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The bar owner bringing baijiu to Great Britain

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-01 11:31

It was while trying what was an unfamiliar yet powerful drink during a family trip to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong that Andrew Robinson hit on the idea.

Why not bring baijiu to the United Kingdom?

The result was FU Bar, which opened in Liverpool in 2016 and also the first dedicated baijiu bar in Europe.

The establishment is just five minutes away from the city's Chinatown and based in the Ropewalks area, which is renowned for its cocktails.

"We wanted to bring something new to the UK that would stimulate and intrigue people at the same time," said Robinson. "After all, gin and whisky bars are so yesterday."

He said FU Bar carries about 20 different brands of baijiu at any one time.

Baijiu, which means "white liquor" and is pronounced "bye-joe", represents a category of Chinese spirits distilled mainly from fermented sorghum and rice.

Known for its powerful kick with an average alcohol by volume of 40 percent to 60 percent, baijiu is categorized by aroma, with strong, light, sauce and rice as its four primary categories.

"We generally use a light and a strong baijiu in our cocktails, which we feel works best with the other ingredients," Robinson said. "Sometimes, depending on the cocktail, traditional liquors such as gin and vodka can be 'lost' in the cocktail. But because of the complexity and unique flavor of baijiu, this is not the case."

Adventurous guests can sample baijiu in the traditional Chinese style: as straight shots. Glasses are clinked in the lowest position to demonstrate humbleness and then a toast is yelled: "ganbei" which literally means "dry the glass".

For those who prefer a more Western, modern experience, FU Bar has developed a range of unique infusions and baijiu-based cocktails. These include saffron, vanilla, pineapple and cinnamon, each bringing a new twist to the Chinese spirit.

"We find our local and European customers enjoy our baijiu cocktails, perhaps even more than our Asian customers," Robinson said. "The feedback is very good - they really enjoy the baijiu cocktails and we probably sell roughly the same quantity of baijiu cocktails to traditional ones."

The bar prices baijiu cocktails similarly to the prices of the traditional cocktails, ranging from 7.5 pounds ($9.80) to 9 pounds, to increase customer awareness of baijiu and to give people the opportunity to experience "something new, unique and actually delicious".

With Baijiu Cocktail Week planned for the UK and the success of the recently held World Baijiu Day, Robinson is confident that more and more bars will consider offering baijiu.

But he said it is important that they learn to appreciate and understand baijiu.

"We spent weeks drinking many cocktails, developing and trying to understand which type of baijiu worked with which other ingredients," he said. "The combination of ingredients to come up with the finished cocktails is complex and requires great skill and knowledge."


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