Baijiu represents one third of global spirit sales but is little known beyond China. This project aims to raise the profile of this spirit by supporting events planet-wide from August 1 to August 8, culminating in World Baijiu Day on August 9. Click here for details on this project.
By Jim Boyce | NASA reports the Moon as 384,000 kilometers or 239,000 miles from the Earth, a fair way, the kind of distance that would take over a year to drive even if a road existed between them and you had the pedal to the metal. But how far is that in terms of baijiu terms. Is there enough booze to reach our celestial neighbor?
Take the average baijiu cup, which is modest in size but capable of felling the biggest drinker if he or she drinks enough from it it ganbei (‘bottoms up’) style. What if you took all the baijiu made in China in one year, poured it into these cups, and stacked them? How many years of baijiu would it take to reach that Moon? So immense is baijiu production that it would take only one year’s worth. So, the next time you must ganbei, look up and thank the stars you don’t have to drink yourself to the Moon.
By Jim Boyce | I’m hoping to have the World Baijiu Day poster up shortly. In the meantime, I used my minimal design skills to make a few promos and have more in the pipeline. These will cover interesting facts, famous incidents and amazing feats related to baijiu! The first two deal with Nixon getting blitzed on baijiu in 1972 and the fact China makes enough of this spirit each year to fill more than 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools—but I don’t recommend swimming in the stuff.
Brinkman Beverages, which represents brands such as Martin Miller’s gin, Ron Abuelo rum and Green Fairy absinthe, has added baijiu label ByeJoe to its China portfolio The company is carrying all three ByeJoe products, including its flagship spirit and infusions Dragon Fire, with dragon fruit and hot chili, and Tiger Eyes, with passion fruit, peach and pomegranate.
Alan Chen of Brinkman’s says ByeJoe is already in severeal Shanghai bars, including Logan’s Punch, Commune Social and Taste Buds Cocktail Palace, and will soon be in Beijing. It’s also available at Brinkman’s Taobao store here for rmb320 per bottle.
ByeJoe was started by Matt Trusch, who first visited in China in 1986 as a high school student, returned to study in 1992, and then spent 15 years living and working in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong before heading home to Houston in 2007 and deciding to introduce a baijiu brand to the U.S. market. ByeJoe uses a base spirit from China that is filtered and refined in South Carolina. The brand participated in the inaugural World Baijiu Day last year. For more on Trusch and ByeJoe, see this two-part interview here and here.
Baijiu producers beyond China are pretty rare, with Vinn in Portland and Taizi in Christchurch among the best examples. A relatively new Canadian brand called Dragon Mist Distillery in British Columbia seems a good candidate to join them. From the company’s website:
Dragon Mist Baijiu is made using a traditional Chinese technique with wheat grown in Dawson Creek, BC and pure, clear Canadian glacial water – that’s all – no other additives or neutral grain spirits from other sources. It is available in 40% (silver) and 56% (gold) alcohol by volume.
Alexandra Gill, Vancouver restaurant critic for newspaper The Globe & Mail, recently wrote about baijiu for magazine The Alchemist. She described the flavor of Dragon Mist ‘Gold’ as “intense with heat, anise, lingering sweetness” and a long finish, and suggesting thinking of it as “a Chinese version of the ever-popular White Dog.” She also interviewed Dragon Mist’s Sherry Jiang, who distills the baijiu four times and ages it three years. The full story starts on page 42, with the tasting notes on page 67, at this link.
The website lists more than 50 retail outlets in British Columbia that stock these light aroma-style baijius as well as farmers markets where one can also pick up a bottle or two. It’ll also be available at the inaugural The Grape & The Grain festival slated for May 28 and May 29 in Surrey, British Columbia.
There isn’t much online about Dragon Mist and its spirits thus far so I’ve contacted the company to get more info. I’ll have an update soon.
By Jim Boyce |With the 88-day countdown to World Baijiu Day nigh, some venues have already decided to focus on cocktails this year. In that spirit, and to get the creative juices flowing, I’ve taken a few recipes from last year and a few I found online—there are hundreds of options out there—and posted them below. Expect more cocktail posts over the next few weeks, including recipes I came across during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the city’s bars put China’s national spirit in the spotlight.
The drinks list at Liverpool’s Fu Baijiu, a fairly new pop-up bar inside Epicured restaurant, includes one called Chungking Mansions with a China-meets-Mexico vibe. Baijiu is infused with kumquats, then mixed with tequila (El Jimador Blanco), Yellow Chartreuse, pink grapefruit, agave syrup and lime. See Fu’s other drinks here.
“Single Lady” was a favorite of several people during a cocktail tasting at En Vain in Beijing a few months ago. This one includes dongjiu (‘medicine’ aroma baijiu), Cointreau, lime juice, bitters and Sprite, and makes for a peppy drink with spice and herbal touches. See here for the other drinks tasted.
