Taste Beijing Strong Liquor:Erguotou

Updated: 2008-01-31 18:14


The Chinese like their alcohol strong.

In Guizhou Province they have maotai, and in Sichuan Province they have wuliangye.

In Beijing they drink erguotou, which means second distillation. And it’s made here in Niulanshan county, northeast of Beijing.

One of Beijing’s best-known brands is called Niulanshan, which started producing erguotou in 1952. They only use grain sorghum to make this strong liquor that has between 30 to 60 percent alcohol.

The history of erguotou goes back 800 years ago when it used to be called shaojiu.

It was not only made from sorghum, but also other grains.

To make erguotou, the sorghum is ground up and then boiled. The first batch has over 70 percent alcohol and is discarded. After a few days the grain is boiled again and this batch is called erguotou.

The sorghum is then left to ferment in deep pits in the ground for several days, then distilled and blended. It includes the flavors of walnuts, longans, western ginseng and sugar.

Erguotou can be made in six months. But the better tasting ones are those that are aged for over 10 years – even up to a century.

Then the fiery water is ready for bottling.

Twenty-two people are stationed at each assembly line. Glass bottles are filled, covered, labeled and packaged in minutes.

Sometimes called Devil Juice, this strong liquor is definitely an acquired taste:

Although young and wealthy Chinese prefer beer and Western wine, many still enjoy erguotou. Not only does this strong spirit helps keep people warm in the winter, but also cements long-lasting friendships in China.