Drink Smart 

Start the New Year with new sake savvy  
| Chicago   Drinks | Heather Sperling

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Beer, wine, and cocktails--you mastered them all in the aughts.

But it's a new year, and it's time to traverse new beverage territory--specifically, Japan and its sake.

To act as your (rice) spirit guide, there's Chicago Sake, an educational drinking organization created by local Japanophile Mason Horowitz, "to give sake a proper and unbiased voice in Chicago."

A "Sake for Beginners" course ($60) covers the three main types of sake (junmai, ginjo and daiginjo): how they're made, and how to serve and pair them. You'll leave with a bolstered vocabulary and sense of taste, having sampled eight sakes (with accompanying small bites), including a few outliers--nigori (a cloudy type), sparkling, and a sake cocktail.

The "Sake Immersion" ($60) course delves into greater detail about production--from raising the grain to bottling--and features tastings of various brewing methods and unusual sakes, like namazake, or unpasteurized sake.

For those with ample sake savvy, Horowitz offers classes on sake mixology and shochu, Japan's rice-, sweet-potato- or buckwheat-based distilled spirit.

The 90-minute classes are limited to 10 people and, for now, are held at Streeterville's Murasake Sake Lounge, which Horowitz deems the city's best place for drinking the brew.

For further solo exploration, he recommends Katsu, Arami and Chizakaya as excellent spots for a kanpai.

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