Sake is a traditional Japanese rice alcohol that is made by fermenting milled rice in the presence of fungus and yeast. The drink is brewed in a unique manner. The milled rice is converted into starch quickly due to the addition of the koji fungus. Once the rice mash contains mostly starch the yeast is added, and the starch slowly converts into sugar and ferments. The process is usually performed in low temperatures in order to control the fermentation.
Serving and drinking sake
Usually sake is served from a flask known as tokkuri. The flask usually has an elongated neck and bulbous base. It is conventionally made of ceramic but may also be crafted out of glass. The drink is mostly served in small cups of ceramic, also known as ochoko. For special occasions, a saucer like cup is used, this is called sakazuki.
The sake may be served warm, hot or chilled, depending on the drinker’s preferences and also the season. To warm the sake, the tokkuri is placed in a pan filled with hot water. Heating the sake affects the aroma and flavor of the drink and so, high quality sake is best served chilled. In America, sometimes chilled sake is served in stemware designed of this very purpose.
Sake box or masu
An interesting way of serving and drinking sake is from sake boxes. The masu or sake box was traditionally used to measure rice and sake. It is square in shape, and is about three and a half inches. It can hold about 180 ml of sake, and is sometimes used for drinking the brew. The sake boxes are conventionally made of wood. They were considered ideal for drinking the alcohol as sake was earlier matured in wooden casks. However, there are those who feel that contact with the wooden surface of the masu influences and takes away from the flavor of the drink.
Serving sake in sake boxes is a symbol of prosperity. The ochoko may be placed inside the masu or the masu may be placed on the sakazuki. The sake is poured in a manner that it overflows from one container and fills the outer drink ware too. You are supposed to drink from a corner and not from the side. Many restaurants offer the option of serving the brew in sake boxes, and some even allow patrons to write their name on their box so that they may be served in it when they return again.
The drink is served to you, unless you are drinking alone. You need to take note of the empty ochoko or masu of your dinner date and refill it for them. If you wish to refill your cup, you can hold it out slightly and politely towards your dinner partners.
Buying sake boxes
If you enjoy drinking and serving sake to your friends you may like to buy sake boxes. There are many online stores that offer sake sets that may interest you. You can choose to buy a set that includes a tokkuri, ochoko and masu. You may also wish to buy additional sake boxes. Some brands sell these individually, while others may offer them in sets. Buying the sake boxes in bulk can bring down the cost of your purchase.
If you are having a traditional Japanese dinner or have friends over for sushi you may wish to serve sake in authentic sake boxes. Your dinner guests could take the box home as a keepsake. You may like to opt for wooden masu or you could also select from the wide range of lacquered sake boxes. The drink ware is available in many colors including several natural shades of wood. You could also opt for black or red sake boxes.
Enjoying your sake
If you enjoy drinking and serving sake you may also be interested in products such as a bamboo sake bottle or a bamboo sake cup. There aren’t too many hard and fast rules regarding the manner in which sake should be served and enjoyed. It is a drink that should be shared with friends and loved ones. In fact, the toast, ‘kampai’, which translates as ‘cheers’, also means to have a celebration or a party.
Sake is a highly potent drink which has an Alcohol By Volume of as high as 16% to 20%. While most brewers do dilute it before the drink is bottled, it is best to read the details available on the label. Spend some time understanding the different types of sake, so that you can choose one that best suits your palate. Fresh sake which is matured for no more than nine months is preferred by many. Some people enjoy the rougher and stronger body of koshu, which is matured longer. Nigori-zake is unfiltered sake and is cloudy, and contains rice particles. It is sweet and subtle and is a wonderful dessert drink.