. Sake's production process is very similar to beer brewing. The key different is that for beer, the conversion from starch to sugar and from sugar to alcohol occurs in two distinct steps which, like other rice wines, when sake is brewed, these conversions occur simultaneously. For tasting, sake is more akin to the tasting of wine. You can pair it with all kinds of food but originally sake goes mainly well with light food like fish or seafood generally. Compared with beer, sake gives you a delicate and elegant flavor.
Depending on whether adding distilled alcohol or brewing method, sake can be categorized to daiginjō-shu (very special brew with no distlled alcohol added), ginjō-shu (very special brew with distlled alcohol added), junmai-shu (special brew with no distlled alcohol added), honjōzō-shu (special brew with distlled alcohol added) and several other types.
The beauty of sake is that it can be served chilled, at room temperature or hot so it is enjoyable despite season changes. It can be served in a glass or ceramic small cup. The storage of sake is similar to that of wine. Some people prefer chilled sake while others prefer warm or hot ones. How about you?
More Japanese sake 101 details can be found at the video below from WatchMojo