This is the world’s most popular spirit. Have you heard of it?

Question: Which spirit has 6,000 years of history, is the world’s most tasted alcoholic drink and reached 10.8 billion dollars worth of sales last year? 

Answer: Baijiu

What on earth is Baijiu?

Baijiu is the most popular grain spirit in China, especially in Sichuan province. Sorghum is usually the grain of choice but in some parts of the country, rice, barley and millet are used. It’s the world’s most popular spirit thanks to China’s population of over 1.4 billion but it’s still not known well at all outside the country. We were treated to a master class by the producer Fenjiu and their importer, Cheng International, to see what it was all about...

baijiu fenjiu the three drinkers.jpg

What does Baijiu taste like?

A white spirit for the most part and usually between 40 and 60% abv, Baijiu is more like whisky in terms of complexity of flavour and texture. It’s traditionally drunk neat with food, though there are some nowadays that are deemed better for mixing. There are four key styles to look out for, all based on their flavour profiles, but dozens of sub categories too. What makes the difference in terms of aroma and flavour, much like wine, is the ageing vessel, the ingredients and the duration of ageing.

Credit: Cheng International CO. Ltd

Credit: Cheng International CO. Ltd

Key styles of Baijiu

Light Aroma: Light, elegant and subtley floral. Traditionally made in a stone vessel with sorghum. Hails from the north, around Beijing.

Strong Aroma: Fruity, tropical, aniseed, complex. Multiple grains, but aged in mud pits. Hails largely from Sichuan province in the southwest.

Sauce Aroma: Umami, soy, bean. Mostly sorghum but with multiple fermentations in stone brick pits.

Rice Aroma: Sweeter and mellow. Hailing from the south and often the lowest grade. 

Other ‘aromas’ and styles of Baijiu

There are many additional sub aromas of this intriguing spirit, which to Westerners can seem gloriously different. ‘Chi’ aroma comes from the addition of pork fat, for example, ‘medicine aroma’ exists, as does ‘sesame aroma’ amongst many others. There are also many regional variations. Fenjiu, for example, is an ‘aroma’ as well as the name of a producer. It is a light aroma Baijiu hailing from Fenyang, Shanxi and dates back to AD 550!

4 Baijius to try from light to strong

Fenjiu Baijiu aged 10 years: Clear white - A traditional, light Baijiu made from high quality sorghum grain and aged 10 years in earthen ceramic vessels. It’s fresh, floral and subtle with notes of jasmine, melon and dried herbs. Drink it neat or mixed in cocktails. RRP £65 coming soon to the UK. 

Blue Flower Fenjiu Baijiu 48% aged 30 years: Clear white - Aromatic and smooth with notes of citrus peel, vanilla, acacia and cinnamon. Best served neat or over ice. RRP £150 from Harrods.

Bamboo Fenjiu 38% aged 5 years (Zhu Ye Qing Jiu): Pale gold - Stronger notes of mocha and menthol with subtle curry leaf and soy from the bamboo infusion. Best served mixed. RRP £60 from Harrods.

Bamboo Fenjiu 45% aged 30 years (Zhu Ye Qing Jiu): Bright gold - Powerful aromas of curry leaf and sandalwood with underlying sweetness like banana and caramel. Sweeter texture. Best served neat. RRP £145 from Harrods.

The ultimate Baijiu cocktail: The Golden Empire

baijiu.jpg

With mixology playing a huge part in helping get Baijiu on lips outside China, Fenjiu launched their inaugural cocktail competition earlier this year. The winning result was a golden, moreish concoction featuring palo cortado sherry and vermouth, created by Andrea Dionori, mixologist at The Crazy Bear.

Ingredients:

  • 35ml Fenjiu 10 year old.

  • 10ml White Vermouth (preferred: Cocchi Americano)

  • 7.5ml Palo Cortado sherry

  • 10ml Homemade Palo Santo cordial (optional)

Baijiu is certainly an acquired taste for Westerners, but one that is not hard to acquire with a bit of, ahem, tasting practice. Look out for it as a key ingredient in the top cocktail bars around the world and if you see it, ask for a small pour to try neat. You’ll be tasting history.

