Amazake – Sweet Sake Drink

Winter has finally arrived in Seattle. On Thursday, we had our first snow of the season.

I suddenly remembered that I still have some sake kasu (sake lees) from our sake brewery visits earlier this year. If you happen to be in Japan late January – February in a sake brewing region, don’t miss the opportunity to participate in a brewery tour. It is really fun as well as educational. We even happened upon a once-a-year brewery gathering and tasting event that day.  I am by no means a drinker, but I had a BLAST!

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I had my first Amazake in Kurshiro. It was a snowy day, we had been outside photographing the majestic red-crowned cranes, and if you must know, we also had a VERY long night trying to find alternative transportation to this small city in Eastern Hokkaido, due to a snow blizzard. It is not until I sat down in the small cafeteria at the Akan International Crane Center and drank this cup of warm sweet drink that I finally found my solace.

Amazake is a sweet, low or  non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice. You can ferment the rice from scratch by adding koji to the completely cooled steamed rice, or buy sake kasu from your local Japanese grocery store (usually in the refrigerated miso section).

If your sakekasu is rather solid, chop it with a knife into small pieces. Soak it overnight in a pot of water. The sakekasu will break down in the water. For a finer texture, you can also smash it with a spoon and stir it around until you have a milky looking liquid.

Set the pot on a stove at medium high heat, stir constantly until it boils. Turn off the heat, add sugar (only if desired), a pinch of salt and grated ginger.

Note: The amazake I had outside of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, comes with Kyoto’s very special – soy milk, which gives it a rather smooth and silky texture and a depth of flavor. This is the variation I prefer. You can substitute soy milk with milk or coconut milk as you like.

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