白酒: the Spirit of China

Baijiu lands stateside

2011. Chinese New Year at my future in-laws, and ZJ’s childhood home. First sip, and it burns, really burns. The second and third warm me, cheeks flushed, helping me to forget the biting Shaanxi cold closing in. A 炕 in the corner of the long room (there’s another room on the opposite side of the courtyard…it’s the kitchen), serves as the outpost during the days and well into the evenings. I slide off the heatable brick bed for meals, tag along with future sisters-in-law and nephews to explore the lake situated in the basin below 仁安村, to soak up some Vitamin D, and  greet the curious of the first non-Chinese visitor to Union Village.

It’s during dinner when second future brother-in-law invites me to “drink up”, 干杯 those shot-sized glasses of the white spirit, 白酒。Distilled from sorghum or maize, it’s the traditional spirit of choice: Chinese New Year, weddings, banquets, business functions, dinners and even luncheons.

In Chinese cities of all tiers, Xi’an included, nightlife culture has opened doors for the consumption of liquors, mixed drinks, wine, and even created a black market for liquors, most notably whiskey. ZJ joined coworkers for a fun night out at KTV. Bottles of whiskey were ordered, and downed in between bouts of singing, scrolling to find the next song, or shoving someone out of the way to claim the coveted seat in front of the monitor. The fun abruptly ended when husband woke up in a terrible state, piecing together the events of the previous evening. He had gotten sick, thankfully, getting rid of the impostor alcohol still swindling his system.

Like ZJ, 白酒 did not sit well that night, albeit for different reasons. As far I know, there are varying qualities on the market, but not fakes. The spirit has a large enough consumer base, and price points, not enticing copy-cats, but returning to the Longreads article referenced earlier, how will it fare in the American market?

We have a bottle of higher quality 白酒 I brought back, courtesy of second brother-in-law. My parents had a taste, subsequently requiring all friends and relatives to indulge in a tasting, too.

Oh, the smell. It smells like dirty gym socks. Paint thinner, perhaps? Wow, that’s strong. It’s not really my cup of tea. It’s not bad.

The picture I sent ZJ of my father after his first tasting says it all: lips contorted, and bulging eyes.

白酒’s uphill battle to win the hearts of Americans means coaching drinkers to stop smelling the roses before they sip.

21 days of the NaNoBloPoMo challenge: 

Keep up-to-date with Xiananigans on Bloglovin and Facebook. Hello?! on FacebookTwitterGoogle +PinterestLinkedInTumblrInstagramWeibo.

7 thoughts on “白酒: the Spirit of China

  1. Carissa Hickling says:

    I’m a whisky lady however a bottle of baijiu sits in the back of my cupboard for brave souls who want something ‘different’. I’ve been contemplating organising a ‘country liquor’ tasting with this, shoju and slivovits… could even throw in good ol american ‘moonshine’! But personally… give me a quality complex single malt any day! 🙂

    • maklu001 says:

      I indulge in gin every once in awhile but that is really it. Husband likes cognac though he’ll drink whisky, too. The high quality baijiu at my parents also collects dust; they ran out of brave souls to offer its distinct taste to. A country liquor tasting sounds fun. You could count me in if I were in your neck of the woods.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s