This is yet another post about baijiu. Today we'll cover how to drink it.
- Baijiu Production in Relation to Other Spirits
- Regional Differences in Baijiu Style and Production
- Baijiu Production: Qu and Fermentation
- Baijiu Backgrounder: A Brief History Lesson
- Repetitive and Continuous Fermentation and Distillation in Baijiu
- A Visit to the Luzhou Laojiao Baijiu Distillery in China
- The Four Most Common Styles of Chinese Baijiu
The Ming River baijiu brand, which was developed for the export market (US and Germany currently, I believe) was created by an American baijiu writer/author, plus three founders of a bar in Beijing called Capital Spirits.
Capital Spirits was the world's first bar dedicated to baijiu. This wouldn't seem to make sense, given that almost 13 billion liters of baijiu are purchased every year, more than vodka and whisky combined. But in China, people don't go to bars to drink baijiu; they go to restaurants. If I remember what I learned on my trip correctly, it's rare to find baijiu by the glass, even in a hotel bar. You buy a bottle and you and your guests finish the whole thing. Baijiu cocktails in China? So not a thing, except at Capital Spirits.
The bar is located on a nearly-unlit back street in Beijing, with no clear signage (perhaps none at all). If you plan to go, do your research. It's a little bar with a big selection of baijiu and other spirits. They offer baijiu tasting flights as well as baijiu cocktails. We tried... kind of a lot of them and they do a great job.
I passed on the snake wine.
Drinking Baijiu With Food
In China, people drink baijiu with dinner, sitting family style around a lazy susan table that rotates. It's consumed in tiny shots at room temperature, often in a toast to another person or the whole table. The DrinkBaijiu.com site has a guide to the common practices and traditions for drinking baijiu this way.
Most countries don't have a tradition of drinking spirits with food, just as aperitifs and digestifs, so this is definitely something new for most people. But it was so much fun.
Here are some food pictures from a couple of my meals. As a vegetarian I don't eat about 90% of this stuff, but just looking at these photos makes me very, very thirsty.
I was visiting the distillery in the Sichuan province, so naturally we were eating Sichuan food the whole time. It was often, but not always, quite spicy. Baijiu, with its often creamy, cheesy finish is an excellent pairing with spicy food.
For the many of us who've tried baijiu on its own, it can seem explosively huge in flavor, but if you've just had a mouthful of some rich and spicy Chinese food it makes so much more sense.
I think I'm going to explore trying baijiu with other spicy foods to see how it pairs. Flaming Hot Cheetos, here I come.