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Sake (酒) is an alcoholic beverage that originated in Japan. It is made using fermented rice. Sake can be served either hot or cold. Sake is the English pronunciation. Japanese culture has respect for the beverage, and often pronounces it using the honorific “O-.”


There have been reports of rice wine being created in China. However, most rice wine dates back to early Japan. The first known sake beverage was created by chewing the rice and spitting it into a vat, so that the saliva in the spit helped turn the rice contents to sugar making the fermented beverage sweeter. This type of sake was thick and may have been eaten from a bowl rather than sipped from a glass. Sake was not the first beverage to go through this process. The Chinese also had their own wine known as xiǎo mǐ jǐu (小米酒) that was also made in this fashion.

It took several centuries before the Japanese realized there were other molds that could convert rice to sugar, and these molds were faster, could create an alcohol content of 18-25%, but was still porridge-like. It was also very sour.

Soon, however, sake brewing techniques began to improve. They began using better methods to make the liquid thinner, allowing the beverage to be sipped rather than chewed. By the Meiji Restoration, over 30,000 breweries were in existence (cut down to 8,000 by the time taxes were implemented), and sake was considered the premier alcoholic beverage across all of Japan. Some of these brewers are still in the sake brewing business today.

By 1904, a government sponsored sake research institute was open and by that point sake had become its almost perfected form. Today, sake is an alcoholic beverage that is enjoyed throughout the world. But even with its international success, Japan still brews most of the world’s sake and exports it to other countries. There are somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 breweries still open today.


Sake can be served warm or cold. Heating is more common with the lower quality sakes, but it is also popular for colder days and for general warmth and enjoyment. During the summer, cold sake is generally served. Sake is taken from tiny cups (known as choko), and is generally served to a table in a tokkuri, or ceramic flask.

Sake can be mixed with other drinks, and there are some cocktails available, but sake is usually served straight. Because of this, some sakes have flavor, though most try to maintain its traditional taste.

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