Sake, or saki, is the national wine of Japan. It is made from white rice, malt and water, which is twice fermented and then distilled. Sake is colourless, has a distinctive sweet flavour and has, roughly, the same alcoholic strength as sherry.
Sake is generally drunk only as an accompaniment to food. Although it was originally drunk cold, it is now usually warmed to blood temperature. To serve sake, decant it into a porcelain sake jar or heatproof bowl placed in a saucepan containing hot water. Warm the liquid gently to the appropriate temperature. Remove the jar or bowl from the heat and then pour the sake into tiny porcelain sake bowls or cups and serve at once. In Japan a special occasion, such as a marriage, is always celebrated with a bowl of sake.