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Who's afraid of a shot of strong liquor?

By China Daily ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-10 07:55:48

Many foreigners in China have their first serious encounter with baijiu, China's potent white spirit, when they join in Spring Festival celebrations. But while some foreigners shun the clear grain distillate (and mutter about "kerosene"), many are finding wine-like subtleties in the top-shelf varieties and a new appreciation for the liquor.

Chinese-American Simon Deng is one of the co-founders of Capital Spirits, a bar in a Beijing hutong (lane) that he believes is the world's first dedicated to baijiu and craft liquor. We asked him for insights and advice that would make everyone an expert when Chinese New Year arrives.

Q: First things first: What is baijiu?

It's a clear alcohol distilled from different grains, usually sorghum, after aging in earthen pits with yeast. It's generally 40 to 60 percent alcohol by volume.

Q: Your bar serves more than 40 different kinds. Where do we start?

There are four basic types: rice, light, strong and sauce. While "rice" is literally made from rice, the other labels tell you more about the aroma, not the strength of the alcohol.

Among the four types of baijiu, I personally enjoy the "strong aroma" type the most. Beginners will normally favor the rice-flavored baijiu first, due to its clean flavor, and then slowly develop a taste for the "strong" or "sauce" aroma baijiu. "Light" is not for the light-hearted with its typical high alcohol and strong flavor - don't let the name category fool you.

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