To more than a few purists out there, a sake cocktail is sacrilege. They argue that by mixing the delicate rice-based nectar with harder spirits, fruit juices or liqueurs, its subtle elegance is bullied into oblivion. In part, we agree—like fine wine, many sake varieties are so beautiful and complex in flavor, they beg to be enjoyed on their own. But our guess is, these sake aficionados' true gripe is with bad cocktails that just happen to victimize their favorite libation (see: the Saketini).
Thankfully, change is afoot. Chicago bars and restaurants have taken a fresh perspective on sake lately, turning out a growing crop of creative, expressive, well-balanced cocktails that honor sake's delicacy while taking advantage of its broad range of flavors and rich texture. And this experimentation is happening where you might least suspect.