On March 20th, Liquor Japan has launched our first Sake trial event successfully together with the Japanese Embassy in Delhi, India!
Although the Coronavirus has posed a huge challenge for the event, with careful disinfection preparation and arrangement, the event has finally come to a successful conclusion.
In this event, a total of 16 kinds of sake were provided for our attendees, and Liquor Japan provided three kinds of Sake which have been strictly selected and highly recommended. These are Junmai Sparkling Nigori, Tsukinokatsura Junmai, Special selection Kohaku Hikari, as well as Bikkuri Gyoten we prepared as the souvenir.
Since there is an attendee number regulation, people who come to join the event have been separated into 2 groups in the morning and afternoon, and each group had a chance to try 8 kinds of Sake. Each group was given 10 minutes to enjoy the sake, and there was also Japanese food like Yakitori prepared for the attendees to better taste Sake. There was a total of 31 people came to the trial event. Among them, some were from the alcohol media background, some were from the media field, some were from the food industry, some were sake lovers and others were officials from embassies of other countries.
Although the attendee’s amount cannot be compared with last year’s trial event due to the influence of the coronavirus, we still received warm feedback from the attendees and are very happy to know that they really enjoyed this event.
Here are some photos from the sake trial event. Have a quick check!
We will try to host another trial event in the near future, so please stay connected with us to see more information!
Sake,which is originated from the same root of Japanese national food, rice, has become a new symbol of Japanese culture recognized by people worldwide. With the development of past 2000 years, Japanese Sake finally starts to walk into the world and enters into everyone’s life, nowadays, it’s not rare to find Sake from a five-star hotel in America, as well as a Japanese restaurant in Australia. However, Sake, being served as a normal drink in Japan, in most foreign people’s eyes, is still very mysterious. In this article, we will unveil the mystery of Sake and provide some basic Sake knowledge for you.
I believe before wine got popular around the world people’s first question on it is what is wine? To solve this doubt that you may also have on Sake, here in the first part of the article, we will give you a brief introduction on Sake.
In Japan, people call Sake Nihonshu. It can be also called as Japanese rice wine, it’s a kind of alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice which has been polished to a certain point of rate. The main ingredients to make Sake are quality of Sake rice, water, koji and yeast. The brew process for Sake is different from beer and wine, where the conversion from starch to sugar and then from sugar to alcohol occurs in two distinct steps. For Sake, it’s a sophisticated production method called parallel fermentation that combines the processes of saccharization and fermentation, which is the alcoholic content between 16%~20%.
Below is an average alcohol content chart of different alcohol.
Many new kinds of Sake have been made during the past 100 years with the development of sake making technology. Based on different criteria, Sake can be mainly classified as below:
Classify from the degree of polishing
Rice grain needs to be polished before using as Sake rice, generally speaking, the more polished the rice is, the premium the Sake will become. The polish is to remove the outer layers of the grain, which contains an abundance of vitamins, fats, and protein. It is especially important to reduce protein, because during fermentation, protein breaks down into amino acids that can taste bitter. More polishing results in lighter, cleaner tasting Sake.
For premium Sake, normally polish rate is around 40%. Below are two kinds of primary premium Sake. (Polish rate = the percentage of remaining rice)
Ginjo, at least 40% of the grain has been polished away.
Daiginjo, at least 50% of the grain has been polished away.
Classify from the addition of alcohol
In order to reduce the process time of the Sake and increase the Sake shelf-life, sometimes, brewers choose to have a little added, distilled alcohol (often listed as “brewers’ alcohol” on the bottle) in the Sake. This will not only help to stabilize the Sake quality but also increase Sake’s taste and aroma differently based on the alcohol been added into. Under this criterion, there are mainly below 2 kinds of Sake.
Junmai, no alcohol has been added to the Sake.
Honjozo, a small amount has been added to fasten the speed of Sake brewery as well as improve the flavor.
Besides above, there are other popular Sake as well. Their making process as well as taste are more special due to the specific brewer process. Here is the introduction.
