Difference Between Sake and Soju (with Table)

The lists of Asian beverages are on the rise, they have gained quite a lot of popularity in recent days. They are mostly paired with sushi and other Asian main course dishes or barbeque. Two such popular Asian main alcoholic beverages are sake and soju. While both these beverages are gaining international popularity apart from their respective countries they should not be confused.

 They are completely different beverages and can be differentiated on several grounds such as country of origin, alcohol content, prevalence, production process, flavor, and serving suggestion.

Sake is an alcoholic beverage also commonly known as rice wine or Japanese rice wine. It is made by the process of fermentation. Whereas soju is a clear-spirit drink just like vodka and is made by the process of distillation and later aged. The alcohol content in sake is less compared to sake as it has 15% to 17% alcohol content whereas soju has much higher alcohol content usually ranging between 15% to 46%.

The difference between sake and soju is that sake is officially originated from Japan whereas soju is officially originated from Korea. Both these beverages play a very important role in each of their respective cultures and arehighly valued in prestigious ceremonies. Sake is made just by fermenting rice whereas soju is made from rice, barley, and sweet potatoes.

Comparison Table Between Sake and Soju

Parameter of ComparisonSakeSoju
OriginIt is a Japanese beverageIt is a Korean beverage
ProcessIt is made by the process of fermentation.It is made by the process of distillation
Food components fromIt is made out of riceIt is made out of rice, barley, sweet potatoes, potatoes, wheat, and tapioca
Alcohol ContentIt has less alcohol content 15% to17%It as higher alcohol content 15% to 53%
AromaHas mild and soft aromaIt does no have any specific aroma it as it is clear-spirit beverage
FlavorSake has a very distinguishable flavor itvaries from sweet, umami, salty, sour to  bitterIt is mostly like diluted vodka

What is Sake?

Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage made by the process of fermenting rice. It is often also referred to as “Japanese rice wine”. The making of sake is a complex process as it starts by harvesting, polishing, washing, soaking, and steaming the rice. The fungus named kojiis introduced along with yeast and it is followed by the process of fermentation, filtering, and other pasteurizing.

The process of making sake is somewhat similar to the process of making beer. The label on the bottle of sake gives an average estimate of its taste. The flavor of sake is rated according to the sake meter value, where ranking from -15 to +15 on the sake scale of driest to sweetness. Sake has a combination of flavors such as “astringent” and “savory” with “mildly sweet”, “clean” and “well balanced”.

Sake is best preferred at room temperature, but it can also be enjoyed at hot or cold temperatures. It is the national beverage in Japan where it is often served in special ceremonies. Traditionally it is warmed in small earthen or porcelain bottles and served in a small porcelain cup known as sakazuki.

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sake scaled

What is Soju?

Soju is an alcoholic beverage that originated in Korea. It is a colorless, odorless clear spirit. Soju’s alcohol content varies from 15% to 53% alcohol by volume. Soju was traditionally made from rice-wheat and barley but now is made from made other food components also such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, wheat, and tapioca. Soju is made in a two-step process.

Soju is best produced in warm climates. Soju is the top-selling liquor by the rate of volume all over the world, it is not legally considered spirit at all places. It was popularized as Korean culture became extremely popular all over the world and people started following K-drama. Soju is a distilled beverage like vodka.

Often flavored soju is available. Another very popular form of soju is yogurt soju, which is a combination of soju, yogurt, and lemon-lime soda. In recent times soju is made from various food supplements, hence it can cater to a variety of flavor and aroma in it. But soju on itself does not have much flavor or aroma to it as it is white-spirit. Soju is appreciated for its “clear neutral taste” with subtle sweetness”


Main Differences Between Sake and Soju

  1. Sake was originally originated from Japan and soju was originally originated from Korea. Yet both the drinks are widely popularized all over the world now.
  2. Sake is made by the process of fermentation like beer whereas soju is made by the process of distillation just like vodka.
  3. Sake is made out of just rice whereas soju is made out of several food components such as rice, barley, wheat, potatoes, and tapioca.
  4. Sake is a milder drink as it has less alcoholic content usually between 15% to17% whereas soju is a stronger drink and has higher alcoholic content such as 15% to 53%.
  5. Sake has a mild and soft aroma to it whereas soju does not have any aroma to itself as it is clear-spirit.
  6. Sake offers a wide variety of flavors such as sweet, umami, salty, sour, and bitter. Soju on the other hand is diluted vodka it does not have any flavor of its own until it is mixed with other food components.


While Asian beverages are quite on the rise two Asian alcoholic beverages are on the rise namely- sake and soju. Both the beverages are quite popular in their respective countries both these beverages are very different from each other on several grounds such as origin, alcohol content, prevalence, production process, flavor, and serving suggestion.

Sake is a Japan originated alcoholic beverage. It is made by the process of fermenting rice. It has a very distinct flavor such as sweet, umami, salty, sour, and bitter. It has less alcoholic content which ranges between 15%  to 17%. Soju on the other hand is a popular Korean beverage that has seen its popularity in recent times after the popularization of K-drama. Soju is high in alcohol content which ranges between 15%  to 53%.


  1. https://aem.asm.org/content/55/8/1901.short
  2. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00027.2001?view=long&pmid=11917093
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1463499613483394
  4. https://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO201534851987641.page

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