Akazake is a traditional style of sake brewed in Kumamoto that is marked by its deep red color. It is similar to mirin, the sweet cooking sake, but has a mildly alkaline pH. Here in Kumamoto, it's an essential part of New Year's celebrations, and is also used as a daily cooking sake.
In the Edo period, akazake was designated the "state drink" of the Higo-Hosokawa domain (modern Kumamoto), and production of any other kind of sake was forbidden, as was importing other styles from outside domains.
With the coming of the Meiji era, though, modern seishu sake began coming in from other prefectures, and as demand began shifting to it, people began drinking less and less akazake. Then, around 1945, akazake brewing was banned altogether, and it vanished from the market.
After World War 2, people once more began to call for this traditional drink, and it went through a modest revival. Today, there are only two breweries making akazake in Kumamoto.
Most sake is pasteurized to increase its shelf life, but when making akazake wood ash is added to the mash, which neutralizes many of the acids and enzymes and naturally increases its life span. That's also why some people call regular sake “himochizake” (sake kept by fire) and call akazake “akumochizake” (sake kept by ash).
Higo Tokusan Akazake
Old fashioned Akazake.
Perfect for both cooking and drinking.
This traditionally made akazake is finished especially for cooking, and comes in a handy plastic bottle.
This traditional akazake is made using mochi rice for an easy-drinking, sweet sake. It might not be rich enough for cooking, but for drinking it's perfect served cold. We also recommend it mixed with soda or ginger ale.