Above is a roughly introduction of different kinds of Sake (Nihonsyu), we can learn that the producing process and ingredient varies within different Sake. As mentioned earlier, Sake has started walking into the world and showing up in many high-level hotels or restaurants. A report posed in 2018 states that the Japanese Sake exportation has been at a record high for the last 8 years, and America remains the primary export partner. But what can make people except Japan start to love Sake, and what are the differences between Sake and other alcohol beverage?
The main ingredient for Sake is rice, and Japan is the country of rice. Rice can be divided into mainly 2 kinds here in Japan; One for food use while the other one for Sake specific use. The special Sake rice only exists in Japan makes Sake taste richer and original. This is the key factor makes Sake special than other alcohol or Sake made in other countries. The original Sake made in Japan is famous for its taste of Umami and Kokumi, which has been called as the fifth and sixth taste existed except sweet, salty, sour, bitter.
Umami is a loanword from the Japanese (うま味), umami can be translated as “pleasant savory taste”. This neologism was coined in 1908 by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda from a nominalization of umai (うまい) “delicious”. The compound 旨味 (with mi (味) “taste”) is used for a more general sense of a food as delicious. Kokumi was a more recent discovery also by the work of Japanese researchers in 1989. It was found that the addition of a pure, tasteless water extract of garlic evoked the kokumi sensation in a dilute solution of glutamate and inosinate.
Both umami and kokumi taste sensations are activated by amino acids or small peptides. Researchers postulate that umami and kokumi are evolutionary sensations that point to the presence of proteins and amino acids in a food, much like sweet is an indicator for carbohydrates, sour for acids, salts for minerals, and bitter for poisons. Umami flavor is strongly associated with the presence of the amino acids’ glutamic acid and aspartic acid. The extract alone possessed no flavor at the concentration threshold used, however, the addition of the two synergistic umami components brought out a noticeable garlic flavor to the extract with the characteristic mouthfulness associated with kokumi. That is to say, Umami means the savoriness, Kokumi means the richness and deliciousness of the food and drink.
With such a compatible rich and delicious flavor, Sake can pair well with most of the food and dishes. The birth of Sake in Japan proves that the match between Sake and Japanese cuisine is the perfect. That is why you can see there are always Sake available in Japanese restaurant. The fresh Japanese sashimi, and sushi are no doubt the best partner of Sake. However, Sake can also pair well with other food rather than Japanese cuisine. Taking Nigori Sake for example, it can pair well with spicy food, as the milky texture and creaminess can reduce the strong sensation of the spiciness and improve the food taste. Namazake, with the fresh and fruity flavor, can pair well with heavy dish, such as fried dish or creamy dish. Sparkling Sake, which has caused a boom in Japan market in recently years, is famous for pairing with juicy, crisp fruit salad. You can choose the fruit like apples, pears, grapes, melon, and strawberries in your bowl or design it based on your personal likes, topping it with yogurt or honey. Sparkling sake will also give you a different fruit salad enjoyment. The fizziness will ease the weight of the yogurt, while the fruity, subtly sweet palate will aid to enhance the flavors of the fruit.
Above are just some common pairing suggestions for Sake. There are no absolute pairing rules since people’s tastes are different and the richness of Sake flavor is different as well. You will have to try different Sake on your own, and we are sure that you will find one kind of Sake you could fall in love with definitely.
But probably you will ask, there are so many kinds of Sake and how could I know which one I should start with? Well, don’t worry, we’ve thought about that. In the next part, we’ll give you some recommendations.
There are actually two categories of Sake in Japan: 1. tokutei-meisho-shu, which literally means specially designated Sake. 2. futsu-shu, which literally means non-premium Sake. Some of the Sake we talked about above are Junmai, Ginjo, Honjozo, which are all categorized as tokutei-meisho-shu. Brewers have to follow certain guidelines when making tokutei-meisho-shu to ensure a higher quality product. Futsu-shu is Sake that has not been made up to tokutei-meisho-shu standards and contains more additives and distilled alcohol than tokutei-meisho-shu as well. You will find that a lot of cheap restaurants and izakaya serve cheap futsu-shu in Japan.
