What The Hell Is Sake?

Been eyeing off our sake wine list but haven’t had a try? Get to know Japan’s favourite drink with a little sakecation



Sake is a Japanese rice wine, with an origin that dates back over 1700 years. The special rice used in the brewing process  is called ‘saka mai’ which is a larger grain and contains less protein than the ordinary rice eaten by the Japanese.

sake cans stacked on top of each other


Although it is called ‘wine’, it is actually more similar to beer given they use the brewing process to make it. While wine is made by fermenting sugar from fruits or grapes, sake and beer are made by converting starches in a grain into sugar and then fermenting it into alcohol. According to Kansascity.com, the main difference between between the two is ‘koji’, an enzyme that allows the starch and sugar fermentation to happen in the same tank, at the same time. Winning!

Large shiny metal beer tanks in a warehouse


While us Aussies often drink it in any small glass on hand, did you know there is a traditional way to drink the stuff? First you need to pour your sake into a tokkuri to serve. You’ve probably seen them before – looks kinda like a small white ceramic carafe. Fill your guests ochoko first (these are the little white cups with no handles) then your own. And last but not least say “Kampei” or “Cheers” before you guzzle down your drink. It can be served hot or cold, but never warmer than body temperature and top shelf stuff should always be served chilled.


A sake bottle with two cups sitting on a white table


According to sake world there are four distinct types of sake.

  • Junmai-shu: is a top quality sake that uses rice only, nothing else is added but water and koji. it literally means pure rice sake. It has a heavier flavour and more acidity than others. Junmai-shu is made with rice that has been milled to at least 30% (the outer portion of each rice grain has been ground away.)


  • Honjozo-shu: made with a small amount of brewers alcohol to ‘smoothen & lighten’ the flavour and make it more fragrant. Honjozo-shu rice has also been milled to 30%.


  • Ginjo-shu: is a highly milled rice wine that is delicate and light and is apparently quite labor intensive to make. It has been milled to 40%.


  • Daiginjo-shu: is an even higher polished rice wine, usually polished to around 50% sometimes even more. Again this type of wine is even more intricate to make and can be made with or without brewers alcohol.


Thirsty to give it a taste? We have a pretty impressive range of sake that you probably never noticed. Book in now to have a try!