Foodie Flashcards: Baijiu

baijiu tips China

Hungry to improve your Chinese vocabulary, but don’t know where to dig in? Welcome to our weekly Foodie Flashcard series. Follow along, study these morsels of knowledge, then dig in at your local restaurant to fully digest the information.

How To Say ‘Baijiu’ In Mandarin Chinese

What Is It?

Baijiu literally translates as ‘white alcohol’, but encompasses a wide range of Chinese spirits that be as dissimilar from one another as tequila and rum, generally between 40–60% (ABV). It is the most widely-consumed spirit in the world, yet virtually unknown outside of China. Some of the reasons it has failed to penetrate foreign markets likely due to its high alcohol volume, perceived harshness, and a lack of cocktail culture associated with it, as it is mostly drunk neat in shots.

Recommended Brands:

Luzhou Laojiao (州老窖)

As one of Sichuan province’s most famous baijiu brands, it is called Luzhou after the city in which it is brewed in Sichuan and Laojiao is “old cellar.”  The history of the distillery dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1573) and it is one of the oldest Chinese spirits still in production. It’s a recommended “starter” baijiu by the author of a recent book on baijiu and the blog 300 Shots At Greatness (which is how many drinks he says it requires to acquire the taste of the beverage). It is a strong aroma baijiu and is about 52% ABV (104 proof).

Guizhou Maotai (贵州茅台)

Guizhou Maotai is the most famous brand, with a 200-year history. Mao Zedong served Moutai at state dinners during Richard Nixon’s state visit to China, and Henry Kissinger once remarked to Deng Xiaoping that, “if we drink enough Maotai, we can solve anything”. Alcohol content by volume: 54–55%. Most famously, the patronage of long-time premier Zhou Enlai helped make Moutai the Party favorite, and it has been served at state dinners since the 1950s.

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