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World acquires a taste for Chinese spirit

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-01 11:28
A bartender makes baijiu-based cocktail in Central London. [Photo by Kevin Wang/for China Daily]

Cocktail bars put fiery liquor to the test as demand grows for drinks with difference

Drinks columnist Douglas Blyde first came across baijiu when he was presented an intriguingly squat bottle with a red ribbon tied around its neck in a shopping mall in China's Inner Mongolia.

Since then, he has become a fan of the fiery Chinese spirit - the most widely drunk alcohol in the world, despite being very little known beyond the borders of China.

Baijiu, usually distilled from sorghum and rice, contains 40 percent to 60 percent alcohol by volume. With more than 5,000 years of heritage, it is a mainstay at every special occasion in China, from Spring Festival dinners and wedding treats to business banquets.

Around 5.5 billion liters (1.5 billion gallons) of baijiu was consumed in 2016, according to London-based consultancy Euromonitor International.

"I tend to enjoy baijiu neat, as it often has an indefatigable, flamboyant, exotic essence, which brings excitement to the table," said Blyde, who writes a column for London Evening Standard. He also advises sipping, not shooting, quality baijiu.

Baijiu is far from taking over the bar, but in recent years, baijiu cocktails have begun to appear on menus across London, from the Yauatcha in Soho to the Arbitrager in the City to the Mei Ume bar in the Four Seasons.

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