Now that everyone’s acquainted with the unique rice beverage known as amazake, I’d like to introduce an option for those of you who balk at a recipe that takes nearly a day to complete. Though limited there are commercial options available, but beware that not all are created equal. For ages, I thought that all amazakes were gritty, grassy, slightly bitter, and altogether unpalatable, when in fact I had simply chosen a bad brand to start with. Instead of making that same mistake, I’d like to recommend to you a tried-and-true source, my all-time favorite producer of these rice beverages: Grainaissance.
Based in California, this small company’s products can be more difficult for an east coaster like me to find, but the hunt is more than worth it. Churning out nearly a dozen different flavors of this drink, in addition to a handful of flavors of mochi, one gets the sense that they must really love their rice. That passion certainly shows in the end results as well. Ever since that fateful day when I stumbled upon one of those unassuming bottles at my local health food store, I’ve become utterly addicted. Sadly, I could only track down three flavors, so I actually went straight to the source, and asked the manufacturer for a wider sample. Opening that box filled with sweet rice delights was like receiving a long overdue birthday present!
Only sporadically available locally, the Vanilla Pecan Pie is the flavor that started it all and got me hooked. Expecting another sad excuse for a health elixir, I was nothing short of shocked at how incredibly and apologetically sweet it was. After skimming the label many times to find no added sugar, this is a fantastic demonstration of how amazake is naturally sweet enough to replace refined sugars in some desserts. Leading with a nutty, roasted pecan flavor, complimented by a gentle vanilla essence, I can’t say it really tastes like a slice of pecan pie, but it sure is damn good.
Similar to the Pecan Pie, but with a new nut taking center stage, the Almond Shake has a very fresh, mellow almond flavor, nothing like the almond flavor I’ve come to expect from so many artificial baking extracts. Simple and straightforward, this would be a great option for blending up into fruit shakes, or just about anything else.
Another variation on the same nut-centric theme, the Chocolate Almond promises great things, but might disappoint the serious chocoholic. Tasting much more of almond than chocolate, it has subtle cocoa undertones, but lacks the full-bodied chocolate punch I had hoped for.
For the hazelnut-lovers, you’re in luck! This oft forgotten nut gets a place of honor in the Go Hazelnuts amazake, showing just how rich and delicious they can be. Not a hint of bitterness mars this sweet but nicely balanced drink, and just the true flavor of the nut shines easily through.
Moving into more iffy territory, I wasn’t entirely sure I would like the Cool Coconut variety. Having suffered some overuse of coconut recently, the flavor has quickly grown old to my palate, but happily, it took no great effort to drink the whole bottle. Just like fresh coconut meat, pureed to creamy perfection, it still somehow manages a light and vibrant flavor. I have a feeling that even fair-weather coconut fans might like this one!
Changing up the nutritional profile a bit, the Vanilla Gorilla is the only variety to have added soy protein and calcium, making it a great option for those concerned about such things. Besides that, it’s a tasty banana and vanilla treat that I think any kid would enjoy. Sweet and soothing, it’s easy to drink and could play very nicely with plenty of other fresh fruit additions. I’m thinking that next time I open a bottle, some strawberries and an extra banana could be just the ticket to smoothie heaven.
For all you green smoothie fans out there, Grainaissance has options for you, too! The flavor that I end up buying the most, largely thanks to it being frequently stocked but also its fantastic taste, is Gimme Green, a faintly banana-flavored shake enhanced with spirulina, wheat grass, oat grass, barley grass, kamut grass, and alfalfa grass to achieve that bright green hue. Though that might all sound a little scary, fear not; All you can taste is that sweet, creamy amazake, not a hint of grassiness to taint the palate.
Switching things up a bit, Go Go Green throws a tropical twist into the mix, livening up the standard green shake with coconut and banana. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this cheerful blend. It’s so sweet, fruity, and delicious, you could practically get away with mixing in a splash of rum, plopping in a little umbrella, and calling it a day! Yet again, the green color doesn’t impart any offensive taste in the least. Both of these flavors would be great starting points for green smoothie novices, or options for a healthy traveler without a blender.
Spicing up the array, Tiger Chai isn’t quite as powerful or aggressive as I might prefer, mellow warmth is a delightful change of pace all the same. Leading with ginger, this is a very approachable version of chai that should be agreeable with all levels of spice tolerance, with subtle undertones of black tea that round out the flavor profile nicely. Truly a complex drink that stands apart from the rest, I can’t think of anything else on the market quite like it.
Coffee enthusiasts, be aware: Mocha Java, actually contains no coffee whatsoever, taking flavor from chicory, barley, and rye instead. More malty than coffee, and not really reading as chocolate, I have to say that this may have been the biggest disappointment of the lot. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pleasant and drinkable all the same, but mocha it was not.
Of course, for those endlessly indecisive, there is always the plain Oh So Original, which you can easily dress up or down however you so desire. This one is especially well suited for baking or cooking with, thanks to its neutral flavor. The only thing to keep in mind is that these amazake drinks are thinner than homemade amazake, so if using them in a recipe, take that into account and adjust accordingly.
Across the board, each variety is amazingly sweet, thick, and creamy; I tend to think of them as refrigerated vegan milkshakes. Personally, I like to mix them up with different fruit juices or non-dairy milks to thin them out, or freeze them into ice cubes to blend up for frosty treats!