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The Beginner's Guide to Sake

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

We might be just a liiiittle biased here, but sake is truly special. Whether it’s a special occasion, a casual celebration, or just a good ol’ fashioned fun time, sake brings loved ones together for moments big and small.


Whether you’ve had sake before or not, it’s awesome that you’re here to learn more about it! In this beginner’s guide to sake, we’ll explain what sake is, how it’s made, how to drink it, and more.


What is sake?


Sake (pronounced sock-eh) is an alcoholic beverage that’s made from fermented rice. Although sake is sometimes called “rice wine” in the US, the process of making sake is actually more similar to how beer is made.


All sake is made from just four simple ingredients and doesn’t contain any main allergens (gluten, dairy, nuts, or soy), making it easy for everyone to enjoy.


Sake is comprised of:

Some sake makers will add distilled alcohol for taste (honjozo sake); however, honjozo sake tends to have a muted flavor and less complexity than a pure Junmai like Sake High! because of the high strength added alcohol. Like most foods and beverages, the quality of sake depends directly on how premium its ingredients are and the different rice polishing ratio.


Where does sake come from?



Sake was originally popularized in Japan, but has since spread across the globe. Sake is rapidly gaining popularity in the US, with more and more state-side sake breweries popping up.


At Sake High!, our sake is made from premium ingredients sourced locally from Kyoto, Japan to get a simple, clean taste.


What are the different types of sake?



There are several different types of sake. The differences lie in the ingredients and the brewing process.


Here is a complete list of the different types of sake you might find in the wild:

  • Futsu-shu

  • Honjozo

  • Ginjo

  • Daiginjo

  • Junmai

  • Junmai Ginjo

  • Junmai Daiginjo

One of the biggest distinctions in sake is junmai versus non-junmai sake. Junmai translates to “pure rice” meaning there are no additives to the sake in the brewing process. Non-junmai sake contains distilled alcohol, whereas junmai doesn’t.


How sake is made



Generally, sake is made through the following steps:

  1. Rice is first harvested and then milled so that only part of the rice grain remains. This is what’s known as a polishing ratio. The higher the polishing ratio (the more polished the rice is) the more premium the sake.

  2. Once the rice is polished, it gets washed, soaked, and steamed. Then, the fermentation process finally begins.

  3. Koji is sprinkled on the rice and mixed with water and yeast.

  4. After several days, the sake gets drained and pressed before going into tanks, bottles, or cans like Sake High!

How to drink sake



There’s no wrong way to drink sake. If you want to enjoy it in a more traditional style, try serving sake in small glasses. You should also have friends pour your glass for you and do the same in return—then follow it up with a “cheers” or “kanpai” (which means cheers in Japanese).


Sake can be sipped many ways—cold or hot, with any food, and can be sipped slowly or taken like a shot—it all depends on your preference or what the sake brewer recommends. Sake High!, for example, is meant to be enjoyed chilled.


How to store sake



Since sake doesn’t have any preservatives, it’s especially important to store it the right way. Ideally, sake should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place and out of direct sunlight. The fridge is usually a safe bet, but the ideal temperature for storing sake is a little warmer, at about 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts recommend keeping bottles in cans upright to preserve taste, plus the sake won’t be exposed to the screw cap lid.


An unopened bottle or can of sake can last up to about a year after purchase, but always check the label for any expiration date to be safe. Once opened, you should try to finish a bottle of sake within 2-3 weeks. Otherwise, you risk the rest of it going bad. Sake High! bottles are best consumed within 30 days of opening as long as it's stored in the refrigerator.


Where to buy sake





Looking to enjoy sake at home? You can typically find sake at your local liquor store. But, just to be extra sure before you leave the house, use our store locator to find Sake High! nearby.


You can also order online and have our sake delivered right to your door—convenient af.


Sip and read more:


What to Pair with Sake

Hot vs Cold Sake

Is Sake Good for You?




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