Mirin is an essential condiment used in Japanese cuisine, consisting of 40%–50% sugar. It is a kind of rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content—14% instead of 20%. There are three general types. The first is hon mirin (lit. true mirin), which contains alcohol. The second is shio mirin, which contains alcohol as well as 1.5% salt to avoid alcohol tax. The third is shin mirin (lit. new mirin), or mirin-fu chomiryo (lit. kind of mirin), which contains less than 1% alcohol yet retains the same flavour.
In the Edo period (1603 to 1868), mirin was drunk as a sweet sake. Otoso, traditionally drunk on Shōgatsu, can be made by soaking a spice mixture in mirin.
In the Kansai style of cooking, mirin is briefly boiled before using, to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate, while in the Kantō regional style, the mirin is used untreated. Kansai-style boiled mirin is called nikiri mirin, literally "thoroughly boiled mirin."
Mirin is used to add a bright touch to grilled fish or to erase the fishy smell. A small amount is often used instead of sugar and soy sauce. It should not be used in excess however, as its flavour is quite strong. It is sometimes used as a sushi accompaniment.
Mirin is used in teriyaki sauce.