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Who's afraid of a shot of strong liquor?

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-10 07:55

Q: Should novices jump in with both feet and say "Ganbei!", or can you dip a toe in and learn to appreciate baijiu?

We serve flights of four samples, in small tasting shots, to give people an introduction to the four types. Once they decide their type, we can offer four more samples of their favorite type.

Some visitors come to the bar with a baijiu-drinking friend, but don't intend to drink shots of baijiu themselves. We convert about 90 percent of them once they try it. We serve tasting shots in very small glasses, so people can sample a few without getting loaded.

For people curious about baijiu, we also like to suggest trying it in a cocktail, such as a baijiu sour.

Q: What's the most popular?

"Strong" is probably the most popular and widely distilled category of baijiu. It's particularly common in China's southwestern Sichuan province, eastern Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong. Famous "strong" brands include Wuliangye and Luzhou Laojiao; such brands are mostly based on the grain sorghum. The "strong" types have floral, licorice flavor with a strong, pungent aftertaste.

Q: How long does it take to make?

Premium strong-aroma baijiu can be aged from one to three years, but the action is really much longer. The strong-aroma distilleries specialize in continuous distillation, which allows the microoganisms to develop their unique tastes over many decades or sometimes a few centuries. Luzhou Laojiao's 1573, for example, is named after the last time the fermentation tanks were cleaned! Using the last batch of mash for the next mash ensures continuity in taste. Different layers of the distillate are then aged in batches for at least six months before bottling.

Q: What do we do when we are at a Lunar New Year celebration and the host brings out the baijiu and a bunch of glasses?

My advice would be, of course, to drink what you are offered to give face to your host. Then offer to buy the next round and choose the baijiu type you like (rice, strong, light, sauce). If you don't know the difference, go with the rice-based baijiu since it's the easiest to drink. The host will most likely be impressed by your knowledge of baijiu!

Q: Is it true that we won't get a hangover?

Normally if you have a meal, and the baijiu is of good quality, you won't get a hangover.

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