What Does Sake Taste Like? A Complete Overview

You may have eaten different rice cuisines in your life but have you ever drank a beverage made out of it? Yep, the Japanese have done this wonder 2500 years ago and made a drink by fermenting rice which the world knows as Sake. Now, it is also getting popular outside Japan due to its taste. 

So, if you haven’t tried it before, you must be wondering- what does Sake taste like? 

The best way we can describe Sake taste is that it is Nutty, Sweet, and Wine-like. So, those who search, “do Sake taste like wine” here’s your answer.

So, if you want to get in detail about the taste, continue reading!

What Does Sake Taste Like? A Complete Profile!

People who have only heard about Sake and want to try it for the first time often ask, “What alcohol does Sake taste like?” As mentioned above, the general taste of Sake is sweet which is similar to wine. Therefore, whenever someone asks us, “Does Sake taste good?” we answer with a Big Yes. 

what-does-sake-taste-like

However, since there are a lot of types of Sake that differ in taste, it is difficult to precisely describe the taste. 

health benefits of sake

Here are the types of Sake and how they taste. 

Types of Sake

We already mentioned above that Sake is made due to the fermentation process. But the brewing process decides which type of Sake is going to be filled in the bottle. Simply put, the types of Sake that exist in the world are due to the different brewing processes.

Out of many available, these six are the famous Sake types:

Ginjo-Shu

It is the most popular Sake type and is made after highly polishing the brown rice. Wondering what Ginjo-Shu tastes like?  It has a fruity taste that is very similar to a blend of apples, bananas, and grapes.

Nama-Shu

Nama-Shu is made by double pasteurization. Thus, its taste feels fresh, flavorful, and sweet at the same time. If you really want to enjoy it, then you should drink it icy cold.

Nigori-Sake

Nigori-Sake is also called Cloudy Sake as its appearance is very similar to clouds. But the question remains- “What does Nigori Sake taste like?” Well, this Sake is coarsely filtered and feels smooth and creamy from the very first sip. 

nigori-sake

Junmai-Shu

It also has a sweet yet slightly acidic taste that feels wine-like. The reason for this unique taste is Koji mold which is added before the fermentation begins.

Honjozo-Shu

Honjozo-Shu is made with koji, rice, and neutral alcohol to have a rich taste. From the first to the last sip, this type of Sake will taste maply. Moreover, one more reason it is liked by many people is due to its light and smooth texture. 

Sparkling Sake

Wondering “what does sparkling Sake taste like?” It is in demand in the west due to its sweet taste and less alcohol content in it. The fun part about this drink is the bubbles in it. Hence, the name Sparkling Sake. Some people have even claimed that you can taste every tropical fruit in this drink. 

After knowing about the types of the Sake, it is time for you to know which contents are present in it to better get the idea of how it tastes. 

sparkling-sake

Contents In the Sake That Make the Taste

Sake has above 15% of the alcohol level which is more than what wine has. Thus, a glass of Sake may feel stronger and aromatic than the wine.

Another content that should be mentioned is the acidity content. The acidity in the Sake is less than wine but still greater than beer. So, don’t drink it more to cause any health complications.

Beverage SakeWineBeer
Alcohol14-18%<12%<5%
Amino Acid LevelsHighLess than SakeLess than both Sake and Wine
AcidityLowHigher than both Sake and BeerLow

Sake has Umami content in it as well which makes this beverage a great addition to many western foods. You can marinate, stew, and steam foods with the Sake. Furthermore, you can make soups, rice, fries, and baked goods with this beverage as well. 

In addition to the above contents, Koji is also added to the Sake to enhance its flavor even further. Koji feels like a blend of potatoes and mushrooms. So, those who crave mushrooms and potatoes really admire the addition of Koji. Moreover, Koji is responsible for performing different reactions during the fermentation phase that decides the quality and taste of the beverage.

Next, let’s deal with the two questions which people from all around the world ask. 

Does Sake Taste Like Vodka? 

In addition to wine and beer, we often get questions about Sake and Vodka. One question we frequently get is- “Does Sake taste like vodka?” Well, the Sakes that should be drunk “hot” generally do taste a little like vodka. The aftertaste of vodka and hot Sake tastes very similar. However, the drink it resembles the most in taste is wine only. 

Does Sake Taste Like Soju?

