Amazake literally means sweet sake. It is a traditional Japanese drink which is made from fermented rice, just like regular sake. Amazake tastes sweet and actually contains little to no alcohol. How is this drink made? And what is the best way to enjoy this tasty treat?
There are several recipes to make amazake. A popular method is to combine cooked whole grain rice with koji (aspergillus oryzae, a kind of mold), which causes the enzymes to break down the carbohydrate of the rice into simple sugars. Consequently, the amazake develops its naturally sweet taste. This method produces amazake which does not contain any alcohol since it does not go through the 3 to 4 weeks of fermentation which is typical for other sake variants (and creates the alcohol contents).
Another well-known method to make amazake is to combine sake kasu (a byproduct of sake-making, seen on the picture above) with water, but usually, sugar has to be added to this recipe if you want the amazake to be sweet. This version of amazake contains a low amount of alcohol.
The traditional way to take the amazake is to combine it with water, simmer the mixture, and then add a pinch of grated ginger. Some people also use amazake as a natural sweetening agent. It can be used to replace sugar in various recipes.
Amazake is said to be good for digestion, so it is often recommended for those suffering of an upset stomach. In addition, amazake is believed to be an effective cure for hangovers. The amazake is nutritious, and it is considered as a traditional energy drink in Japan. People also drink amazake during cold weather as it is believed to warm up the body.
As amazake does not contain alcohol, it is also suitable for kids. It is often served to kids during celebrations like Girls’ Day. During the New Year, amazake is commonly served at temples and shrines. You can also find amazake being sold in vending machines and supermarkets.
If you are going to be in Japan during the winter months, make sure to look out for this tasty, sweet drink! You can also make it yourself, and try to use it in lieu of sugar in recipes when you are for example baking cookies. It is healthy, and a great product to enjoy for all ages!