For beginner who doesn’t know the taste of Sake, it’s better to start with premium Sake with strong Sake aroma and taste, such as Ginjo, (only 8% to 9% of all Sake brewed is Ginjo grade), with at least 40% polish rate, or Junmai Daiginjo, which is regarded as the highest-grade Sake. The best products in this class deliver a good blend of refined taste with acidity and umami.
Another reason why we suggest Ginjo is going well with wine glass. You don’t need to be worried about that the Sake from Japan must be drank in a Sake cap called Ochoko. When served slightly chilled in a wine glass, it can delight the novice drinker to feel more taste such as fruits or flowers aroma in the Sake. Ginjo is the one which is easy to let Sake beginner appreciate Sake and also not too strong for a start.
Maybe you’ll ask, why should we enjoy Sake in wine glass? Sake and wine are so different, will wine glass work fine for Sake? The answer is totally yes, I guess the knowledge you have before tells you that Sake should drink only with Japanese Sake cup. But in our recent interview with the American Sake expert Gordon Heady, who has lived in Japan for over ten years, he suggested us to learn to enjoy Sake in wine glass. His reasons for choosing wine glasses over the traditional Ochoko or cup is because the wine glass allows the complex aroma of Sake to unfold fully. This is a nice thing for wine drinker because you don’t need to buy a Sake cup on purpose in order to drink it. A wine cup will be good enough.
So far, we talked about the basic information of Sake, to make you better understand the difference /characteristics of Sake, let’s have a comparison between wine and Sake.
The biggest difference in taste comes from the actual raw ingredient used in creating these drinks. Wine uses grapes as its main ingredient, and Japanese Sake mainly uses rice. Especially in their sweetness, contrary to what many people believe, Japanese Sake is sweeter than wine. And as such, Sake also has more calories than wine. A glass of Sake of 100 grams contains 103 calories whereas wine has about 83 calories for the same amount.
Sake is not put under controlled temperature like wine which is stored in cellars. The name of different types of Sake will also differ depending on the way it’s been drunk. There are more ways to enjoy Sake than drinking wine depending on different seasons with different temperatures. In the spring and fall, Sake is traditionally drunk in room temperature. In the summer, Sake is prepared as “Reishu”, or refrigerated Sake. While chilled Sake is the way to go in the summer, heated or warm Sake “Atsukan” is enjoyed in the winter.
Compared to wine, the special drinking way and the aroma of Sake may attract your taste buds and open a new experience for you. As an alcohol drink, Sake has been identified as less harmful and can generate good benefit to our body when we drink in moderation. The rich amino acid included in it will help improve our body immune system to some extent, and we will give you an introduction on this in another article. However, if you drink too much it will only generate bad rather than good. So, it is really important to enjoy Sake in a relaxed with a self-controlled spirit.
Japanese Sake, with a history of over 2000 years, shares a deep bond with Japan’s national food, rice. It has been praised as the most amazing invention in Japan by the American Sake expert, Gordon Heady, who has lived in Japan for over ten years. Gordon also mentioned that he used to be a wine drinker, but when he first tasted Sake, he fell in love with it immediately.
Not only the taste of Sake is as appreciable as wine, but also it is said that the Sake is less harmful to the body compares to other alcohol drinks and may generate good benefit to people when drink in moderation. As the old Japanese saying goes[酒は百薬の長], Which means the right amount of Sake can be as effective as medicine in the past.
