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Sake (Japanese: pronounced [sa.k] Listen (help·info)) is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice. In Japanese, the word sake (usually preceded by the honorific prefix o-) does not specifically refer to this specific beverage; instead, the word Nihonshu (literally, "Japanese alcoholic beverage") is used to distinguish it from other beverages. In English, the word sake never refers to anything other than Nihonshu. This article uses the word "sake" as it is used in English.

Sake is also commonly referred to in English as "rice wine", but the characterisation implied is not accurate. Wine is made from the single fermentation of plant juices. Sake is produced by multiple fermentation of rice, which is more similar to how beer is produced. Also, outside Japan there exist other beverages known as "rice wine" that are significantly different from Nihonshu.


Shochu should not be confused with sake, a brewed rice wine. Its taste is usually far less fruity and depends strongly on the nature of the starch used in the distilling process. Its flavour is often described as "nutty" or "earthy".

Shochu is drunk in many ways according to season or personal taste:

  • straight.
  • on the rocks, i.e., mixed with ice.
  • diluted with water.
  • diluted with hot water, a drink called oyu-wari.
  • mixed with oolong tea or fruit juice.
  • as chuhai, a mixed drink consisting of shochu, soda, ice and some flavouring, often lemon, grapefruit, apple or ume.
  • mixed with a low-alcohol beer-flavoured beverage known as hoppy; this mixture is also referred to as hoppy.
  • Shochu is widely available in supermarkets, liquor stores and convenience stores in Japan, however it is not yet sufficiently well known to be widely available outside of Asia, apart from select regions with large enough Japanese populations. Canned chuhai drinks are also sold in some of Japan's ubiquitous vending machines.

In Kyushu, the centre of production, shochu is far more common than sake. Indeed here sake generally means shochu, and is normally enjoyed oyu-wari. First hot water is poured into the glass, then shochu is gently added. The liquids mix naturally and stirring is unnecessary. Typically the amount of shochu exceeds the amount of hot water, creating a pleasant aroma, and it causes only mild inebriation. To achieve a perhaps more authentic and subtle taste, mix the shochu and water, leave it to stand for a day, and then gently heat.

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