Win a ₱50,000 mystery box! Every order amounting ₱2,500 will earn you one raffle entry. Registered users only! Earn ₱200 Cashback coins when you create an account!

Japanese Sake Buying and Drinking Guide for Beginners

Japanese Sake Buying and Drinking Guide for Beginners

Welcome, sake-curious friends! If you’ve ever found yourself wandering through the realm of Japanese beverages, wondering how to dip your toes into the enchanting world of sake, you’ve come to the right place. We at Thirst have brewed up an easy-to-digest, delightful, and dare we say, saketastic guide to help beginners like you navigate the rice-wine seas with confidence.

In this Japanese Sake Buying and Drinking Guide for Beginners, we’ll unravel the mysteries of this ancient libation, introduce you to its fascinating varieties, and share insider tips on selecting and savoring this unique drink. 

So grab your ochoko (sake cup) and let your taste buds embark on a journey to the Land of the Rising Sun! Kanpai!

What is Sake?

Sake, also known as nihonshu, is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Often referred to as “rice wine,” its production process is more akin to beer brewing, as the rice starch is converted into sugar, which is then fermented into alcohol. Sake boasts a unique taste that can range from light and fruity to rich and savory, offering a diverse drinking experience for both newcomers and seasoned enthusiasts. With a variety of types, flavors, and brewing methods, there’s bound to be a sake that suits your palate. Sake also plays an essential role in Japanese culture, being a part of various rituals, ceremonies, and social gatherings.

Types of Sake

There are several types of sake, each with its distinct characteristics. Let’s explore six popular varieties and their unique features, brewing techniques, and ideal serving temperatures:

1. Junmai Sake

Junmai sake is crafted solely from rice, water, koji (a type of mold), and yeast. It contains no added alcohol or other ingredients, resulting in a pure, full-bodied taste with a subtle sweetness. Junmai sake is an excellent starting point for beginners due to its simplicity and balance. Generally, it is best enjoyed when served warm (50-55°C) to bring out its earthy and umami-rich flavors.

2. Ginjo Sake

Ginjo sake is made with rice that has been polished to remove at least 40% of the outer layer, leading to a lighter, more refined flavor. It often exhibits fruity and floral notes, making it an outstanding choice for those who appreciate aromatic beverages. The fermentation process for ginjo sake occurs at lower temperatures, allowing the delicate flavors to develop slowly. This type of sake is typically served chilled (5-10°C) to highlight its elegant nuances.

3. Daiginjo Sake

Daiginjo sake is a premium version of ginjo sake, made with rice that has been polished to remove at least 50% of the outer layer. This results in an even more delicate and refined flavor profile, characterized by elegant fruity and floral aromas. Daiginjo sake is considered the pinnacle of sake craftsmanship, and its brewing process demands exceptional skill and precision. Like ginjo sake, it’s best served chilled (5-10°C) to accentuate its delicate flavors.

4. Honjozo Sake

Honjozo sake incorporates a small amount of distilled alcohol added to the fermentation process. This addition yields a lighter, smoother taste and enhances the aroma. Honjozo sake is easy to drink and pairs well with a variety of foods, making it a versatile choice for different occasions. It can be enjoyed both warm (40-45°C) or slightly chilled (10-15°C), depending on your preference.

5. Nigori Sake

Nigori sake is either unfiltered or coarsely filtered, giving it a cloudy appearance and a creamy, rich texture. It often has a sweet taste with fruity and nutty notes, making it a popular choice for dessert pairings. The unique mouthfeel and bold flavors of nigori sake set it apart from other varieties. It’s best served chilled (5-10°C) to showcase its refreshing, dessert-like qualities.

6. Futsushu Sake

Futsushu sake, also known as “table sake” or “ordinary sake,” is the most common type of sake available. It is made with less polished rice (removing less than 30% of the outer layer) and may contain added alcohol or other ingredients to enhance the flavor. Futsushu sake is generally more affordable and easy to drink, making it an ideal option for beginners and casual drinkers. It can be enjoyed warm (40-45°C) or at room temperature (15-20°C) to suit your personal taste.

By exploring these different types of sake, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich variety and craftsmanship that goes into creating this iconic Japanese beverage. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned sake enthusiast, there’s always something new to discover in the fascinating world of sake.

FAQs

Will one shot of sake make you tipsy?

The effect of one shot of sake on an individual depends on various factors, such as body weight, metabolism, alcohol tolerance, and whether it’s consumed on an empty stomach. Sake generally has an alcohol content between 14% and 16%, which is higher than most beers and wines. However, since a typical sake serving size is smaller (about 1.5 to 3 ounces), one shot may not have a significant impact on most people. It’s essential to consume alcohol responsibly and know your limits.

What is basic sake?

Basic sake, also known as futsushu or “table sake,” is the most common type of sake available. It is made with less polished rice (removing less than 30% of the outer layer) and may contain added alcohol or other ingredients to enhance the flavor.

Futsushu sake is generally more affordable and easy to drink, making it an ideal option for beginners and casual drinkers. While it may not possess the same level of complexity as some of the premium varieties, basic sake still offers a satisfying and enjoyable drinking experience.

Does sake get you drunk fast?

Sake’s alcohol content is higher than beer and wine but lower than spirits like whiskey or vodka. Drinking sake too quickly or in large quantities can lead to intoxication faster than lower-alcohol beverages. However, the smaller serving sizes and the slower, more relaxed pace at which sake is typically consumed can help moderate its effects. As always, it’s crucial to drink responsibly and be aware of your personal alcohol tolerance.

Is it easy to drink sake?

Sake is generally considered easy to drink due to its smooth texture and diverse range of flavors. There is a type of sake to suit almost every palate, from light and fruity to rich and savory. For those new to sake, starting with a basic sake like futsushu or a well-balanced junmai sake can help ease you into the world of this unique beverage. 

As you become more familiar with the different types and flavors, you may find yourself drawn to the more complex and refined varieties, such as ginjo or daiginjo sake. Remember, finding the right sake for you is a personal journey, so take your time and enjoy the process.

Related Articles