Taste the fun of baijiu in London
Updated: 2015-07-24 08:11
By Cecily Liu in London(China Daily Europe)
A showcase of bottles of baijiu made in Shanxi province, known for its famous liquor brand Fenjiu, in an exhibition room in the ancient town of Pingyao. Photos Provided to China Daily
The World Baijiu Day is being launched by Jim Boyce, who has run the nightlife blog Beijing Boyce and the wine blog Grape Wall of China for nearly a decade, and has written about China's wine industry for both trade and mainstream publications. It is a day in which innovative bars like The Hide, all over the world, do something creative with baijiu so it becomes better known internationally.
Mathew's career path to become a drinks specialist was not a conventional one. Educated as a conservation scientist, he started bartending during his university years to support his studies.
Upon graduation, he started working for conservation charities, and work took him all over the world and exposed him to local drinks of the countries he traveled in.
In the UK the drinks industry was undergoing a renaissance in which new cocktail bars rapidly opened and popular cocktail recipes of the last century came back into popularity.
"This happened in the US and UK alike. People rediscovered recipes produced in the heyday of the last century, and rediscovered old brands that we've not used for many years, especially brands that had heritage and had craft behind them.
"Bartending also started to be treated as a profession, and bartenders started to learn more about the craft of the drinks, to be more artisan, and to learn about the classic drinks, taking more care with mixing of the ice, spices and herbs," he says.
Witnessing these rapid changes, Mathew made a brave decision. He sold his flat and opened The Hide nine years ago, and never had to look back. Over the years The Hide became a popular bar, and earlier this year he opened two new bars, The Arbitrager and Demon, Wise & Partners.
He wanted to make The Hide a friendly bar where customers can casually visit and taste something different, perhaps discovering a new favorite in the process. "We wanted to give guests an experience uniquely tailored to them, allowing them to enjoy themselves, not just drinking but having a good time," he says.
Within this context, Mathew says that he likes baijiu because it adds to the variety of what is on offer. For him personally, drinking baijiu reminds him of the good time he had in Beijing with his friends and family.
As he enjoyed living in China so much, he says one of his dreams is to open a bar in Beijing, with a culture similar to The Hide, allowing a Beijing audience to taste and experience the best of the world's drinks.
"I think Chinese consumers are becoming more and more aware of different drinks being available. A lot of consumers want to know what they are drinking but not many bars outside Shanghai and Hong Kong teach customers what they are drinking," he says.
Although Beijing's customers and bars lag behind Shanghai and Hong Kong, Mathew has felt a sense of hunger for knowledge, as if the city is now becoming more international. "A lot of small bars have appeared but they don't have the budget to allow bartenders to learn about the more obscure things, and that's where I want to make a difference," he says.