Sake’s history starts about 2000 years ago. Considered sacred, it was often offered to gods and emperors. Commoners used to drink it during specific ceremonies to feel closer to the gods, like during a shamanic ritual.
When the majority of the sake production was then taken over by temples and shrines, about a thousands years ago, Japanese started to create several kinds of sake. During the Edo Period (1603-1868) sake brewing techniques became more sophisticated. Lots of the techniques developed during this period are still used nowadays. Of all the improvements made during the Edo Period, one that is worth to mention is what we call pasteurization.
French biologist Pasteur discovered this process during the 19th century. Japanese were using the same principle from the 17th century. They found out that by heating sake they could prevent it from spoiling. In Japanese this process is called Hi-Ire 火入れ.
In 1872 sake made its official debut at the Vienna International Exposition with the name Nihonshu.
Nihonshu means “Japanese alcohol”, as it is the official Japanese drink. It is the most proper way to refer to this alcoholic beverage, as the term sake literally translates to “alcohol”.
(To make things easy, we’ll refer to it by calling it sake)
Nowadays sake is famous all over the world, and breweries are not only in Japan, but also in several Asian countries, Europe, Australia and USA. There are many kinds of sake, some born recently or some very traditional.
The variety of styles as well as the attention to the details that Japanese have to make sake, attracts more and more people everyday.