Amazake (甘酒)



Happy New Year, 2023! 
New Year’s Day is one of the biggest holidays in Japan. The first three days are called “Sanganichi.” People gather with family and eat special foods and drinks to celebrate the new year during these first three days.
When I think of Japan’s new year’s celebration, I always think of Osechi (おせち:Traditional New Year’s Day Foods) and Amazake (甘酒). Amazake is literally written as “Sweet (甘) Sake (酒).”  It is either a low-alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage enjoyed during the celebration. Amazake can be enjoyed cold or hot, but because we usually drink during the cold season, it is mainly enjoyed hot. 

What is Amazake? 

Amazake is a fermented rice drink that has been enjoyed in Japan for at least 1300 years. The one with low alcohol is made with sake kasu or sake lees. It is a byproduct of making Sake; basically a leftover after pressing Sake. Because it is from making Sake, it contains a low amount of alcohol. The other kind, without any alcohol, is made with rice Koji. Rice Koji is cooked rice inoculated with fermentation culture, Aspergillus oryzae. Koji is also used to make soy sauce, Mirin, and Miso. 

Which is better? 

If you like the flavor of Sake and it is only served to adults, Amazake made with Sake Kasu would be very enjoyable. 
If you do not like sake flavor or are also serving children and pregnant women, Amazake made with Koji would be a better choice. Koji is also known to have a lot of health benefits. It is an excellent source of probiotics, rich in vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin B6. It also contains folic acid, dietary fiber, oligosaccharides, cysteine, arginine, and glutamine. So if you would like some health benefits while enjoying a comfort drink, it would be an excellent choice for you to try. 
If you would like to learn more about traditional new year’s food, check out the article Japanese New Years food”.