(in a nutshell)
Sake’s history starts about 2000 years ago. Considered sacred, it was often offered to gods and it was used during religious ceremonies and mournings. When the majority of sake production was then taken over by temples and shrines about a thousand years ago, several kinds began to appear.
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 mentioning is what in Western countries is called pasteurization.
French biologist Pasteur introduced this process during the 19th century but the Japanese were using the same principle from the 17th century!
In 1872 sake made its official debut at the Vienna International Exposition with the name Nihonshu. Nihonshu or Japanese alcohol is the official drink of Japan. This is the most proper way to refer to this alcoholic beverage, as the word sake translates to alcohol.
Nowadays sake is famous all over the world. Sake breweries are not only in Japan but also in several Asian countries, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and USA. There are many kinds of sake, some born recently or some more traditional.