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Listen up, philistines. If you do that sake bomb, know this–Tiffany Dawn Soto will be silently judging you from afar. The 30-year-old Four Seasons Baltimore Beverage Manager with fiery tresses and a nose for sake has beaten out experienced Japanese men twice her age at tasting the stuff, becoming the first female Westerner to be kikzake-shi, which in Japanese means she f–king knows what she’s talking about.

“Cold not hot, sipped not shot, and if it’s dropped in a beer, I’m calling security,” she says only half-jokingly.

So pay close attention as Soto gives you tips on how not to sound like a ignorant douchebag when drinking sake. You’ve been schooled:

  • Sake is pronounced “sah-kay,” not Anna Paquin’s character “soo-kee”on True Blood.
  • Sake is not a rice wine, beer or a spirit! It’s a naturally-fermented alcoholic beverage from Japan.
  • Don’t ever tell your date to “sake to me.”
  • Sake is made of four things–rice, water, yeast and a mold called koji-kin.

Junmai means the sake is pure, with no distilled alcohol added.

  • That hot sake you drink with bad happy hour sushi? Is crap.
  • The key to great sake lies in the shinpaku, the soft center of the rice grain. At least 30% of the grain is milled away to reveal this magical core.
  • Sake is brewed in a method similar to beer.
  • Expect an alcohol content of 15-16%.
  • Water is the most important ingredient in sake-making–just like Irish whiskey, New York bagels and Michael Phelps’ career.
  • Don’t save it! Sake is meant to be drank within a year or two.
  • Just like beer, store sake in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.
  • Sake should never be yellow, gamey or skunky.
  • Impress your date by ordering daiginjo-shu, the finest quality of sake, or ginjo-shu, the second finest.
  • There is no unfiltered sake, only loosely or roughly filtered. Such milky-looking nigori sake is sweet, and best enjoyed with dessert.

Soto’s classes are a steal at $25 a person and include a tasting flight of five sakes. Each class is paired with a sake tasting dinner for $75 per person on the following Tuesday. Register for both and pay only $90.

Classes take place at the Four Seasons Baltimore, which stocks a whopping 100+ sakes, on the second Saturday of each month through the end of the year.

Four Seasons Baltimore
200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 576-5800

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