Kikuzake (Japanese sake with chrysanthemum blooms) (菊酒)

The term "kikuzake" refers to sake in which chrysanthemum blooms are steeped, which is provided on the Chrysanthemum Festival (September 9 according to the old calendar), which is called 'Choyo no sekku' or 'Kiku no sekku' in Japanese.

A set of hanafuda (floral playcards) includes a card with a picture of chrysanthemum blooms and a sake cup, and this picture does describe 'kikuzake.'
Hanafuda players can make a hand called 'hanamizake' (literally, "sake drunk while viewing cherry blossoms") with this card and a card of 'cherry blossoms and a curtain,' or a hand called 'tsukimizake' (literally, "sake drunk while viewing the moon") with this card and a card of 'the moon.'

Chrysanthemum and a long life

It is thought that kikuzake derived from an ancient Chinese legend which is thought to have appeared in around the third century.

A military general named Zhong Hui who lived in Cao Wei listed advantages of chrysanthemum in his own poem and said, 'Kikuzake is drink for immortals.'
Additionally, later folklore had it that the first emperor of Cao Wei named Cao Pi was physically so weak that people did not think he could have a long life when he was very young, but once he started to drink kikuzake on the recommendation of other people, he became stronger and eventually came to the throne of Cao Wei.

In the Heian period, the nobility had a ceremony called 'kiku no kisewata' (chrysanthemum covers) on the Chrysanthemum Festival day, in which people rubbed their bodies with chrysanthemums covered by cotton and wished their health. In that ceremony, the Emperor gave his vassals sake in which chrysanthemum blooms were steeped and showed his consideration for the vassals' health.

In present China, people drink 'chrysanthemum tea' made by blending tea leaves with dried chrysanthemum petals, because they believe chrysanthemum blooms have medicinal benefits. On the other hand, fresh flowers are normally used for kikuzake in Japan.

Nowadays some Japanese style restaurants offer their customers sake on which edible chrysanthemum blooms are floated.


The document named Shijitsugan (literally, "Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government") written in the Edo period mentions two recipes for kikuzake.

One is to prepare sake with water in which chrysanthemum blooms have been steeped, and the famous Kaga no Kikuzake (kikuzake made in Kaga Province) is made according to this recipe.

The other one is similar to the current recipe of plum liqueur, and dried chrysanthemum petals are soaked in shochu (Japanese distilled liquor) with sugar crystals to make kikuzake according to this recipe. Kikuzake was widely accepted as medicinal liquor which was good for eye troubles and female disorders during the Edo period.

In addition, there are some other recipes; for example, chrysanthemum-scented rice is used to make sake.

[Original Japanese]