Lining the back alleyways of the Minami district of Osaka there are dozens of small restaurants that just serve fugu -- blowfish -- world-famous for its potentially fatal flesh. Outside these shops there invariably rests a wooden board of some kind that is plastered with what appear to be decorative fish fins. On these boards, though, restaurants are actually drying out the fins of the blowfish so they can be roasted and used to flavor a hot cup of sake.

In these little shops, dedicated to delicate food, you won't find lemongrass- and green tea-flavored sake martinis. In these establishments you might not even find the best locally brewed boutique sake. Instead you will find regular sake -- sometimes out of a box -- flavored in a traditional way that has been warming the chill winter days of customers for generations.

There are many old ways to dress up an otherwise boring or even tasteless glass of cheap sake. Spiced-up varieties of sake can loosely be grouped into into three categories: These are sake with medicinal additions; sake steeped with an infusion of some flavor element; and sake meant to be drunk on certain festival dates or special occasions.