Amazake vs. Sake: What Are Their Differences?

by Krystina Quintana

You’ve likely heard of sake, but have you heard of amazake? This delicious fermented rice drink is served hot and provides a subtle sweetness to anyone who drinks it. This Japanese drink is typically served in the colder months, helping create its nickname of wintertime sake. Curious about amazake? Keep reading for more information on this tasty beverage.

What Is Amazake?

Amazake is a special drink typically consumed during Japanese New Year celebrations and Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival). Amazake has been consumed for about 1000 years in Japan, with an earlier version dating back to 720. Its name translates to "sweet sake,” referring to its natural sweetness.

Is Amazake Alcoholic?

There are two varieties of amazake – a non-alcoholic one and one with alcohol. The first version uses sake lees, a sake byproduct. This variety of amazake typically has a low alcohol percentage. You can expect the amazake alcohol percentage to be around 8%. This version is made from rice, water, and sake lees.

The other version has rice koji, non-alcoholic fermented rice, as a main ingredient. This drink is great for people of all ages, making it an excellent choice for families who want to celebrate Japanese New Year together.

Bokksu amazake product

What Does Amazake Taste Like? Does Amazake Taste Like Sake?

Amazake has a delicious, sweet flavor and aroma. It's different than most alcoholic drinks as it has a thicker consistency (almost like porridge). The alcoholic variety of amazake has a distinct sake flavor, while the non-alcoholic variety has a strong rice koji taste.

 Many people believe that amazake has health benefits as well. Some amazake benefits include vitamins and a healthy dose of protein.

What Is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. It typically has about a 14-16% alcohol content and offers a mildly sweet and savory taste. It’s made from sake mai rice, water, mold (to aid in fermenting the drink), and yeast.

Sake is also the national drink of Japan. It has been consumed for many years (approximately since the 8th century CE). You may also hear this beverage referred to as rice wine. If you've ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you've likely seen sake on the menu.

Curious about sake? Continue reading about this delicious drink in our article, A Beginner’s Guide to Sake.

Amazake vs. Sake

Many people wonder about the differences between these drinks; this usually arises in different questions such as, "Is amazake a sake?". The below information will help you distinguish the two drinks from each other, so you can know which drink to order if you get the chance to visit Japan during Doll Week or New Year celebrations.

Amazake vs. Sake: What’s the Difference?

As a quick note, they are both made from fermented rice, and amazake is a type of sake. Each drink is served warm or chilled. However, their differences are much longer than a list.

Amazake has a much lower alcohol content (or is sold in the non-alcoholic variety). It features a thick consistency and sweet flavor, with a cloudy white appearance since it is unrefined. Amazake is typically sold in a can, and you can find the non-alcoholic versions in vending machines. Otherwise, this drink is typically seen during specific holidays.

In comparison, sake has a much higher alcohol content. It is much less sweet than amazake, offering a slightly nutty, fruity taste. This drink is sold in glass bottles and is consumed throughout the year. Sake is usually a clear color because it is refined during production.

Image of Sake being poured

Where to Buy Amazake

Besides finding a delicious Sakura amazake at Bokksu Boutique, you can also find amazake snacks. The Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Amazake are an excellent way to get a taste of amazake. These mochi puffs are delicious and provide a lighter-than-air consistency.

Bokksu offers yummy subscription boxes that you can order for monthly deliveries. You'll receive a curated box filled with Japanese snacks and tea pairings to try each month. The boxes feature a monthly theme and a detailed pamphlet on each item you receive. If you're unsure which snacks to try, this option provides an excellent array of sweet and savory items.