Sake Rice Wine
Japanese Traditional Drink
Sake is known by most non-Japanese as the hot drink served at the local slice-and-dice - no strong flavor, but a potent punch. Sake is actually a very diverse set of flavorful rice wines, dating from the 3rd century.
Sake was first called kuchikami no sake
, which meant "chewing in the mouth sake". A whole village would gather to chew up rice, nuts and other grain, and then spit it into a tub to ferment. This formed part of the Shinto festivals of fertility. Luckily, more modern practices are a little more sterile.
Sake is, at its simplest, a concoction of rice, water, and mold. Because of this, the type of rice used, the purity of the water, and other basic quality standards make a huge difference in the type of sake created. The rice is often polished down, removing the surface imperfections. This polishing also removes fatty acids - some companies claim the more fatty acids removed, the less of a hangover the drinker gets.
Sake is brewed for around a month, and then aged for around six more. It should be consumed shortly after purchase, but can last up to a year. It should be refrigerated. Sake typically has around 15% to 17% alcohol, and is an almost transparent color. Some can be light amber or gold. Yellowed sake is usually old.
Sake has a wide range of tastes, but most taste of flowers and of course a rice flavor. It can be delicate or powerful. The "impact" of sake is called kuchi-atari
. It can be very sweet or dry, depending on the density of the sake.
The complexity of sake is called oku-bukai
. Like wine, a sake can be earthy - this is called koku ga aru
. The "aftertaste" or finish of a sake is called its tail.
Sake can be served both warm and cold. Traditionally, summer sakes are served chilled, while winter sakes are served, as James Bond knows, around body temperature. It should never be served piping hot. The heat destroys the flavor - if you get a sake at a restaurant too hot to touch, send it back.
The Word "Sake"