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Japan’s rice-based spirit doesn’t need to be paired with sushi. Try it in a cocktail. Kanpai!

About Saké

Saké, the fermented beverage made from rice, water, yeast and koji, was and is traditionally made in Japan.  Today, however, it’s also produced in many countries, including the U.S. Most saké is water white in color, dry, with an alcohol content of 15-18%.


Saké begins with drying and polishing the rice grains to remove the outer layer, leaving just the starch core. The more polishing, the higher the quality. The rice is then washed and steamed, and the koji mold converts starch to sugar. The rice is then mixed with water, and yeast is added to convert sugar to alcohol through fermentation.


Premium saké styles include Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, and Honjozo. Most premium saké is served cold in a white wine glass, especially styles like Junmai Ginjo/Daiginjo. Saké can also be served warm, traditionally from small ceramic cups. In Japan, serving temperature follows the seasons, chilled in the summer and warmed in the winter.

The Different Types of Sake

The term sake just means alcohol in Japanese and the rice-based drink we all know and love is called Nikonshu. It has been produced in Japan for more than 1,000 years. However the emergence of high-end sake only dates back approximately 100 years.

There are many types of rice used to make sake. Three main varieties make up for the bulk of what is produced. The quaff generally hovers around 15 to 17 percent alcohol by volume, although there are some exceptions, so it generally comes in at a bit higher alcohol level than most wines. It is only aged for nine months to a year, in another departure from wine production.