Amazake (甘酒, amazake) is a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol (depending on recipes) Japanese drink made from fermented rice. Amazake dates from the Kofun period, and it is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki. It is part of the family of traditional Japanese foods made using koji and the koji mould Aspergillus oryzae (麹 kōji) that includes miso, soy sauce, and sake.
There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. A popular recipe, kōji is added to cooled whole grain rice causing enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simpler unrefined sugars. As the mixture incubates, sweetness develops naturally. By another popular recipe, sake kasu is simply mixed with water, but usually sugar is added.
Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, salad dressing or smoothie. The traditional drink (prepared by combining amazake and water, heated to a simmer, and often topped with a pinch of finely grated ginger) was popular with street vendors, and it is still served at inns, tea-houses, and at festivals. Many Shinto shrines provide or sell it in the New Year. In the 20th century, an instant version became available.
Amazake is believed to be very nutritious. It is often considered a hangover cure in Japan. Outside of Japan, it is often sold in Asian grocery stores and natural food stores as a beverage and natural sweetener.
Similar beverages include the Chinese jiuniang, Korean sikhye, and Vietnamese cơm rượu. In grape wine-making, must — sweet, thick, unfermented grape juice — is a similar product.