Baijiu on ice

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2014-8-7 19:53:01

Beijing’s cocktail hours are adding a taste of culture to the mix

Beijingers are becoming adventurous with new Chinese cocktails that use Chinese baijiu as their alcoholic content. Photo: IC

As Adriana poured the pink-colored concoction from the blender into her glass, she eagerly took her first sip of a homemade baijiu cocktail and waited for it to take effect.

"The baijiu taste is definitely unmistakable," said Adriana, an architect who works in Beijing. She experimented with a mixture of ice, watermelon, baijiu [a traditional Chinese liquor] and gummy bear sweets.

"I wouldn't mind trying these baijiu cocktails again, but the baijiu aftertaste can stay in your mouth for hours," she added.

Adriana is not the first to become adventurous with these new Chinese cocktails that use Chinese baijiu as their alcoholic content.

Tong Jiang, a senior bartending tutor from the Beijing Pei Yan Bartending School, said that the use of Chinese baijiu to make Western cocktails started two years ago.

"On the one hand, the drinks help to promote Chinese baijiu culture. On the other hand, the use of Chinese baijiu reduces the costs of making cocktails for bars," said Tong.

Jim Boyce, a prolific writer of Beijing's bar scene for close to a decade, also enjoys dabbling in these new forms of cocktails. During the Chinese New Year, he created a drink which is mixed Erguotou baijiu, caramel liqueur and hawthorne to please both baijiu and cocktail lovers alike.

"The drink with its Erguotou  baijiu has a slightly savory character, and with the caramel liqueur it ends up creating a salted toffee kind of effect," said Boyce.

Despite the strong flavor of Chinese baijiu compared with hard Western liquor, Boyce noted that "the bartenders [in Beijing] will often try to mask the flavor of the baijiu when making a cocktail, but it's usually futile since the aroma is so potent."

"If they want to cover up the baijiu, why they don't just use something like vodka instead," said Boyce.

Although the recent rise in Beijing's baijiu drinks have captured the attention of cocktail drinkers, he still regards it as a novelty and a passing trend for foreigners who are more accustomed to other drinks.

Tong supported Boyce's view that these drinks will never replace conventional cocktails. 

According to Tong, Western liquors like Rum and Vodka have mild flavor which are suitable for juice and soft drinks. However, baijiu has a diverse selection of flavors. The flavor of the two most prestigious baijiu brands in China including Moutai (sauce-scented) and Wuliangye (strong aromatic) are too strong to be used for making Chinese cocktails.

Two Chinese cocktails that are making the biggest "stir" are the Screwdriver and the Sunrise. Both use Erguotou, a brand of Baijiu which along with Fenjiu are mild aromatics and best suited for cocktail mixing. A Screwdriver uses Erguotou in mixing with orange juice, while a Sunrise uses Erguotou to go with orange juice, ginger and brown sugar.

"In the future, we Chinese bartenders need to develop our own cocktail recipes based on the diverse flavors of baijiu products. It will enrich cocktail categories and better promote Chinese baijiu culture," said Tong.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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