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All about sake
What is sake?
It may sound strange, but sake wine is not truly a wine. Its production process is more similar to the one beer undergoes, but it uses rice instead of barley. After all, rice has been a staple of Japanese cuisine since forever.
Just like Western fermented drinks, sake has countless varieties with different flavor profiles. The Japanese government categorizes the various types of sake based on how much the producer polishes the rice. The categories are daiginjo, ginjo, junmai, honjozo, namazake and nigori. Daiginjo is the one with the most polished rice, so it's the most expensive.
If you happen to talk with someone from Japan, keep in mind that the word "sake" in Japanese refers to any alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine and distilled spirits. The correct word for what we call sake in the Western world is nihonshu, which means "Japanese alcohol."
Ways to serve sake
Japanese people only serve sake on special occasions. Typically, they warm it up in a tokkuri, or porcelain bottle, and serve it in small cups called ochoko or sakazuki. In the past, warming sake alcoholic drinks was necessary to mask unwanted flavors derived from the contact with wooden casks. However, the modern production process allows for enjoying the drink at room temperature. You should only serve the finest varieties cold.
Not surprisingly, sake pairs well with most Japanese dishes, including ramen, tempura and sushi. That doesn't mean that you can't enjoy it with Western dishes as well. This fermented drink can complement a nice steak or pork belly as well.