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Purple Haze 

Sekisui, 3559 Arsenal Street, 314-772-0002

When it comes to getting messed up, we humans are an ingenious bunch. Find a new plant while scrounging for sustenance? There's a good chance that someone somewhere has dried it up and smoked it or ground it into powder and snorted it, simply because he or she can (but usually he, because she knows better). Discover an odd berry in the bush? Mash it up, let it sit until it starts to turn and then, when it stinks to high heaven and any fool in his right mind would dump it down the toilet, pour it into a mug and drink it. Maybe it'll fuck you up. Too much corn at the end of the harvest season? Pour some water in the till, add the corn and, presto, get drunk. See that mushroom growing in the cow poop? Here's an idea: Eat it! Maybe it'll give you a funny conniption. Ha ha ha. Man, that cactus over there looks delicious; let's make some mescal.

Take rice. Sounds weird to Western ears to consider that Asians make their booze from rice, but that's what they got, so that's how they get drunk, and since the rise of sushi culture over here in the States, Americans have been experimenting with it as a way to get loose. And getting real real gone on sake is a funny time, as anyone who's ever been downtown to Lo on a Wednesday can testify; those people get nuts on their dollar sakes, and it's like somebody slipped some acid into their Kool-Aid.

Sekisui on South Grand -- arguably the best sushi joint in the area after only one short year of existence -- offers a lot of different sakes, and even some amusing cross-cultural sake combos, the most interesting being a concoction called Purple Haze, which is very very good and very very recommended. It consists of your basic clear, dry sake, which is then mixed with Chambord, a black-raspberry liqueur that adds an exquisite layer of berry flavor that doesn't overwhelm the sake as much as it does transform it into another heavenly creature altogether. Served warm in a traditional tokkuri (the foot-high receptacle that holds sake), the French/Japanese alliance is an exquisite accompaniment to your spicy tuna rolls. For another fantastic liquid flavor explosion, do this: Eat a big sliver of pickled ginger, then take a swig of water. A better quencher can not be found.

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