With the development of modern medical science, we know this old saying is not hundred percent right. But this old saying does make sense to several kinds of diseases to some extent based on recent years study on alcohol. Actually, alcohol has been widely used in many aspects of our life already, if you observe carefully, you’ll find the alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol), which has been used widely in sanitizer, medical treatment for cleaning the wound, etc. However, drinking alcohol, which is known as Ethyl alcohol, scientific studies have found that the consumption of it is actually the root cause of some severe disease that human are likely to have. But considering from the social and culture side, ethyl alcohol is an Indispensable part in human history development and our daily life. So, learning how to choose the right alcohol which can harm the body the least is the most important thing to do. In this article, we are going to introduce you one of the healthiest alcohols that currently mainly consumed in one of the world’s cleanest countries, Japan. It is called Sake, or in a more precise way, Nihonshu.
As a drink existed in Japan for over 2000 years, Sake has been used in many ways. It’s served not just as an alcohol drink, but more like a cultural and social bond Infiltrated in Japanese people’s everyday life. During the Sake production process, people cooperated with each other, they learn about the rice growing knowledge, and with the knowledge they gained, it enriches Japanese rice agriculture. On the other hand, studies have found out that Sake has been proved to include around 700 kinds of nutrition ingredients, such as amino acid, vitamins, minerals, selenium, enzyme, peptide, etc. It’s true that people don’t need to drink sake to get these nutrients especially when they can also find these nutrients in other foods. But for alcohol drinker, if they can drink in moderation, Sake should generate more health benefits than other alcohol drinks when drinking in the same amount. Below is a comparation chart among Sake, beer and white wine from Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association.
(A Comprehensive guide to Japanese Sake by Japan Sake and Shochu makers Association. 2011,3)
As we all know, a strong immune system has been considered as the best protector for the human body. The job of immune system is to detect and destroy. It can protect us from getting the flu and decrease the duration of illness. Scientific studies have found out that there are many factors will influence the construction of immune system. Such as hygiene, sleep quality, nutrition intake, cortisol levels and Supplement Intake.
As one of the key factors that influence the composition of immune system, nutrients intake is what we are going to talk about in this article. From the factor of nutrition, for alcohol drinker, it is better to choose alcohol with higher nutrition. According to the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2018, there are 2.348 billion people (43% of the population) are current drinkers. And Alcohol is consumed by more than half of the population in only three WHO regions – the European Region (EUR) (59.9% of current drinkers), the Region of the Americas (AMR) (54.1%) and the Western Pacific Region (WPR) (53.8%). In all these top regions, people mainly consume beer and wine. But as we can see from Table 1.1, the amount of Glutamic acid content that can generate a lot of health benefits included in Sake, is the highest compared with Beer and white wine. (Almost five times or more in Sake than wine/beer). If we analyze different alcohol from the view of nutrition factor, it means that Sake should be the wisest choice.
Glutamic acid is an amino acid used to form the protein, protein takes about 20% in the human body and it is one of the key factors in constructing the immune system.
One of the amino acids compound found in the highest concentrations in sake is selenium, a mineral that straightly connects to people’s metabolism. Study has shown that immune cell function and metabolism are closely linked. The alterations in cellular metabolism influence immune cell function, and conversely, immune cell function determines the cellular metabolic state.
Since Sake has the highest nutrition content (Glutamic acid) inside of it, so when you consume the same amount of alcohol, it will benefit your immune system and metabolism system at the largest percentage compare to wine and beer.
There are many chemical skin care products that have been used by women around the world. It’s true that using them can make your skin look shiny and smooth. But the consequences of using chemical cosmetics might cause many skincare issues. When you take off your make-up, it will hurt your skin, make your skin look dark, and cause rough pore, age spot and acne problems, etc. Instead, non-chemical skincare products, as they’re from plant-based sources, are really skin-friendly and gentle. You’ll be able to achieve the same brightening effects from natural ingredients instead of exposing your skin to harsh, toxic chemicals. In this article, we will introduce the Japanese Sake, which mainly comes from rice grain, is also one of the natural healthiest materials for skincare as well.
The rice, which has been used as the main material for Sake production, is full of minerals, vitamins, amino acids. As we discussed earlier, the content of amino acid on itself has many good effects. It can brighten, tighten, and soften the skin, and these benefits remain intact even when rice is converted into rice water. The slightly acidic pH levels created during the rice fermentation process support cell regeneration, minimized pores, and brighter skin.
