|Contents: 1) What Is Baijiu? 2) Baijiu History 3) How Is Baijiu Made? 4) Baijiu Ingredients 5) Types Of Baijiu 6) Baijiu Facts & FAQs 7) How To Drink Baijiu 8) Pairing Baijiu With Food 9) Baijiu Cocktails 10) Popular Baijiu Brands|
|Country of origin||China|
|Alcohol by volume||28-65%|
|“Baijiu” in Chinese characters||白酒|
|Literal meaning||“white (clear) alcohol”|
What Is Baijiu?
If you were to describe Baijiu, a good place to start is that each Baijiu is uniquely different; well that and the fact that Baijiu is just that little bit stronger in alcohol content than the average spirit. It is quite common for Baijius to be 50% ABV and some are comfortably bottled at over 60% ABV. Other than that, Baijiu is a very complex spirit which has powerful flavours that vary wildly depending on how it is made (See: How is baijiu made) and which aroma it might be classed as (See: Baijiu Aromas)
The history of this drink could arguably stretch back 9000 years, or for as long as the Chinese have actively been making alcohol. Chinese legends around the character Du Kang outline how when hiding sorghum in a tree, it mixed with rainwater, fermenting into a spirit. Du Kang is still used today in describing a very good Baijiu! (See: Baijiu History)
So over time, this mythical drink really became established when foreign influences reached China either through trade along the Silk Road or Genghis Khan’s horde returning with treasures (and influences) from further West. What we do know is that during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368AD) these influences made their way into how alcohol was made and then by the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644AD) Shaojiu “burnt wine” was refined as Baijiu.
Baijiu also made its way to the pinnacle of society the way that many trends continue to do so today. It began with the farmers, then middle classes then the aristocracy embraced it. The sweeping changes and victory of Mao Zedong and his reign as party Chairman in 1949 saw a rise in Baijiu popularity even further and it was Kweichow Moutai that really benefited from this link.
That’s another thing to note with Baijiu. The cost has risen exponentially in the last 30 years. What once cost less than $10 now costs hundreds of dollars and in the case of some vintages, thousands. Baijiu plays such an important part in Chinese culture too as we shall see. (See: How To Drink Baijiu – Baijiu Drinking Culture)
If you are attending a state banquet, a business meeting (we’re referring more to the meal afterwards which everyone would be expected to attend), a wedding, a big family function or occasion – then you will be partaking in a number of toasts with Baijiu. When someone makes a toast, you are expected to raise your glass, respectfully say Ganbei! And then lower your glass as much as you can before turning it upside down to signal you have toasted successfully. This will absolutely result in some form of inebriation but that is to be expected and in fact, you will gain “face” (be seen respectfully and in a positive light) by your boss for example. At business dinners in particular, staff will solemnly toast, drink, embrace the hangover and know that it could help their company stock rise. It could be that a future promotion resulted initially from that dinner with the company president and a chance conversation over Baijiu.
So maybe when we ask, What is Baijiu?, another way of answering it is to point to the important role it plays in Chinese cultural relations. Baijiu is seen as part of life in China; every occasion involves the drink being toasted and it is perhaps no wonder that 5 out of the top 10 drink brands in the world are Baijiu and 4 out of the top 5 alone are Baijius. (See: Baijiu Brands)
With more emotive qualities than whisky has to Scotland, more sales than vodka and rum combined, more complexities than the multitude of gin variations now on the market and more history attached to it, one thing we do know is that it’s here to stay!