If you like Japanese culture AND the occasional drink, then you have got to try some sake! The kanji for sake is 酒 and if you take a closer look at it you will notice a few things about it. First of all, the radical (or part) on the right hand side is a pictograph (picture) of a jar. And the radical on the left hand side is the abbreviated pictograph for water.
So it’s easy to understand that a jar filled with liquid means sake. But what is Japanese sake exactly? And how is it different from other alcohol? Read on to find out!
Generally speaking, sake 酒 can be used to mean any alcoholic drink. So if you say to your buddy, “hey man want to grab some drinks tonight?” you could replace the word “drinks” with “sake.”
But of course there is more to it than just that. Sake can also mean a very specific type of drink. Which is rice wine.
Most wine is created from grapes, but back when Japan was an isolated country they didn’t really have access to grapes like other countries did such as Italy. Due to the lack of flat land in Japan, they were very limited agriculturally to what they were able to plant and grow.
Rice was one of the few things that they could grow across Japan in large quantities. That’s how it became such a staple for Japanese meals. Of course, why just eat rice when you can drink it, right?! That’s how sake 酒 came about. The Japanese people took what they had (rice) and made an alcoholic drink out of it! Brilliant!
Where to get some and how to drink it?
You can actually get sake 酒 at any local store that sells alcohol. I’ve picked some up in my small home town with a population of about 20,000 people or so just the other day. So if you’d like to get some yourself, I’d be willing to bet that you can get some within 20 minutes or so from where you’re at right now.
You can also try it out at any steak & sushi restaurant as long as you’re old enough! In America you have to be 21 years old to drink alcohol, but in Japan the drinking age is only 20. They get one year off!
If you do get some with your dinner, they typically bring it out in a really cool looking glass jar with a small glass cup to drink it out of. It is called a choko 猪口.
If you’re familiar with red wine or white wine, then you know some of them are better when chilled and others taste best when they’re at room temperature. Sake 酒 on the other hand, tastes good when it’s chilled AND when it’s HOT! Have you ever had a hot alcoholic drink? If not, take a moment and imagine what that might feel like…
Personally, I prefer hot sake 酒 over the chilled stuff. To each his own I guess!
Normally you’d have warm sake, which is called atsukan 熱燗, during the winter when it’s cold outside. And then when it’s hot outside you’d drink cold sake, which is called reishu 冷酒.
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Did that make you thirsty for some sake 酒? If you haven’t had it yet, I highly recommend you give it a try! Let me know your thoughts with a comment below!