Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The shape of drinks to come

Baijiu, a Chinese liquor with a kick like a soccer player, may be the next trendy drink to be adopted by the cooler-than-you-or-me set in the rest of the world.
Move over tequila, here comes Chinese firewater. Baijiu, a flammable, pungent white liquor averaging a 110-proof wallop, is the world's most consumed spirit, but for the first time distillers are looking to develop export markets.

But Baijiu's punch makes it a tough sell in Western bar culture where people tend to drink on an empty stomach. So does its fuel-like odor and its aftertaste. But the history of regional drinks, such as Japanese sake, or Mexican tequila, shows that nearly any taste can be acquired.
Traditionally, it would seem, baijiu was sold in bottles suitable for slipping into an overcoat or having a quick nip in a dark alley:

That simply won't do if the liquid dynamite is to sit on the luminous shelf behind the bar next to Johnnie Walker Purple and the single malts. So the Chinese marketers have been busy working to overcome Fear of Baijiu through stylish bottling and packaging. They've come up with some that for flair might make perfume merchants envious:

Today's mystique of the Orient. Opium
dens are so fuddy duddy.

China is hoarding gold.

Dragon in a bottle. Same principle as a worm 
in the tequila.

If you don't care for the liquor,
the bottle can be used as home decor.

Nostalgic for the Red Guards? Ah, my friend,
those were the days. 

Don't like rad? Have some trad.

According to the media descriptions, sinking a few tots of baijiu of an evening offers every prospect of leaving you in a sorry state the next morning. Even if you don't remember the prior night's carousing, though, you might recall the bottle that started it all.


Ghost of VW said...

If Chinese innovation is any indication, they probably stole the design from us.

Oops, I meant to say that the future belongs to China and groveling in the wake of its greatness is the best we cracker nations can hope for. There.

YIH said...

I decided to look it up on Wikipedia (it's accuracy is better than it used to be, and the ability to search it is something undreamed of in print).
Apparently it's essentially a Chinese 'vodka' which in one form or another has been developed by all reasonably advanced cultures (as in ones capable of developing things like a written language) independently.
Will this stuff stir up interest outside China?
Well, I'd try a bit of it out of simple curiosity, the question is can some distiller make it of decent and consistent quality, fancy bottle or no.
Their best bet would to follow the lead of the best vodka makers, distill it to 190 and 'cut' it with the best spring/glacier water available.
BTW 110 proof is not that potent, the stuff on the shelves of your local liquor store varies from 80-105 proof with a few (depending on local laws) as high as 151-190 proof.
FYI the term 'proof' comes from an early test for potency - literally setting the stuff on fire. If it burns smoothly, with a consistent blue flame it's ''proved 100% perfect'' i.e. 100 proof.
It was later standardized to half the 'proof' number = alcohol percentage.