Sake-National drink of japan
Sake is the national beverage of Japan. It is made by fermenting rice, during which the starches are converted into sugar, and then alcohol. Sake is often mistakenly called a wine because of its appearance and alcoholic content, however, it is made in a process known as multiple parallel fermentation, in which a grain (rice) is converted from starch to sugar followed by conversion to alcohol. Special strains of rice are precisely milled to remove the outer layers, a process that reduces the grain to 50 to 70 percent of its original size. Production begins with kome-koji, a preparation of steamed rice and koji (Aspergillus oryzae), a fungus that converts the rice starch to fermentable sugars. The koji is mixed with water and freshly steamed rice, traditionally by hand, and is wrapped in a blanket and incubated to form a sweet crumbly dry material. This is then placed in a vat with more rice and water. This mixture, allowed to ferment for about four weeks with sake yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), becomes moto, with an alcoholic content of about 11 percent. More koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the large tank, and a second fermentation begins, lasting about seven days. Throughout this process, the grain remains in a single tank, which distinguishes sake fermentation from fermentation processes for other types of alcohol, including beer. After resting for another week, the sake is filtered, pasteurized, and bottled. Alcohol may be added to the desired level.
In Japan, sake is served with a special ceremony. Before being served, it is warmed in a small earthenware or porcelain bottle called a tokkuri; it is usually sipped from a small porcelain cup called a sakazuki. Premium sake, of a delicate flavour, is served cold or on ice. Sake is best when consumed less than a year after bottling. Kampai is the word used in japan for cheers while drinking the sake.
Its is believed that Sake is the drink of the kami (gods) of Shintō, the indigenous Japanese religion. It is drunk at festivals and is included in offerings to the kami. At a Shintō wedding, the bridal couple performs a ceremony of drinking sake from lacquer cups.
Different types of sake available in japan:
Amazake - This is a traditional, sweet, low-alcohol sake.
Genshu - This is undiluted sake has no added water with an alcohol content between 18% to 20%. Most sake is diluted with water to bring the alcohol content to 14% to 16%.
Jizake - This refers to regional or locally micro-brewed sake.
Koshu - This is sake that has been aged so that it has a sweet almost honey-like flavour with a yellow hue.
Kuroshu - This is sake made of brown rice, or unpolished rice and its flavour more closely resembles Chinese rice wine.
Muroka - This is an unfiltered sake that is clear in colour and tends to have a stronger flavour and aroma over-filtered sake because filtration tends to dilute bot flavour and aroma.
Namazake - This is an unpasteurized sake which requires refrigeration for storage.
Nigorizake or Nigori Sake - This is popularly offered at Japanese restaurants in the west as a chilled sake, and is a cloudy sake that is unfiltered with the exception of mesh which is used to loosely separate the starter mash from the sake. There is still quite a bit of sediment in the finished sake, so this is often shaken before serving.
Shiboritate - This refers to sake that hasn't been matured the traditional nine to twelve months as other sakes. As such, the sake tends to be more acidic.
Taruzake - This is an aged sake that is stored in wooden casks or barrels. It tends to have a strong wood-like flavour due to the influence of the wooden casks. Taruzake is often used at ceremonial events such as building inaugurations and events.
Teiseihakushu - This is a speciality sake with a stronger rice flavour. It is produced by polishing the rice grains much less than when rice is polished for traditional sake. In other words, it has a high rice polishing ratio.
Etiquette of poring sake:
Always pour sake for others, but don't fill your own cup. It's best to allow someone else to pour and fill your sake cup for you, even if you were the one that poured sake for everyone else in your party.
In general, when pouring sake for others, make sure to place two hands on the tokkuri ceramic flask, regardless of how small it is. If for some reason only one hand is on the flask, be sure to place your free hand on the arm that is pouring to show respect.
On the receiving end of the sake, one should cradle the small ochaku cup in the palm of one hand, and gently rest the fingers of the freehand on the side of the cup. The cup is then lifted slightly towards the pourer. Again, this shows respect.
If you're drinking sake in work or business-related function, be mindful of seniority and status when pouring sake. When pouring for a colleague who has seniority or higher-level status, make sure to use the two-handed technique as mentioned. If you're drinking sake among friends and the situation is informal, it's not uncommon for one-handed pouring (especially amongst male company), and holding the ochaku cup with one hand, but always remember to lift the cup off the table and hold it towards the pourer.