Some people have compared the taste of Sake with a Korean drink Soju, but there are few distinct differences between them.

  • The main ingredient in making the Sake is rice while Soju also includes potatoes and barley in it. Hence, the aroma and taste are stronger than the Sake.  
  • Soju contains more alcohol than Sake which ranges between 16 percent to 53 percent. 
  • Soju is distilled while Sake is made via the brewing method.
soju

Warm Sake vs Cold Sake

You have to make one big decision before you decide to consume it. You have to decide whether you want to drink Sake hot or cold.

Full-aged Sake and those who have high acid levels taste better when warm. You might be wondering, “What does warm Sake taste like?” Warm Sake tastes smooth, mildly maply, and flavorsome. 

Junmai-shu and Nama-shu are the two drinks that only taste better if you drink them warm.  By warm, we mean that the temperature should not be more than 42 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit). If you try to drink them by adding ice cubes, then chances are you may not like the taste altogether.

You should drink Ginjo Shu and Nama when it is icy or normal cold (less than 10 degrees Celsius or 50 Fahrenheit). The remaining types of Sake should be consumed lukewarm.

Sake has been made in Japan for 2500 years and traditionally Japanese drink it in small cups. We all know that Japan is rich in culture and tradition. There is another tradition in this lovely country that you cannot pour for yourself. Others will pour the drink into a glass for you with both of their hands. So, if you are trying this Japanese finest, why don’t do it the way the inventors of this drink do.

Drier Sake vs Sweeter Sake

Many Sake bottles have Nihonshudo or Sake Meter Value (SMV) on them which indicates the density of the beverage. If the score is more, then it means the drink has a lower density and a dry texture. Contrarily, a low SMV score means that the Sake is sweeter with high density.

Now let us tell you where the tastes of the Sake beverage emerge by describing its manufacturing process.

How Sake Is Made?

The main ingredient in making this beverage is Brown rice. However, you are going to make it white by extensive polishing. Furthermore, how this polishing is done also affects the quality of the Sake. The more the polishing, the better the quality of the end product (Sake). 

Important Note: When you buy Sake, be sure to check the polishing percentage. Premium Sake has the polishing in 50-70 percent limit.

When the rice is polished to white color, the next step is to add water, Koji mold, and yeast for fermentation. When the fermentation starts, the starch of rice reacts with the Koji for the magic to happen. What is it? This reaction produces sugar which then reacts with the yeast to make the alcohol.

In the last steps, the liquid is pasteurized, filtered, and then poured into a bottle. 

It is important we describe to you that no additives, preservatives, or additional alcohol are added to make a High-Quality Sake. So, if you read any of them in the ingredients section of the bottle, don’t buy such a Sake.

How to Store Sake Bottle?

It is better to store the Sake bottle in a cool and a little dark environment. Why? Because heat and light may worsen its flavor. Moreover, you should put Ginjo-Shu and unpasteurized Sake in the refrigerator to increase the shelf life.  

A Quick Tip: Do not store Sake for more than 24 months after the manufacturing and it is better if you drink Sake within a year of the manufacturing date. Storing it for a longer time will change its taste to sour and a little bitter. 

FAQs

Does Sake taste like Beer?

Sake does have a hint of beer-like taste in it, however, it tastes more like wine. It has a sweet, fruity, maply, and nutty flavor that feels like a white wine. 

Can I drink Sake every day? 

There is no doubt that heavy drinking of any beverage that has alcohol content is extremely harmful and can damage organs. Thus, you should not drink Sake every day if you want to stay healthy.

Can you get drunk on Sake? 

Absolutely Yes. Sake contains alcohol (about 15%) that can make you feel intoxicated if you drink too many glasses of it.  

Final Thoughts

Sake is now popular everywhere due to the opening of Japanese restaurants worldwide. So, What does Sake taste like? Those who have tried Sake have really admired its sweet, nutty, and wine-like taste. However, since there are a lot of Sake types, there exists a little variation in taste. Moreover, drinking them warm or cold also impacts the taste. Consider all of these factors before you decide to order a bottle of sake!

SM Kamal Hasan

SM Kamal Hasan

Dr. SM Kamal Hasan, MBBS(Medicine), Rangpur Medical College and Hospital Rangpur- Dinajpur Highway, Cantt, Near Central Jail, Rangpur 5400, Bangladesh

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