Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice. The beverage has a long history, dating back to ancient Japan. Yet sake is still widely consumed today, even in the United States, where it is both imported from abroad and made in-country.


Sake (pronounced “sa-ki”), also known as “rice wine,” is believed to have originated in Japan approximately around the time that rice-planting methods were introduced to the country, around the third century B.C. According to, before and during World War II, Japanese Sake manufacturers began adding alcohol in the process of Sake brewing in order to add volume to their beverage production.

Types of Sake

There are five basic types of sake, identified by two qualities: the percentage of rice polished away, or milled, before production, and whether or not distilled alcohol has been added. For instance, Junmai-shu is pure rice wine that does not contain distilled alcohol, whereas Honjozo-shu has a tad of added distilled alcohol, with about 30 percent of the rice polished away. Ginjo-shu has 40 percent of the rice milled away, while Daiginjo-shu has 50 percent of the rice polished away, and Namazake is an unpasteurized sake that incorporates all four types above.

How Sake is Made

First, rice is polished to remove unwanted layers of protein and oils, then washed and soaked. After soaking, the rice is either steamed or boiled in a large pot. Seed mash, or shubo, is created from a combination of koji, steamed rice, yeast, lactic acid and water, and cultivated over 10 to 15 days. Once the starter mash is ready, more of the same ingredients (yeast, steamed rice) are slowly added, resulting in the main mash, which ferments for two to six weeks, then is pressed. Finally, the sake is allowed to mature in tanks for several months until it is ready to be bottled.

Alcoholic Content

According to, the alcohol content of sake is generally between 15 percent and 17 percent alcohol. This is a content greater than beer and most wines, but less than distilled spirits such as vodka or whiskey, which can be 30 percent alcohol or higher. Moreover, in a typical serving of sake, usually a 5.5-oz. glass, there are between 180 and 240 calories, or 20 to 27 grams of carbohydrates.

Storage and Use

Sake should be kept in a cool, dark place, and after opening, should be kept in the refrigerator ( According to, fresh sake, called “namazake” in Japanese but often referred to as “draft” sake in English, is not pasteurized and should always be refrigerated. Once opened, a bottle of sake should be consumed within a day or two.