Peking Tavern in Los Angeles has a powerful three-ingredient concoction called the One-Inch Punch: Red Star erguotou, hibiscus and fresh lemon juice combine for a potent blow. Check the rest of the drink menu here.
Consultant Craig Schoettler put some passion (fruit) into his drink Baijiu Bijou #2. It includes an ounce each of baijiu (HKB), Yellow Chartreuse and Bonal Gentiane Quina (perhaps not the easiest to find) plus three dashes of citrus bitters. Stir, pour over ice, add lemon and maraschino cherry as garnish.
Finally, you can find a whole slew of ideas via the Baijiu Cocktail Week organized in London each year. In 2016, nine bars participated and came up with some intriguing concoctions. See all of the ingredients here.
The first UK baijiu bar has opened as a pop-up named FU Baijiu inside experimental food and drink venue Epicured. The FU menu includes shots, flights and infusions of China’s national spirit as well as themed cocktails and snacks.
Fu lists five baijiu brands—Du Kang, Red Star, Luzhou Laojiao, HKB and Moutai—available in 25 ml shots from £2.5 or flights of four from £10.5. There are infusions, including saffron and kumquat, at £3 and cocktails, from £7, that bear names like Chungking Mansions and Emperor Park Swizzle. The Not Made in China includes Red Star, Cointreau, pink grapefruit, lime and two kinds of bitters.
“We are, we believe, the first dedicated baijiu bar in the UK,” said Elliot Robinson, a partner in Fu and also part of the family that runs Epicured. “While other bars may offer baijiu cocktails, no one else offers a wide range of varieties to sample neat,” he said.
“We are keen to innovate and in the centre of Liverpool, a city big on tourism due to our fabulous skyline and waterfront, our famous football teams and, of course, being home of the Beatles,” he says. “We felt baijiu was missing, especially considering Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community and Chinatown in Europe!”
Pop-Up Beijing, Gung Ho! Pizza, Capital Spirits, The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu and Good Works Coffee & Tea are among the Beijing venues that will participate in the second annual World Baijiu Day that is officially slated for Monday, August 8, and will also support events on August 6 and August 7.
Over 30 venues in 20 cities partnered for the inaugural event and some have already confirmed for 2016, including Demon, Wise & Partners (London), DoubleTree by Hilton (Guangzhou), Golden Monkey (Melbourne), Moutai Showroom (Paris), Moutai Showroom (Sydney), Peking Tavern (Los Angeles), Shen (Shanghai) and Vinn Distillery (Portland). Event details and updates will be posted at worldbaijiuday.com.
A half-dozen venues in Beijing took part last year. A party at Pop-Up Beijing drew over 50 attendees who tried baijiu brands from China, New Zealand and the United States. A short walk away, Jing-A Taproom served its ‘Qu Brew‘ beer, made using the fermentation agent for baijiu, as well as ‘Drunken Baijiu Shrimp‘ pizzas from Gung Ho!, where the seafood was sauteed and flambeed in China’s national spirit.
Also near the city center, hutong bar Capital Spirits paired baijiu with food, while a bit further afoot, at the Great Wall, The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu spotlighted its baijiu liqueurs. Last, but certainly not least, Windy City Ballroom made not only themed cocktails but also plate after plate of deep-fried baijiu–click here for more on this tasty treat.
I’ll soon post more details on these venues and what they plan to do on World Baijiu Day.
If you’re in Los Angeles next Tuesday, set your taste buds to baijiu and head to Peking Tavern. There will be a free baijiu tasting on March 29, from 6 PM to 7 PM, with a few experts on hand to explain what is being sipped. The event is sponsored by the brands Shuijingfang, Xifengjiu and Luzhou Laojiao, and will benefit education organization Jumpstart.
You can also enjoy Peking Tavern’s happy hour from 5 PM to 7 PM and its Tuesday night USD7 baijiu cocktail special. To RSVP, see this event page on Facebook. For more info on Peking Tavern, check out the restaurant’s site here.
Peking Tavern was a partner in the inaugural World Baijiu Day last year–the party (see some pics here) included the Baijiu Sour–and will also be participating this year. See the sidebar to see all of the confirmed participants so far.
The idea for a World Baijiu Day was officially launched one years ago today. Now planning has begun on the second annual World Baijiu Day, with venues from Australia, China, England, France and The United States already confirmed participation. They include Demon, Wise & Partners (London), Golden Monkey (Melbourne), Gung-Ho Pizza (Beijing), Kweichow Moutai Showroom (Paris), Kweichow Moutai Showroom (Sydney), Peking Tavern (Los Angeles), Pop-Up Beijing (Beijing), Shen (Shanghai) and Vinn Distillery (Portland). I’ll have more details in the next 24 hours!
