Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS
Japanese people are well-known around the globe for their healthy lifestyles and their long life expectancy. It is believed part of this phenomenon is due to the Japanese diet. As a matter of fact these days there are plenty of Japanese foods being deemed as so-called superfoods. Recently one of them, beloved in Japan for centuries, has been gaining more and more popularity outside of Japan too – amazake.
Amazake is well-known in Japan for its many health and beauty benefits. It is an easy-to-digest, gluten-free drink that is said to not only promote beautiful skin and relieve fatigue but also boost vitamin levels and is therefore often referred to as a “drinkable IV”.
There are plenty of reasons as to why to get behind this new trend, so let’s find out what amazake is, its benefits, and of course how and where to enjoy it.
Amazake (甘酒) is a sweet Japanese drink made from fermented rice. It is so ingrained in Japanese culture that it is even mentioned in the Chronicles of Japan, the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), which is the second-oldest classical Japanese history book compiled in the 8AD.
As a beverage, amazake has an almost porridge-like texture, milky white with visible broken parts of rice in it. These particles often separate and sink to the bottom of the bottle when stored. It is what a bottle of amazake most likely looks like when you find it in a shop, so it is best to give it a gentle shake before opening. Also for many, the first sip can be a little unique because of its cloggy texture. However, it is a really enjoyable experience and the mellow sweet taste generally leaves people wanting more.
One important thing to point out is to not confuse amazake with nigorizake. For the untrained eye, they can be hard to tell apart because of their similar cloudy white appearance. However, unlike nigorizake, amazake has no or only a small amount of alcohol, similar to non-alcoholic beer or wine.
And as if this is not already confusing enough, the label also throws in a curveball. As generally the kanji character “酒” (sake) on a label, indicate an alcoholic beverage, it does not in the case of amazake. So although you find 甘酒, meaning sweet alcohol on the label of an amazake bottle, this is definitely a non-alcoholic beverage.
To keep it simple, there are two main types of amazake. The difference is how they are made and subsequently the small traces of alcohol left in the end product. Something extremely important from the perspective of a customer.
The first type of amazake is “koji amazake” made directly from rice koji and/or rice and letting it ferment. Koji has a lot of enzymes and vitamins. The enzymes break down starch to sugars and protein to amino acids. Amazake produced this way is alcohol-free and safe to be enjoyed by pregnant women, children as well as people planning to drive a vehicle. They are incredibly similar in taste and promote the same health benefits.
The second type of amazake is made from sake less, also known as sake kasu, or kasu in short. It is a by-product of producing sake. Towards the end of the sake brewing process, the mash is being pressed, separating the liquid, the sake, from the rice, the kasu. The kasu is then used for a variety of products. It is often used in cosmetics or for cooking and of course in making amazake. In which case it is diluted with water until liquified. It is important to know that amazake made from sake kasu, although still considered a non-alcoholic drink, has traces of alcohol in it. However, the alcohol content is generally less than 1% of alcohol.
So why drink Amazake? Because of its multitude of benefits. One of the main reasons it has become so popular in Japan and has started to catch on abroad is because it does not just improve your health but also your looks. Full of nutrition, it is said to boost your energy levels and also leaves you with beautiful soft skin. Here we have a closer look at all the benefits of amazake.
In Japan, amazake has earned itself the nickname of “drinkable IV” as it contains an abundance of nutrients and vitamins. These include B1, B2, B6, B7 vitamins, but also folic acid, dietary fiber, arginine, amino acids, and glutamine. The perfect mix to give you a lift when you are feeling a little low. The truth is, for many, this is not just an amazing nutrient booster, but also the perfect hangover cure.
Amazake is also rich in glucose, an A-type sugar used by the brain as a source of energy. It has the benefit of being quickly absorbed, which makes amazake a great drink when you need a pick-up or are feeling a little fatigued. Also, whether you are dealing with complex matters, need to problem-solve at work, or have to be alert, amazake helps the brain to stay focused and keep blood glucose levels at an optimum.
Rich in dietary fiber and oligosaccharides, amazake is a great addition to any diet. It helps the digestive system do its job and can help prevent constipation. Furthermore, being a fermented drink, it is a good source of probiotics that help the gut flora flourish and the oligosaccharides keep your stomach healthy and help improve the condition of your intestines.
Because amazake is a fermented drink made with koji it is rich in antioxidants, kojic acid, ferulic acid, and ergothioneine. This is great for the skin as it helps to keep it smooth. Above that, due to a mix of Vitamin C, Biotin, and Amino Acids drinking amazake also helps brighten the skin and prevent discoloration. Plus the antioxidant ergothioneine help suppress the signs of aging. All with just a few sips of amazake each day.
The beauty of amazake is that you do not have to do anything to it, it can be enjoyed just as it is. Whether you prefer it cold in summer or warmed up during the colder months, it is a delicious drink. Nevertheless, it can also be used as a natural sweetening agent, some people add it to salad dressings and it can also be a great ingredient in a smoothie.
In Japan, amazake is often offered around shrines and temples, a great way to replenish your energy levels after exploring the surroundings.
Amazake truly is a superfood. Whether you are looking to improve your health, help your skin rejuvenate, or simply just like the refreshingly sweet taste, it makes a great addition to anyone’s lifestyle. Plus it is tasty and so easy to incorporate.
So next time you see a bottle of amazake in a shop, remember all its benefits. Join generations of Japanese people and take one step closer to a healthier lifestyle. All there is to do is to drink this delicious Japanese beverage and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.