Sake vs Rice Wine

There are so many foreign alcoholic beverages that you may want to try for they seem tasty. Sake Vs Rice Wine are two very similar Asian alcoholic beverages that are very popular in the home country but also in various other countries. As the name suggests they are made from rice and have gone through a certain process in order to make delicious drinks that you can enjoy almost any time. For those who wonder whether they are the same beverage, do check our short comparison below.

In this article, we are going to give you information about:

  • How to Drink Safely
  • What are Sake and Rice Wine
  • How Sake and Rice Wine Look Like
  • How are the Process to Make Sake and Rice Wine
  • How are the Taste of Sake and Rice Wine
  • How to Drink Sake and Rice Wine
  • Sake Vs Rice Wine

Drinking Safely

Nothing is ever fine when consumed excessively and yes, this includes regular water because it is never okay to take more than our body is capable of processing. This can be more dangerous for liquid that has a side effect such as alcohol as we all know, it does give a bad impact to our body and this is not about drunk driving only. If you love alcoholic beverages, here are some tips to drink safely and make sure we can still enjoy them in the future as well.

  1. Make sure we know how much alcohol you drink and how much you should have today. Drinking itself is often part of one’s culture and can be part of your healthy lifestyle as well with note that we are aware of the effects as well. For example by following certain guildline such as Australian guideline that says adult men should not drink more than 4 standard drinks on any one day or in the U.S two drinks or less for men and one drink or less for women.
  2. Make sure our stomach is not empty before chugging the alcohol so we have to eat before heading out. This is because alcohol enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine so when it is empty then you will get intoxicated more quickly. We should drink plenty of water and don’t mix the alcohol with sugary drinks as it will tempt you to drink more, including eating salty snacks as it makes you thirsty and again, drinking more.
  3. We will know how many cups we have gulped down by counting them because it is easy to over consume them while we chat with friends or just without realizing it. Know your limit and stick to it so we are still safe to do other activities after, especially if you are going out with friends or family who tend to drink too much. In addition, try finishing what’s left in the glass before starting another and avoid topping it.
  4. Drinking slowly is also recommended because the amount of alcohol in the blood influences how alcohol affects your body and the higher this concentration, the more we are at risk of injury or even overdose. Remember that the body can only process one standard drink per hour and the faster we drink, the higher this concentration. A tip to reduce it is by drinking both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, or drink water first to quench your thirst and opting for the low-alcoholic options.

About Sake or Rice Wine

All alcoholic beverages have a potential to cause injury and overdosing so regardless of the content, we should always drink responsibly. Some people may drink because they need to ease something, some people love the taste of their flavors, some for entertainment, while some use it to warm their body during cold weather. Personally we are attracted to their taste because many are unique and even better when paired with certain foods of your choice, whether it is meat or vegetable based.

If you are here then you are also currently interested on foreign alcoholic beverages which may not be as popular or ubiquitous in your country but are still a fascinating drink to have from time to time. We are sure most people ever heard of Sake and Rice Wine before because they are very popular almost everywhere, especially when you love dining in Asian restaurants as they are almost always on the menu to accompany your favorite dishes. People are using the term to call the same beverage and they are the same thing too.

What’s not completely correct is the rice wine term itself because rice is grain and we call alcoholic beverage made from grain fermentation as beer, as they are the same while wine itself means that the drink is made from fruit such as grape, strawberries, plums, peaches, blackberries, and many more. In the market and society itself, the term Sake and rice wine are almost interchangeable as they are meant to be the same beverage or most often used to call the Japanese rice fermented drink.

What you may want to know is there are plenty of rice wine or similar drinks from rice in Asian countries so in every country they may have different names and different types of rice or yeast used to make the beverage. For example, if Sake is a staple in Japanese dining culture, Korean have something similar called Makgeolli like what we put as the sample picture above. They are essentially Sake or rice wine as both are made from rice and fermented like beer.

Sake or Rice Wine Visual

Since the two refer to the same beverage, from here we will address them as two but meant to call the same drink. Visually Sake or Rice Wine can vary depending on the ingredient and how the process itself is decided by the brewery. In most cases Sake is clear and has no color like typical Vodka such as Ketel One Vs Absolut but they can have a darker color as well such as yellowish like tea or amber like whiskey based on how long the beverage is aged. 

This type of Sake is said to have a richer taste and more expensive as well compared to younger ones. For Sake or Rice Wine that comes from other countries such as Korea, for example Makgeolli, they are murky and similar to milk and water mixed together which also taste milky. Not to be confused with rice vinegar, these alcoholic beverages are fermented using yeast while vinegar is using acetic acid bacteria.

Sake or Rice Wine Brewing Process

Now for the making process, Sake or Rice Wine are the same depending on where they come from especially with the rice variant and the type of yeast they are using to give each beverage their own distinct flavor. In general Sake or Rice Wine are made from rice where the rice needs to be polished first before washed and then soak and steamed. Polishing rice is meant to remove impurities so what’s left is only the starch to be fermented.

Koji is then added to convert rice starch into sugar or glucose and after the yeast is covering the rice, the next step is making Shubo where koji, steamed rice, yeast, and water are mixed together while the next step is Moromi or the base of sake; a 3-tiered process by adding additional ingredients. After Koji is turning starch to sugar and yeast consume it to make alcohol, the mixture needs to be pressed to extract the water and sediments.

The sediments can be thrown out, used in cooking or used in the making of sweet sake. On the other hand the liquid or water is then filtered to purify the Sake and pasteurized if further fermentation is not wished. Manufacturers can mature and dilute the Sake to certain percentages such as 20% ABV to 15-17% alcohol content. Before bottling they are pasteurized again.

Sake or Rice Wine Taste

As for the taste Sake or Rice Wine are also varying greatly based on the rice they are made with and different in the process or aging step. But, overall they are a very mild drink compared to many other beverages like Vodka despite having the same visuals. In general a clear cold Sake tastes clean and rather sweet which is not as sweet as cooking wine or Mirin. It is similar to wine to certain extent as well with the astringent taste that makes your tongue numb and lips pucker.

The scent is light as well with a bit of fruit and nut hints like your milder wine which should go after a few minutes in the cup. For the murky rice wine, they tend to be sweet, tangy and milkier as well and have a nutty scent which similarly often drinks cold. In case of Rice Wine like Makgeolli, they are typically not aged and consumed like a week or two after brewing.

Drinking Sake or Rice Wine

Similarly, most rice wine or alcoholic beverages made from rice are often drunk in cold condition or chilled because it indicates the quality of the beverage itself and while in Japan Sake is also served hot, it is typically to mask the flavor of cheaper quality. Based on where the beverage comes from, Sake or Rice Wine are often paired with Asian cuisines as well. However, it is universal in food pairing and depending on the Sake, we can pair with meaty dishes like pork belly and fish, Sushi, Ramen, or even veggie dishes like asparagus and salads.

Sake vs Rice Wine

Sake or Rice Wine are used to call the same beverage made from fermented rice. The term is not 100% correct as Sake is more similar to beer due to being made from grain but, Sake is prominently used to call the Japanese version or style of this beverage thus, the similar beverage from other countries may be called as Rice Wine. However, in Japanese restaurants they will most likely mean the same beverage.

SakeRice Wine
- Originated from Japan- Use to call rice fermented beverage
- Mostly clear- Can be murky as well
- Slightly sweet and dry- Taste vary based on ingredients


While the term is not exactly correct, Rice Wine is widely used to call beverages made from fermented rice. There is no distinction in between Sake or Rice Wine when they come from the same place but may vary depending on the rice or yeast type used during process.