(A version of this post first appeared on sibling blog Beijing Boyce.)
In the global booze family, baijiu often seems like the hard kid to love–the black sheep–but the idiosyncrasies of this spirits category is what makes it so intriguing. Last week, a half-dozen media and F&B trade people, including some with strong wine, beer and cocktail backgrounds, gathered at baijiu bar En Vain in Beijing for a deeper taste of China’s national drink. We started with a flight of four baijius, and then tried shots and cocktails, all paired with tasty snacks from En Vain and baijiu-inspired pizza from Gung Ho!. (They do ‘drunken shrimp’ pies topped with seafood sauteed and flambeed in baijiu.)
By the way, after nearly three years at Sanlitun Soho in Beijing, this baijiu bar closed a few days ago and will reopen in a new spot in March or April. Let’s hope the team behind it keeps the present spirit when it comes to the cocktails, glassware and decor!
While we started with the baijiu flight, let’s do some cocktails and shots first.
The Rel-Axl Rose. This is a light, sweet and smooth cocktail with ‘sauce’ aroma baijiu, Grenadine, rose wine and egg white. The rose and Grenadine tame the baijiu enough so that it contributes a nice saucy edge. I like the glassware, er, woodware, used here, indicative of the attention to detail at En Vain. Our tasting group generally like this one.
Single Lady. A peppy fruity drink with some slight spice and herbal touches due to the alcohols used. It includes Dongjiu (‘medicine’ aroma baijiu), Cointreau, lime juice, bitters and Sprite. The beaker container makes it easy to share this drink with friends. While not everyone liked this one, it ranked as the favorite with a few people.
Jiu’d Fashioned? This mix of strong aroma baijiu, whisky, brandy and bitters, plus sugar cube, is from the upcoming menu and was an eye-opener. (It is unnamed: drinks aficionado DT, with a take on the Old Fashioned, suggested “Jiu’d Fashoned.) While this drink was initially quite dry, DT played with the sugar and citrus levels and it increasingly improved. Nice!
En Vain in the Membrane [Yes, I made that name up]. Baijiu, creme de menthe and fresh chili pepper might not sound like an ideal mix but the spicy and sweet elements made this a fun shot. If you don’t like spicy stuff, you probably want to stick to the Rel-Axl Rose or Single Lady, because this one packs some heat. Consider it an experimental alternative for the tequila shot.
We tried a handful of others, too, from a baijiu-sambuca-fruit concoction to shots that included baijiu and ginger to a drink with pop rocks. It was fun to see so much creativity
We started the tasting with a flight of baijius to show the key styles. From left to right:
- Light aroma. This category tends to be less pungent and have a “bit of sweet flavor”, said En Vain co-owner Li Ke. We tried Fenjiu from Shanxi Province, which had a mild and savory aroma. This one was slightly oily, with a touch of sweetness, a mild fruitiness–peach?–and a clean tingly finish that didn’t burn like many baijius I have tasted. I liked this one.
- Strong aroma. “More fierce, more fruity”, with a stronger smell, is how Li characterized this baijiu category. The aromas included cooked rice, tropical fruit and an ester-y smell some might describe a bit like solvent. This one was, as predicted, fiercer. The initial taste is sweet and then things get intense, and slightly sharp, through to a long licorice / anise finish. One taster said “it smells like gas”, another felt it had a bit of a “goat” aroma, and yet another said “it acts like a solvent on my saliva”. Perhaps not the favorite category of the bunch.
- Sauce aroma. Now we tried a funkier category, one best-known due to the brand Maotai. It smelled like soy sauce plus damp hay plus perhaps some sourish fruit. A bit funky. This supple spirit had the fullest ‘mouth feel’ and a long tingly numbing finish. “Cheese, tobacco and green peas” said one taster. “Smells like baby vomit” said another. I found this one to be the most complex and I liked it for the contrast to my other favorite of the four, the cleaner and simpler Fenjiu.
- Medicine aroma. The category refers to the use of ingredients, such as herbs, found in traditional Chinese medicine, said Li. Like the sauce aroma, this one was a bit funky, with that herb and a slight barnyard smell. It had an initial sweetness, and was fairly light but sharp, though it had too much of an ester factor.
We also tried a baijiu I brought from Yimuquan, a distillery in Baoding, and this one was well-received given its fairly rich, smooth and slightly viscous body. I’ll have more on that one later.
Not surprisingly, we all had a rosy glow by the end of the tasting, a tasting that took baijiu out of its usual “ganbei” realm and showed it has far more versatility than many people think. Thank you to the guys at En Vain for hosting the event and to the guests for sharing their opinions, and I look forward to trying more creations once the new place opens in a month or two!