My First Experience With Baijiu

shuijingfangbaijiuIt was my last night in LA and my friends wanted to have some drinks before we left.  Just as my friend went to grab a few beers from the refrigerator, he remembered that he had something else stored in one of the top cupboards.

He took out a fancy looking box, placed it on the counter, and removed the small fasteners that held  hexagonal cover secured it to the base.

Inside was a bottle of Shui Jin Fang Baijiu.  He bought it in Shanghai because he thought the box looked cool and it cost him about $100 us.  At first I thought it was vodka, and looks can be deceiving.  My friend wanted me to drink a shot, and of course, get my opinion of it.  He warned me that it was nothing I had before.

What the heck is baijiu anyway?  Well, I’ll let Wikipedia take care of that.

Baijiu (Chinese: 白酒; pinyin: báijiǔ), also known as shaojiu, is an alcoholic beverage from China. It is sometimes infelicitously translated as “white wine”, but it is in fact a strong distilled spirit, generally about 40–60% alcohol by volume (ABV), and the world’s most-consumed liquor .[citation needed]

It is a clear drink usually distilled from sorghum, although other grains may be used: baijiu in southern China often employs glutinous rice, while northern Chinese varieties may use wheat, barley, millet, or even Job’s tears in place of sorghum. The jiuqu starter culture used in the production of baijiu mash is usually made of pulverized wheat grains.

We were ready to get our drink on.  My fiance removed the bottle cap, and a couple seconds later, out came this pungently sour stench.  It smelled like something crawled in the bottle and died, and then was left to rot…and then died some more.  The smell was much stronger when the liquor made its way into the four shot glasses.  Would the taste be as bad as the smell?  Was it going to similar to experiencing durian for the first time? Stinky smelling but sweet tasting?  I noticed the bottle of baijiu was already half consumed, so it can’t be that bad right?

My friend confessed that he had tried to mix it with other things such as juice to make it go down better, but they just made it worse and he ended up pouring a good amount of the liquor down the drain.

There was much apprehension and hesitation in the room, no one looked excited for what was about to come.  We all shouted Ganbei! ( bottoms up in Chinese) and took our shots.

Well, as expected, it was disgusting.  The beginning note tasted harsh, as was the middle, and then came the end. Oh the bitter end…it tasted like rotten fermented bean paste mixed with pickled vegetables, with a note of soy sauce.  The worst part is that the taste lingers a bit afterwards, and I ran over to the sink to rinse out my mouth.  The subsequent burp didnt help, it smelled bad.

When I did a bit of research when I returned home, I was wondering how this stuff is the most consumed liquor in the world!?!  It’s usually consumed during special occasions or during business dinners to seal the deal.  Its not for everyone, obviously, and the taste is definitely acquired, probably after 1,000 shots or so.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you not to try it, it’s just something I know I’m not going to acquire the taste for.  However, I think everyone should try it at least once.  Bottom’s up!

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