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Sake (酒) - the Japanese rice wine - is a fiendishly complicated category but the majority of bottles can be placed into four distinct styles based around the percentage of rice-grain polishing and whether the sake has had distilled alcohol added: junmai (no fixed polishing amount, no alcohol added), honjozo (minimum of 30% polishing, small amount of alcohol added), ginjo (minimum 40% polishing, alcohol addition optional) and daiginjo (minimum 50% polishing, alcohol addition optional).
Despite being called “Rice Wine”, sake’s production is more akin to that of beer, given the starch is firstly converted into the sugars that will ferment into alcohol. The difference is that in rice wine the conversion and fermentation happens simultaneously, where in beer they are observed in two distinct steps. In wine the sugar is already naturally present from the start.
Sake in Japan can be served heated (atsukan 熱燗, 50ºC), at room-temperature (jōon 常温 or hiya 冷や) or chilled (reishu 冷酒, 10ºC), traditionally in small cups called choko, poured from tokkuri (ceramic flasks). Besides drinking it straight, you can have sake as a mixer for cocktails like nogasake, saketini and tamagozake.
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