Japanese Patterns of Design

Sake: Drink Guide to the Whole Wellness

Sake pouring into an ochoko from a tokkuri
Sake, rice wine, pouring into an ochoko from a tokkuri (kurand.jp)

Sake – Japanese alcoholic beverage (rice wine) made from fermented rice which has an effect of raising the body temperature, not like other alcoholic cousins. Let’s take a look at its benefits for your health, types of sake to find your favorite taste, and easy cocktail recipes to enjoy!

Brief History of Sake

Hands of a brewer of sake making koji
Hands of a brewer of sake making koji (www.abiroh.com)

There is no clear evidence of when Sake began to be produced in Japan but think of a fact that rice farming has begun around the late period of Jomon (around 600 B.C.E.) and Yayoi period (around 300), we may be able to date back its origin in those times.

Rice has been the main crop and Sake has been playing a vital role of events and celebration from the ancient time, it was a sacred drink devoted to deities. We can see the vestiges of it in weddings, and in a new year celebration.

It is a well-known fact that hands of brewers of rice wine are genuinely beautiful with the moisture because they handle Koji mold spore all the time.

Oh, by the way, one of the best way to enjoy Sake is to have it with Soba noodles. It’s a traditional way to maximize the goodness of Soba noodles at a restaurant, you order them and until you get soba, you enjoy Sake.

Soba Restaurants in Tokyo: 8 Established Ones You Should Try

The 5 Health Benefits of Sake

Smiley Ochoko
Smiley Ochoko (blog.hokuriku-curry.com)

It has a great number of health benefits largely owe to amino acids it contains. Below are the five potent benefits out of many when it’s consumed in a moderate amount.

1. Reduce Cancer Risk

Amino acids in it atrophy and annihilate cancer cells while other alcoholic beverages don’t. Sake-kasu, the by-product of pressing, were found to activate the Natural Killer Cell. It’s kind of lymphocyte known to kill only cancer cells.

2. Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease which makes bones brittle and susceptible to breakage. Women are liable to this osteoporosis due to the change of hormone secretion and a habit of being on the diet to lose one’s weight which tends to lead poor nutrition.

Amino acids in sake help recover and build skeletal muscle, beneficial to prevention of osteoporosis. Also, koji (malted rice) has 5 types of Cathepsin-L inhibitors which help to prevent osteoporosis.

3. Boost Metabolic Rate

It has a benefit of raising body temperature while other alcoholic beverages make you feel warmer the moment you drink, but drop your body temperature in the end.

Sake contains acetaldehyde, which expands the blood vessels and adenosine, which prevent contraction of the blood vessels much more than other alcoholic beverages, so it encourages the blood circulation and the body temperature rises as a result. Having a warmer body temperature prevents you from any sickness.

4. Promote Clear Skin

It has far more moisturizing elements than other alcoholic beverages. You pour it in the bath, you would feel your skin much more moisturized and the heat-retention effect last longer than the normal bath. Koji acid, which is found in Sake clear out the skin by rejuvenating cells and keeping melanin from producing.

Traditionally, Sake cake, rice bran and the water which used to wash rice have been used for facial treatment like lotion for long years; because it contains plenty of saccharides and amino acids,  that’s why you see them in many cosmetic products now.

5. Prevent Diabetes

Insulin-like activator in Namazake (fresh and raw, unpasteurized) helps to resolve a shortage of insulin, thus the preventive effect of diabetes. Furthermore, it’s expected to have the potential of preventing hardening of the arteries, obesity, and adult disease.

Choosing the Best Sake For You

Sake from all over the region
Rice wine from all over the region in Japan (google.com)

Rice, koji which is malted rice, and water are the basic ingredients to make sake. Sake is rich in varieties which range from sweet to dry, milky to transparent, and fruity to spicy. Sake is basically made of simple three ingredients, short-grain rice; pristine water and koji (malted rice).

For your better and easier understanding, we listed up the categories with the simple description of the combination of ingredients, how much rice are milled and whether or not alcohol added. Generally, the more rice milled, the more its taste becomes refined and expensive. ‘Shu’ found at the bottom of every Sake means the alcohol in Japanese.

