Amazake vs Sake: What is the Difference?

When winter comes, hot beverages are sold in vending machines in Japan, from which you can buy a variety of heated drinks, including canned coffee, PET bottles of green tea, and even canned soups.

Canned Amazake

Not only those, but some vending machines carry even traditional Japanese drinks, which include what I introduce here “Amazake (甘酒)”.

The Difference between Amazake and Sake (Nihonshu)

Amazake is Sake?

Actually, the name of the Japanese beverage, Amazake can be divided into 2 words, “Ama (甘)” that is short for the adjective “Amai (甘い)” meaning “sweet” and “Zake (酒)”, a word for Sake rice wine.

As its name indicates, Amazake has a gentle sweetness and is really yummy, however, different than you may imagine and unlike Sake or Nihonshu, Amazake is categorized as a soft drink in Japan.

Then, what is the difference between Amazake and Sake (Nihonshu)? Today, let me talk about that.


Amazake and Kome Koji

Actually, Amazake comes in 2 types; one is made from rice and malted rice called “Kome-Koji (米麹)”, while the other is made by infusing Sake lees in hot water and sweetened with sugar.

Meanwhile, usually made from rice, malted rice, and water, Sake or Nihonshu is fermented and the impurities are filtered out.

Alcohol Content

Some kinds of Amazake are totally non-alcoholic, others contain less than 1 percent of alcohol. In Japan, less than 1 percent-alcohol-containing beverages are categorized as soft drinks and even children are permitted to have them.

On the other hand, according to the liquor tax law in Japan, the alcohol content in Sake or Nihonshu must be less than 22 percent, and Japanese Sake rice wines typically contain 15 or 16 percent of alcohol.

Appearance and Forms 

Chilled Amazake

In appearance, Amazake is white and cloudy, for unlike Sake rice wine it is unrefined. The sweet Sake-like beverage is available in various forms in Japan, as canned or bottled drinks, in concentrated, powder, or freeze-dried forms.

In contrast, Sake or Nihonshu is a clear, transparent alcoholic drink and is most commonly sold in glass bottles. By the way, both Amazake and Nihonshu can be served hot or cold.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 甘酒, 日本酒 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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