Sake, or rice wine is enjoyed as a drink, but often used as an ingredient for Japanese dishes.
Sake is made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Unlike wine, in which alcohol (ethanol) is produced by fermenting sugar that is naturally present in fruit, typically grapes, sake is produced by a brewing process more akin to that of beer, where starch is converted into sugars which ferment into alcohol.
Sake is used to wash unfavorable smell, and to magnify the taste of the ingredients as well.
A single rice barrel rice wine or jyunmai shu is used for cooking. Other types such as the ginjo and daiginjo are thicker, and stronger in taste,therefore enjoyed as a drink.
Many manufacturers mix barrels, and add distilled alcohol, rice flavorings, and sugar to cut costs. These low grade rice wines are not suitable for cooking or drinking since they do not have the true fermented rice flavorings that help accentuate the flavors of the ingredient.