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Sipping your shirozake… or is it amazake?

Shirozake (白酒) literally means “white sake”, a sweet liqueur made from fermented rice. Mostly drunk by women, shirozake became a traditional drink for Hina Matsuri. Sometimes shirozake is confused with amazake (甘酒), but they are two different drinks. Amazake is made at home, but shirozake can be store-bought only. Amazake is also made from fermented rice, but it is a much older beverage, and was  even mentioned in the Nihon Shoki. It is nearly non-alcoholic, hence can be drunk by children. Even Japanese people sometimes confuse these two beverages.AmazakeIn the 17th century, a sake merchant Toshimaya Juemon allegedly had a dream in which a paper doll told him how to make it. He founded his sake company called Toshimaya. It is now the oldest white sake (and sake in general) brewer in Tokyo.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it seems that shirozake is not exactly sake because of the technical peculiarities of its preparation.

Shirozake is abundant in every store and supermarket in Japan around the end of February, just before the Girls Festival. However, it is drunk mostly by mothers, not by their daughters, due to the fact that it contains 8-9% alcohol. Daughters are allowed to drink amazake instead.AmazakeI don’t know about you, but I prefer a colorless sake to white sake. However, I do occasionally enjoy amazake, as it is said to be full of vitamins B1, B2, B6, and Folic Acid etc., and can also pass as a dessert wine. I prefer to buy amazake which comes in a paper cup and costs around 100 yen.Amazake

Article by Olga Kaneda

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