World Bai­jiu Day fetes the most pop­u­lar spirit in the world

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE -

IT'S the most- con­sumed spirit on the planet, and per­haps the least well- known.

To pro­mote the mer­its of Chi­nese bai­jiu – a clear, white spirit made from the ce­real grain sorghum – a Western blog­ger who writes about China's wine and spir­its scene is mo­bil­is­ing cities around the world to cel­e­brate the coun­try's un­of­fi­cial drink on World Bai­jiu Day, which has been des­ig­nated for Au­gust 8.

Jim Boyce, the voice be­hind Grape Wall of China and Bei­jing Boyce, has so far tapped bars in more than a dozen cities in­clud­ing New York, Los An­ge­les, Van­cou­ver, Sin­ga­pore, Lon­don and Paris to ob­serve the oc­ca­sion by serv­ing the spirit in new cock­tails, infusion, and food.

Though bai­jiu rep­re­sents more than onethird of global spirit sales, the spirit is lit­tle known out­side Chi­nese bor­ders.

For the unini­ti­ated, bai­jiu is not for the faint of heart, run­ning be­tween 80 to 120 proof.

Its smell and flavour have been de­scribed as ev­ery­thing from stinky cheese to sweaty socks, rot­ten fruit, soy sauce, pineap­ples, musk and gaso­line, earn­ing it the nick­name “fire­wa­ter”.

The lat­est fig­ures show that be­tween 2009 and 2013, con­sump­tion in China sky

50%, rock­eted to top 1.17 bil­lion cases of bai­jiu.

But that growth is ex­pected to slow to

2.7% just by 2018, which can be ex­plained in part by China's anti- cor­rup­tion crack­down aimed at root­ing out ex­cess and abuse of pow­ers within govern­ment ranks, and chang­ing con­sumer habits.

De­clin­ing growth at home has prompted at­tempts for ex­pan­sion abroad, where bai­jiu re­mains largely un­known, but is start­ing to gain trac­tion.

New York, for in­stance, opened its first bar ded­i­cated to bai­jiu last year, called Lu­mos, where mixol­o­gists mask some of its more pun­gent flavours with fruit juices, spir­its, and lime wedges.

Lon­don hosted its third an­nual Bai­jiu Cock­tail Week, and au­thor Derek Sand­haus dis­tilled his knowl­edge of China's na­tional drink into the first English guide­book Bai­jiu: The Es­sen­tial Guide to Chi­nese Spir­its.

Mean­while, par­tic­i­pat­ing cities in the se­cond edi­tion of World Bai­jiu Day in­clude Bei­jing, Sin­ga­pore, Shang­hai, Taipei, Brus­sels, Paris, Lon­don, Syd­ney, New York, Los An­ge­les, Van­cou­ver and Wash­ing­ton.

For de­tails, www. world­bai­ji­u­day. com.

Three- year- old Kuai­jis­han Shaox­ing rice wine, pack­aged in a clay jar tra­di­tion­ally used to age the wine.

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