|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”|
The history of Baijiu is intrinsically linked with Chinese history and mythology. In fact, the history goes back as much as 9000 years! Dates do vary – anything from 5000 – 9000 years Is mentioned and much of those ties into the mythology. Alcohol was considered something of a luxury to these early pioneers, something that the political and religious elite used to commune with the spirit world, as a gift or during various rites.
The first legend speaks of Yi Di, a consort of Yu the Great, who ruled during the Xia Dynasty (2070 – 1600BC). Yi Di was asked to make or create a new type of liquor; the result impressed the king so much that he decreed everyone should enjoy it.
The other legend talks of Du Kang. He lived during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256BC) and while living in exile (in the forest), he hid some sorghum in a tree. When visiting to collect it several weeks later, Du Kang noticed a sweet smell coming from the tree. Legend says the sorghum mixed with rainwater, fermenting it into a spirit. Interestingly, Du Kang’s name is still used today to describe a great Baijiu.
Baijiu Mythology Interlopes With History
Oracle bone inscriptions dating to the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046BC) refer to a drink called li – a sweet, fermented drink similar to beer. Then during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), the poet Li Bai mentions Shaojiu in text. After that, a Song Dynasty written piece from 982 AD mentions a distillation method using wheat, barley and in short resembles the modern method of making Baijiu.
Finally, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368AD) foreign distillation techniques were introduced to China. This may have occurred through trading along the Silk Road for example or it may have resulted from Genghis Khan’s Mongol Horde heading to the Middle East and partly returning with new distillation knowledge. Whatever the precise truth, it wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644AD) that Shaojiu ‘burnt wine’ was refined as Baijiu and the liquor began to spread in popularity – initially with farmers and labourers but then to all corners of Chinese society. (See: How is baijiu made?)
As Baijiu travelled further throughout China it began to take on the different characteristics that define the varying aromas (See: Baijiu Aromas), in particular sauce, strong, light and rice. Almost every city and village that made Baijiu began to shape its own characteristics so in time the variation became more and more adept at developing the many personalities that Baijiu inhabits to this day.
China went out to the world in 1915, attending the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Moutai was brought to the wider world’s attention here and perhaps this was the kernel of business that defined the brand which dominates Chinese produced Baijiu nowadays. However in 1949, the rise of the Communist Party helped with the increasing rise of Baijiu as the Party adopted the drink as the tipple of choice; in the winter of 1972, Richard Nixon visited China and with encouragement from Zhou Enlai (Chairman Mao’s right hand man), the US President prudently sipped his Baijiu at the state banquet, bringing a more global focus on this mysterious Chinese spirit that was so interwoven with culture and tradition.
Today, Baijiu is respected and enjoyed with every State dinner, every function throughout Chinese society, at every occasion from birthdays to weddings but particularly at business dinners – and gifted as a present. Naturally, the next progression is to enjoy Baijiu socially even beyond China and the global increase of knowledge and interest in Baijiu helps us appreciate why it is the world’s most popular drink, both in volume and market share. (See: How To Drink Baijiu – Baijiu Drinking Culture)
Prices now can be anything from $1 for a cheap light aroma (not all light aromas are cheap but some can start very cheap) right up to several thousand dollars for a bottle! 13.6 billion litres were produced in 2016 so the market share does indeed continue to increase all the time.