As we mentioned that Sake has been served as a national drink for about 2000 years, it is also said that Sake has been used as a skin toner for centuries in Japan. A fun fact is that Koji mold, which containing skin-pampering kojic acid, is the national mold of Japan! The process of making sake dates back to about the third century AD. From way back when, the skin beneficial properties of rice were obvious. It’s no folklore that sake producers were known for having the most beautiful and softest skin in town.
The Sake lees and Koji have a variety of substances that inhibit performance of melanin, which is the main culprit of sun spots, age spots and freckles. The kojic acid in Sake can help moist your skin. Alcohol in Sake can also be a useful addition to help ingredients penetrate the skin, preserve the product, and make it feel lightweight in applied. For Sake added cosmetics, normally they will also add other nutrients such as fruit acids or vitamin C, it will give the thirsty skin cells a much-needed hydration boost.
Sake added cosmetics can also help ease the symptom of acne because they can help tighten your pores. Acting as a natural astringent, it can help reduce inflammation and redness of severe acne as well as reduce appearance and size of pores.
Since sake is good for our skin, besides adding sake in cosmetics, you can also add sake into your bath to give yourself a treat. Normally around 700 ml should be enough for a good Sake bath. If you also like to drink Sake, it will be the best match to enjoy sake with a sake bath!
For alcohol drinker, sometimes it is inevitable that the over drink situation can happen and cause hangover. A hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of alcohol, such as wine, beer, and distilled spirits. Hangovers can last for several hours or for more than 24 hours. Typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems. The severity of a hangover is closely linked to how much alcohol the person has consumed and how much sleep they have had. In the vast majority of cases, hangover symptoms are resolved after about 24 hours. There is no absolute cure, but people can take steps to relieve many of the symptoms. One way to avoid hangover is to choose your alcohol wisely.
1. Be sure to drink the same amount of water as sake. Since sake’s alcohol content is pretty high, if you drink an equal amount of water, it will neutralize the alcohol content in your body. There’s actually a culture of drinking water called “yawaragi” in Japan, which is to use water soften the sake’s alcohol impact on the drinker.
2. Be sure to drink slowly. Similar to wine, it is not the kind of alcohol that you want to gulp down. It’s best to enjoy one little taste at one time and whet your tongue and not your throat.
3. Try to warm the sake up. Alcohol only begins to take effect to body temperature after warmed up. That’s why it can seem like it’s easier to get drunk off of hot sake. However, you also sober up faster from hot sake as the sake in your body cools down. From the point of view of avoiding hangover, it is actually recommended drinking hot sake to people who have trouble pacing themselves drinking sake. All in all, after discussing benefits of drinking sake to decrease the chance of getting hangover, it is better to control the amount of Sake people should drink. Drink in moderation should be the first rule no matter what kinds of alcohol drink.
Above we discussed about the health benefits of Sake compared to other drinks when drink in moderation. According to Japanese Nutrition institution, the right amount for people to drink Sake is around two go, which is around 360ml. For alcohol drinkers, instead of enjoying wine and beer, we believe that sake is a more comparatively healthy choice for you. So why don’t you start your journey with sake and enjoy alcohol in a healthier way?
Generally speaking, the process of making Japanese Sake is by putting moromi into a Sake bag, squeezing the bag with pressure, and then separating moromi into Sake lees and liquid. The clear liquid, which comes out after the filter process, is the ordinary Japanese Sake.
Before we learn about the details of Nigori Sake, let’s learn about a word that has been often used in Sake world, it is “moromi”. Moromi is the form of alcohol-fermented rice before final Sake been made. According to The Society for Nada Sake, moromi has below definition: “This is the name for the fermenting mass made by mashing shubo (or just yeast in the case of kobo-jikomi), steamed rice, koji and water together. Immediately after mashing, moromi is like a solid mass of swollen rice grains, but it begins to soften as saccharification proceeds.”
