Bar owner brings baijiu to Europe

By Wang Mingjie in London | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-11-26 17:09

It was while trying an unfamiliar yet powerful drink, during a family trip to China and Hong Kong, that Andrew Robinson hit on the idea of bringing baijiu to the United Kingdom.

The result was FU Bar, which opened in Liverpool in 2016 and is 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 experimental mixology.

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

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

Baijiu, which means "white liquor", represents a category of Chinese spirits distilled mainly from fermented sorghum.

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

"We generally use a light and a strong baijiu in our cocktails, which we feel works best with the other ingredients," Robinson says. "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: "Gan bei", which means "empty the glass".

For those who are more interested in a more Western and 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," says Robinson. "The feedback is very good - they really enjoy the baijiu cocktails, and we probably sell roughly the same quantity of baijiu cocktails as traditional ones."

The bar prices baijiu cocktails similarly to the prices of the traditional cocktails, ranging from 7.50 ($9.90; 8.43 euros) to 9, to increase customer awareness of baijiu and to give people the opportunity to experience "something new, unique and actually delicious", Robinson says.

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

But he says 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 says.

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(China Daily European Weekly 11/24/2017 page28)

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