Where to: The Koji Club, a sake bar (plus snacks!) at The Speedway, the Brighton marketplace that’s also home to Notch Brewing, Tipping Cow ice cream, empanada specialist Super Bien, and more.
Why: Boston is coming around to sake, thanks in part to passionate evangelism by Koji Club founder Alyssa DiPasquale, who began learning about the rice-based beverage from O Ya co-owner and sake sommelier Nancy Cushman. In fact, the Koji Club is likely Boston’s first bar dedicated to sake. Where better to learn about and sample a range of varieties? DiPasquale and fellow sake pro Claire Makley are deeply knowledgeable and create an experience that’s unpretentious, genuine, and a whole lot of fun.
The backstory: DiPasquale is certified as an advanced sake professional through the Sake Education Council. When her plans to open a brick-and-mortar sake bar were derailed by the pandemic, she launched the business virtually, with kits and online sake tastings. Now the Koji Club is open at the historic Speedway, in Stall 6 (which word has it is haunted, but only by benevolent ghosts). It’s walk-in only, but on Sundays it hosts ticketed tastings. There are also events, like the upcoming Cherry Blossom Party on April 9, a celebration of hard-to-come-by unpasteurized namazake. And you can book the space for your own party: There will be karaoke.
What to eat: The menu of snacks is designed to complement the sake. This could be sweet, sticky yumepirika rice from Hokkaido, served with umeboshi and cucumber pickles made with a recipe from DiPasquale’s mom. Or it could be a cheese board featuring aged Gouda and Taleggio with crackers, grapes, dried apricots, and fig jam. Empanadas from Super Bien are filled with Japanese curry, and there are Calbee potato chips from Japan (with or without caviar service).
What to drink: Ask DiPasquale and Makley for sake recommendations, and they’ll pour you one with cherry notes that’s been aged in a cedar barrel, from the Kojima Sohonten brewery in Yamagata, founded in 1597. Or maybe it will be the junmai daiginjo Hansho Blue, inspired by the Foo Fighters (and made while the brewers listened to their music). Drink a toast in memory of drummer Taylor Hawkins and enjoy its sweet, tropical flavors. Or just follow your own poetic sensibilities to varieties with names like “Bride of the Fox” and “Snow Cabin.” But the Koji Club also has a secret identity as a tea club, and the hosts are just as happy to geek out on Iron Goddess oolong from Fujian, sencha from Shizuoka with dried cherry blossoms for spring, and chamomile from Croatia.
The takeaway: Anyone interested in taking a deep dive or a shallow dip into the world of sake will find a welcoming spot at the Koji Club’s cozy bar.
525 Western Ave., The Speedway, Brighton, www.thekojiclub.com