As the fermentation goes, the state of Moromi will start to change from sweet and hard to alcohol dry and soft, and the final status of it will become totally liquid. In the middle of fermentation, the mixture which has been produced is called doburoku. This is the form of liquid with some left rice, and an original form of what we want to introduce to you today, the base of Nigori Sake.
For Nigori Sake, instead of using the normal Sake bag, breweries will choose to use rough Sake bag to let some of the rice mix in the liquid on purpose. During the squeezing and separating process, Nigori Sake remains amounts of sediment which separated from Sake lees. The sediment turns to be cloudy status and the liquid becomes “Nigori Sake”.
Generally speaking, Japanese Sake uses the heat-treated method, called “hiire”, which is to stop the fermentation in order to postpone the Sakes’s storage lifetime. Different from this, the Sake bottled with yeast alive without hiire is called “Active Nigori Sake”, and similar to champagne, it has a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Thanks to the second fermentation, it will give the Sake a foaming feeling when you drink it.
Therefore, it is important to distribute and store Sake at a lower temperature than wine. Without the cold chain system, Japanese Sake, especially “Active Nigori Sake” which maintains a rich quality among Sake, had not been able to be enjoyed outside of Japan for a long time.
While Nigori Sake is difficult to manage in distribution and sales, it is expected to be paired with various dishes and consumed in many scenes thanks to its refreshing foaming and fruity flavor. Since the limitation on how to maintain the quality of Nigori Sake is quite strict and the flavor of Nigori Sake is very special compared to other Sake, Nigori Sake is normally rare in the market and much more expensive than normal Sake.
For Nigori Sake or Sake without “hiire” treatment, it is essential to store them at ice temperature from-5 to 5 degrees Celsius.
Especially, if you want to fully enjoy the aroma of the “Active Nigori Sake”, it is suggested that the sales outlets can have cellars where they can store the Sake at the appropriate temperature and serve it with glass bottles. To put it in an easy way, it is similar to the methods of how to store good wine.
If the sales outlet doesn’t manage the storage of Sake properly, the original taste of Sake will be damaged, and most importantly, the deliciousness of Sake will not be recognized by customers. To see this in the long run, it will influence the sales of Sake in a bad way due to people’s miss recognition of its taste.
In the time of no cold chain distribution, Japanese Sake is famous for warm served, which is called “Atsukan”, but actually, it was completely different from the original taste of Japanese Sake.
If we take this example on wine, it will be same as letting someone who never drink wine drink the wine without proper temperature control, and when you serve hot wine you will make him/her think this is the right taste of wine. And they will not appreciate the real taste ever as the first impression they have is the wrong one. So, for sales outlets it’s important to be careful about the Sake storage.
When you open the stopper, Nigori Sake might spill out, so it’s better to open the stopper slowly and gently.
There are two ways to enjoy it, one is “drinking the sediment and the supernatant separately without mixing”, the other way is “Shake the bottle evenly to mix the contents inside”. The bottle should be tilted slowly as it might also spill out when drinking in the mixing way. Normally you store it in the refrigerator and drink it chilled, but you can also enjoy it at room temperature or by warming it up.
Besides, just like wine, the taste will start to change after opening, so it is suggested to finish the Sake as early as possible.
Compared to wine, Sake has a higher amino acid contents, and it is said that the amino acid makes it more enjoyable to pair well with food. In particular, since the main component of Nigori Sake is the sediment contained in rice and Koji which is an undecomposed part, Nigori Sake contains much of amino acids and can boost the Umami. (you can find detailed explanation on Umami in our other article)
Sake itself is a fermented drink and it goes well with fermented foods such as cheese and yogurt. Also, since Nigori Sake has thick and lactic acid taste, it can coat the spice stimulus on the tongue and remove the fat with acid when you have a heavy meal.
According to a survey, we found that it seems people likely to consume Nigori Sake in the restaurant as well as at home. As Nigori Sake is easy to enjoy, why don’t you grab a bottle of Nigori Sake and give it a try?