August 9th is World Baijiu Day. If you speak Chinese you’ll know that Baijiu day being on August 9th means Baijiu Day is on 八九 bā jiu, which sounds similar! Anyways, here are the different types of Chinese spirits to try next time you’re out drinking.
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Pure Baijiu 纯白酒
What is it? Baijiu is a clear, grain alcohol made from fermented sorghum, glutinous rice, wheat or barley (depending on where in China it’s made). It’s history dates back 5000 years when the first versions used fungi instead of grain. Now it is the world’s most consumed alcohol.
How Alcoholic? It is typically a strong distilled spirit between 40%-60% ABV (80–120 proof). It’s similar in strength to Vodka.
How is it served? The traditional way is to serve it warm or at room temperature in a small ceramic bottle with a ceramic shot glass.
Types and Classifications? Baijiu is classified by its fragrance and flavor. It can be either flavored or unflavored. The fragrance classifications are:
Maotai 茅台酒 (most famous)
Er Guo Tou 二锅头 (cheap and popular)
Wu Liang Ye 五粮液 (Classy)
Mixed Baijiu Varieties 混白酒
What is it? Jinjiu is a mixed baijiu variety that has roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients added to the baijiu supposedly have health benefits such fixing kidneys and help with your qi. Old people love it.
Ingredients: High pure quality baijiu, yam, goji berry, traditional Chinese herbs
Drinking Jinjiu: Unlike baijiu, Jinjiu has a bitter and sweet taste. Most people drink it just in their own home for health purposes. The most popular brand is China Jinjiu 中国劲酒.
Yangmei Jiu 杨梅酒
What is it? Yangmei, or the Chinese bayberry, Jiu contains just sugar, yangmei and baijiu. It’s a fruit spirit that gets natural colors and flavors from the fruit being soaked in baijiu for long periods of time.
Ingredients: pure baijiu, yangmei, rock sugar
How it’s made: Put the yangmei in a jar with rock sugar, evening out the layers. Pour baijiu into the jar. Every 3 days, shake the jar gently. After 15–25 days, you can drink it.
Drinking Yangmei Jiu: Pour the contents of the jar into a glass and enjoy. The baijiu will be pleasantly red colored and flavored from the yangmei, while the fruit will be soaked in baijiu as well.
Three Penis Wine 三鞭酒
What is it? Three Penis Wine is a mixed baijiu alcohol that also has ties to Traditional Chinese Medicine. As the name implies, the production of the alcohol includes the penises of three different animals. It is believed to provide health benefits such as helping your liver and kidneys, soothing sore muscles, increasing blood flow (qi), and strengthening your ankles. Also it helps with virility and male “enhancement”
Ingredients: pure baijiu, dog penis, deer penis, ram penis, rock sugar, centipede, 5 spice powder
How it’s made: the three animal penises are thinly sliced and dried. They are put in a jar with crushed centipede, 5 spices and rock sugar until dissolved. Then the baijiu is added. After waiting 45–60 days, the alcohol is filtered out.
Drinking Three Penis Wine: Used as medicinal treatment, 12.5ml is to be consumed (orally) each morning and night for 10 days. You must wait 5–7 days in between treatments.
Pure Huangjiu 纯黄酒
What is it? Huangjiu or Yellow Wine is made with water and grain such as rice, millet or wheat. Unlike Baijiu, Huangjiu is not distilled so it maintains the grain’s color and is less alcoholic. In the brewing process, the quality of water is vitally important.
How Alcoholic? It is typically under 20% alcohol, much like red or white wine.
How is it served? The traditional way is to serve it is directly after it is either warmed or cooled in a little teacup. It can also be used in Chinese cooking.
Types and Classifications? Huangjiu is classified by its Dryness/Sweetness and its Production Method:
Songxing Jiu 绍兴酒 (most famous)
Hua Diao Jiu 花雕酒
Hua Kai Fu Gui 花开富贵
Huangjiu Varieties 黄酒类型
What is it? Mijiu is the Chinese version of Japanese sake. As it is made from rice, it is considered a variety of Huangjiu. However, it is actually made from gluntious rice instead of steamed rice and is clear and sweet. The alcohol content ranges from 12–20%.
Ingredients: Sticky rice, Chinese yeast and clean water
Using Mijiu: Mijiu can be used for recreational drinking or cooking. It’s a traditional Chinese alcohol and a lot of families make their own. When drinking mijiu, similar to sake, it is very high quality, but cooking mijiu has added salt in it to avoid alcohol tax. Cooking mijiu is typically low quality.
Snake Wine 蛇酒
What is it? Snake wine actually comes in two forms: full body snake and snake parts. In general, live venomous snakes are put in jars of rice alcohol (huangjiu) and left to drown in there. Their poisonous venom gets into the alcohol and the alcohol breaks down the poison making it no longer poisonous to humans. The “essence” of the snake is then drunk in small shots of the huangjiu. Other methods include putting snake blood or bile in the wine as well.
Ingredients: Huangjiu, poisonous venomous snake, herbal medicine, scorpion (optional)
How it’s made: a live poisonous snake is put in a large jar of huangjiu wiht herbs and maybe a scorpion for many months.
Why Drink Snake Wine? Snake wine dates back to the Western Zhou Dynasty of China (1046 BC) and has strong ties to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Snake parts, such as blood and bile, are believed to have curative powers and snake wine supposedly helps reinvigorate a person. Snake are also reportedly tied to curing hair loss, farsightedness, and poor sexual performance.
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