  • Junmai-shu

    : Acidic and earthy (rice milled up to 30%, koji, water)

  • Junmai Ginjo-shu

    : Strong taste with flavorful aroma (rice milled up to 40%, koji, water)

  • Junmai Daiginjo-shu

    : Refined crispness than Junmai Ginjo-shu and Umami (the fifth taste sensation) (rice milled 50% or more, koji, water)

  • Ginjo-shu

    : Light and fruity (rice milled up to 40%, koji, water and distilled alcohol)

  • Daiginjo-shu

    : Fruity with stronger taste than Ginjo-shu (rice milled 50% or more, koji,
    water and distilled alcohol)

  • Honjozo-shu

    : Light and smooth (rice milled up to 30%, koji, water and
    distilled alcohol)

How to Drink Sake

Sake, Tokkuri and Ochoko set
Tokkuri and Ochoko sets to enjoy Rice Wine (www.hibinokurashi.com)

Of course, you can drink it out of any vessels at your choice but if you want to feel the traditional Japanese style vibe, prepare a tokkuri and an ochoko.

Varieties of Ochoko
Varieties of Ochoko (kinarino.jp)

A tokkuri is ceramic flask shaped bulbous with a narrow neck. An ochoko is a small handle-free type cup usually made of ceramic. Bring your favorite sake to the appropriate temperature according to the types of sake you choose.

Usually, ginjo-shu and namazake (raw rice wine) are best chilled and honjo-shu and junmai-shu are usually warmed to room temperature. Never use the ice cubes to cool sake as it dilutes the flavor. The different recommended temperature is to bring out the best quality in each different types of rice wine.

Tokkuri and Ochoko made of Glass
Tokkuri and Ochoko made of Glass (kinarino.jp)

If you are drinking together, serve it in each guest’s cup, but not your own. Filling each guest’s cup in turn with both hands is the manner. It is about communication and showing respect to the others.

Sake manners
Japanese rice wine manners (www.i-nekko.jp)

When you are being served, you hold the cup with both hands. Where there are many guests, you may toast with “Kanpai” touching cups together like greeting; a party holds lesser than three, you may say “Itadakimasu” to show the appreciation for the host.

In a nutshell, if you behave moderate with courtesy, you’ll be fine.

The Sake Drinks: Cocktail Recipes

Although it’s better to be consumed without ice when drinking it alone, when it comes to making a cocktail, often times it tastes better with ice cubes. You’ll see simple recipes below and will be amazed how delicious and nutritious they are.

Egg Sake

Egg Rice Wine
Egg Rice Wine (www.i-nekko.jp)

Eggs contain quality protein richly. ‘lysozyme’ in the egg white is an enzyme which is used for medicines for cold. So this drink is best enjoyed when you feel likely to catch a cold.

  • An egg
  • Sake of your choice 180cc
  • Sugar of your choice as needed

Stir the egg well, add your choice of rice wine and mix them well. Put them into a pot and set the heat low while stirring all the way not make them stick to the pot. When it’s creamy, remove it from the heat, then add some sugar.

Pineapple Yogurt Sake

Yogurt, Pineapple Rice Wine
Yogurt, Pineapple Rice Wine (www.nomooo.jp)

Lactic acid bacteria in yogurt, the enzyme in pineapple and amino acids in it make you only more healthy. You can increase the amount of yogurt or pineapple juice if the alcohol of rice wine is too strong for you.

  • Sake of your choice 40cc
  • Pineapple juice 20cc
  • Yogurt 30cc
  • Ice cubes as needed

You put all the ingredients in a rocks glass and stir well. That’s it. Super easy, healthy, and refreshing cocktail.

Earl Grey Sake

Earl Grey Rice Wine
Earl Grey Rice Wine (www.nomooo.jp)

Look at these beautiful gradations of colors! It’d be lovely to have this cocktail on a porch with friends in the later summer evening.

  • Sake of your choice 45cc
  • Earl Grey tea 45cc
  • Grenadine syrup
  • ice cubes as needed

Put the ice cubes in a tumbler, then pour sake and Earl Grey, stir well. Then you pour Grenadine syrup using a muddler to the bottom of the glass, which makes it look gorgeous.

Here’s one more for you to enjoy the benefits of it by ‘eating’. This simple enough recipe is done within a few minutes. Clams steamed with rice wine might be the best recipe you have ever tried for! Really.

Clams steamed with rice wine
Clams steamed with rice wine (ajiyoshi.cocolog-nifty.com)

You can garnish with parsley, chopped leeks, or whatever you like on top of them. A slice of bread can soak up the soup and make you want to cook another plate for sure. You might not need a recipe as it is very easy. Wash clams thoroughly, put them in a pot with rice wine and steam. When most clams opened, done. But anyway, here’s the recipe for you!
Sake steamed Clams Recipe

It is gaining popularity across the globe and expanding its potential by passionate sake makers. We are happy to be surprised by the new innovation of rice wine recipe!

References

今日から実践!日本酒と美肌の関係 (LBR)
たまご酒 (www.i-nekko.jp)

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