Sake is a Japanese word which means “alcoholic beverage,” but here in the US we use it to represent their alcoholic beverage made from rice. Imagine if a country used “Beer” to represent Budweiser and you’re on the right track as to how we’re using “Sake” in our language.
But, Sake represents more than just an alcoholic beverage to us here in the States. It’s something different, something usually unknown and something many of us would consider a “dangerous” drink. We, as humans, tend to find our familiar niche and stick with it but a few of us strive for something different, living dangerously if you will, and will search for new alcoholic beverages to try.
Sake may be that beverage. Some think of Sake as a “rice wine,” which is incorrect as Sake is not made like wine. There are many phases of fermentation when creating Sake from its rice and thus, it’s actually more akin to a beer than a wine. To be even more specific, Sake is probably closer to Budweiser than any other beer as Bud uses a combination of rice and barley malt to create the lighter “sweeter” taste.
Where did Sake originate? The history of the beverage may be lost to time as both Japan, China and heavy rice consuming areas have rich deep histories going back thousands of years. While the United States can recall most of what it has done in the last 200 years, China, where rice is prominant, has buildings that are several thousand years old!
“One theory suggests that the brewing of rice started in China, along the Yangtze River and was subsequently exported to Japan” (wikipedia)
“It comes in several different varieties, and was first made at least 2,000 years ago. Since then, sake has played an important role in Japanese culture and history. From its origins as the “drink of the Gods” to its current status as one of the most popular drinks in the country, the history of sake is steeped in tradition, innovation, and custom.” (asianartmall)
Although history seems to suggest China was the first to really invent Sake around 4,000 B.C it was Japan that learned how to mass produce the alcoholic beverage around 300 B.C. In the 1300s, Sake went full mainstream and was considered a beverage of choice over other potential drinks.
From a historic standpoint, Sake has changed Japan in many ways. It has created a need for more agriculture when dealing with Sake rices, has produced a beverage thought highly by the poorest to the richest and has marked some of the biggest occasions in history.
There are varieties of Sake, serving standards and processes to which Sake is produced, but that’s a history of another kind!