In the wine and spirits business, China is a hot prospect. But as the Chinese are learning to appreciate Bourbon and Bordeaux, will Westerners embrace Chinese spirits?
Some spirits companies are betting on baijiu, a clear spirit made from fermented sorghum or other grains, like glutinous rice, and often distilled to 120 proof.
In June 2011, spirits giant Diageo acquired a majority stake in Shui Jing Fang, a premium baijiu label. Moët Hennessy and Pernod Ricard also have stakes in baijiu makers. While not all plan to extend beyond the Chinese market, some have designs on the American drinker. Chinese distiller Wuliangye, a baijiu market leader, spent a reported $400,000 to advertise in New York’s Times Square.
Baijiu is often served straight up at banquets, where convention dictates that guests match the host slug for slug. To entice Western palates, this spirit needs a makeover. Diageo has hired Paul Mathew, a U.K. native residing in Beijing, to create baijiu-based cocktails. Its mix of sweetness, citrus and fermented notes can be “a challenge for mixed drinks, but one that bartenders in China are starting to embrace,” Mathew says.
Shui Jing Fang Sour
Courtesy Paul Mathew
1/3 ounce Shui Jing Fang Baijiu, 52% (or, if baijiu is unavailable, substitute with another clear spirit, such as vodka, gin or pisco)
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
½ ounce cinnamon syrup, such as Monin
3 dashes orange bitters
Grapefruit peel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, add the egg white and shake well. Next, fill the shaker with ice and shake again. Add baijiu, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and syrup, and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Add orange bitters over the surface of the drink and garnish with the grapefruit peel.