Never Heard of Baijiu? Here’s What You Need to Know
B. The first name of a model-actress who’s the daughter of that guy from the Mamas and the Papas
The answer is actually E. none of the above. Baijiu is the best-selling liquor in the world — with global sales at about $23 billion, mostly in China, where it is the official national drink.
What? You’ve never heard of it? Here’s, basically, what you need to know:
1. Baijiu, which is pronounced “bye-joe” and literally translates as “white liquor,” is an extremely potent — like, 100 proof and up — fermented spirit made from sorghum and other grains (sometimes glutinous rice, millet, wheat or corn). It has a funky taste that has been compared to dirty athletic socks, paint thinner, old cheese and, somewhat more flatteringly, very ripe fruit.
2. It may date back thousands of years — or at least as far back as the Han dynasty.
3. Today it is immensely popular in China, where it is drunk — in one gulp, in shot glasses, repeatedly and accompanied by toasts — generally at meals and often as part of establishing or furthering a business relationship.
4. In 2012 the Chinese government apparently got so fed up with the amount of money being spent on baijiu, which can be super-pricey, at lavish banquets by its officials that it enacted austerity measures to curtail baijiu's consumption at government-sponsored meals — a move that hit baijiu makers hard.
5. To compensate for this lost revenue, baijiu producers are now targeting the Western market.
6. A cocktail bar dedicated to baijiu (which comes in different flavors or “ fragrances”) recently opened in New York’s Greenwich Village, and mixologists at other NYC bars are starting to experiment with it too.
In other words, look out: Baijiu could soon be big in America and headed straight for your cocktail glass. Gulp!