Here are a few short, miscellaneous items about Saké.
Origin of "Saké"
What is the etymology of the word "Saké?" It seems that the original root word may be "sakaeru" which roughly translates as "to prosper, to flourish or to thrive." There is another theory though that the root word is actually "sakeru" which means "to avoid." This may be as Saké is supposed to help you avoid colds. Interestingly, Saké was also once referred to as kushi which translates as "something mysterious or strange." Kushi no Kami is an old name for the god of Saké.
Here are several sayings about Saké. You can note that moderation seems to be considered important, that too much Saké can cause problems.
Saké wa hyaku yaku no cho. ("Saké is the best of all medicines.")
Sakénomi jozu wa nagaiki jozu. ("To know how to drink properly is to know longevity.")
Saké wa saki ni tomo to nari, ato ni teki ni naru. ("Saké starts out as a friend but can end as an enemy.")
"It is the man who drinks the first bottle of Saké; then the second bottle drinks the first, and finally it is the Saké that drinks the man."
Sometimes when you are checking out the Saké selections at a local wine store, you might see a bottle labeled "Shochu." Shochu is not a type of Saké though it is sometimes made from rice. Shochu is a distilled liquor with about a 25% alcohol content. Shochu can undergo a single distillation or multiple ones. It is often clear in color, like vodka. It can be drank straight or mixed into a cocktail.
Also like vodka, Shochu can be made from numerous different ingredients including barley, sweet potatoes, brown sugar and buckwheat. Barley though is most commonly used though sweet potato is very popular too. Dependent on its ingredients and how it is made, Shochu can have a wide range of flavors. It has become very popular in Japan, surpassing the popularity of Saké there. This popularity has led to the production or more artisanal and high-end Shochu.
Shochu is making its entry into the U.S. market though it is slow. You might see one or two brands, if even that, at most wine stores. It is available in some bars and restaurants as well, though usually only the better Japanese restaurants. I have very little experience with Shochu so cannot personally say much about it. Though it is on my to-do list for the future, to taste more Shochu. If I do, I will of course report back my findings.