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,

and what I introduce here, “Amazake (甘酒)”, is among them.

Amazake vs. Sake (Nihonshu)

Amazake is Sake?

The name of Amazake can be divided into two words,

“Ama (甘)” that is short for the Japanese adjective “Amai (甘い)” meaning “sweet” and “Zake (酒)”, a word for the alcohol sake.

As this indicates, Amazake has a gentle sweetness.

But different than you may imagine, or unlike sake or nihonshu, Amazake is considered a soft drink.

Then, how does the beverage differ from sake (nihonshu)? Today, for the unfamiliar, let me talk about that.


Amazake and Kome Koji

Amazake comes in 2 types; one is made from rice and malted rice (kome-koji) saccharified by the enzyme called amylase,

while the other consists of sake lees (sake-kasu) heated in water and sweetened with sugar.

On the other hand, as you know, sake is made from rice, malted rice, and water. The mixture is fermented, and then impurities are filtered out.

Alcohol Content

While some kinds of Amazake are totally non-alcoholic, others contain less than 1 percent alcohol.

In Japan, beverages with less than 1 percent alcohol are categorized as soft drinks, and even children can have them.

On the other hand, based on the Japanese liquor tax law, the alcohol content in sake (nihonshu or seishu) must be less than 22 percent,

and they typically have 15 or 16 percent alcohol.


Chilled Amazake

Amazake is white and cloudy in appearance, for it is unrefined, unlike sake.

The sweet non-alcoholic beverage comes in canned/bottled drinks or concentrated, powdered, or freeze-dried varieties.

In contrast, sake or nihonshu is clear and transparent. The alcoholic beverage is most commonly sold in glass bottles. 

(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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