Of the many fine things Japanese culture has given the world, saké is their most-renowned alcoholic beverage. Saké is to Japan what beer is to the United States or wine is to France; a drink that has become stapled into the lives of the natives. This potent brew is ingrained in both the history and lifestyle of the Japanese, and it is time other countries caught on to this fine drink.
Saké, or Nihonshu as it is referred to in Japan, is a rice-based alcohol which is believed to have originated during the Nara Period, roughly 710-794 AD. The rice used in the making of this beverage is called shuzō kōtekimai and is used solely in the production of saké because it is unpalatable. Using this rice and water, saké is brewed in a variety of ways to produce an assortment of flavors.
Being a brewer of saké, known as a Tōji in Japan, is a highly respected position, and the distinct style of each brewer determines the flavor of the final product. The two main types of saké produced are Ordinary Sake, or Futsū-shu, which constitutes most of the saké production and Special-designation Saké, or Tokutei meishō-shu, which are considered to be premium sakés.
Saké can be served chilled, at room temperature, or heated depending on the drinker’s preference, quality of the saké, and the season. For example, heated saké is typically served in the winter months, unless it is a Special-designation Saké because then you will lose its distinct flavors. When planning a meal with saké, make sure to match the variety of the drink to the meal. In general, saké should be served with mildly-flavored and lightly-spiced foods. Finding the right combo of food and saké can be challenging but persevere and the end result will be delectable .