Sometimes described as a rice wine, sometimes as a rice beer, sake shares qualities of both. It is fermented from specially developed rice and water by brewmasters ('toji'). But, although sake is brewed like a beer, it is served like a wine and, like wine, can either be dry or sweet, heavy or light. But it is slightly more alcoholic than wine, and much boozier than beer, at 14-18% alc./vol..
Sake (pronounced Sar-Keh - heavy on the 'K') is native to Japan (and parts of China) and is arguably Japan's most famous drink. In Japan sake is also known as 'Seishu', 'Nihonshu' and 'Osake'.
Sake even boasts its own official day, World Sake Day, which falls on the 1st October and celebrates the start of the production season.
In China sake is more popular in the south, though some of the finest comes from the north; other East Asian countries also have their own takes on rice-brewing. The USA is another large sake producer. Japanese companies have established subsidiaries around San Francisco and the Sacramento and Napa Valleys, while the Honolulu Sake Brewery, established in 1908, was the first outside Japan.