By Helena Nicklin

Drink: A new cocktail book by Kurt Maitland

Photo: Bobby Childs

Photo: Bobby Childs

There are myriad cocktail books, past and new. Most of them are pretty good, but there is one which stands out beyond the others as the most comprehensive book on cocktails anyone could need. It is not only informative, but is lovely to look at, easy to read and manages to treat the reader with enough respect as not to be condescending, but also giving the beginner all the knowledge they might need to start the cocktail journey.

There are cocktail books with more recipes, but there are more than 800 in Drink, which is plenty enough for all but the geekiest of cocktail fiends - and it’s a book I would suggest they would still want on their shelves.

Drink takes a look at everything from ancient fermented liquids from all over the world and throughout different periods in history, giving a thorough background to the world of alcohol and mixing.

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

With cocktail and mocktails, there is something here for every palate, whether you have a sweet or sour tooth, love experimenting, sticking to the classics, or don’t even want alcohol, Drink will have a cocktail to suit you.

One of the strengths of this book is there are cocktails which can be easily made at home with minimal ingredients and little skill needed. Beyond this, there are cocktails which are designed to take no time at all, or are easy to mix in bulk for parties (or even single drinks), which are quick to make for a few guests.

There are too many examples to list, and I’m not going to impose my likes and favourites on you. Simply buy the book and try them for yourself. The cocktail journey is exciting and all the more fun if it’s your own.

 By Colin Hampden-White

One Drink, Three Ways: The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask


Untitled+design-6.jpg

One Drink, Three Ways is the signature feature by The Three Drinkers. Join The Three Drinkers’ Helena, Aidy and Colin as they take one bottle and create a trio of phenomenal serves which you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. From rums and whiskies to gins and wine styles, the three help you get the most out of your glass. It’s time to get liquid on lips.

Signatures+From+3D.png

195105548.jpg.gallery.jpg

The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask: a whisky with rich, spicy notes from ageing in both American and European sherry oak casks. The Three Drinkers each share their favourite ways to taste it….


Helena’s Choice: The ‘Mac-Hattan’

signature5cdec996016da.png

A twist on a classic Manhattan, I love this rich, christmas-cake scented whisky mixed with a little orange and chocolate bitters. I found this recipe while shooting episode four of our Amazon show, The Three Drinkers do Scotch Whisky. It won the taste competition hands down! Simply add all liquid ingredients to a shaker, shake, pour and add garnish. Ice optional. I prefer it without or with one massive chunk.

macahattan the three drinkers.jpg

The ‘Mac-Hattan’

Recipe

25ml The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Whisky

25ml Orange liqueur

25ml Red Vermouth

3 Drops Chocolate bitters

Dried orange wheel to garnish


Aidy’s Choice: The Macallan Highball

signature5cdebad77371c.png

Perfect as the weather starts to get a little warmer, this Macallan highball is zesty and refreshing with a bitter, spicy kick. Simply pour the whisky and fino over lots of ice into a highball glass, add the lemon juice and top up with your favourite tonic water. Dangerously delicious!

The Macallan highball

The Macallan Highball

Recipe

25ml The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Whisky

25ml Fino Sherry

Juice of half a lemon

Tonic water to taste

Lemon rind to garnish

Highball glass


Colin’s Choice: The Macallan. Straight up.

signature5cdec1304dc4b.png

Those who know me are aware that I’m a bit of a whisky purist, and when The Macallan is involved, I like to sip it straight. If it’s the first whisky of the day however, I may add a tiny drop of water just to cut the initial nose burn. No ice. No garnish. No problem.

glencairn whisky glass the three drinkers.jpg

The Macallan

Recipe

50ml The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Whisky

Glencairn glass

You can find The Macallan 12 Year Old on Amazon or Master of Malt for circa £52

Camomile Garden

Camomile Garden (5).jpg

Ingredients:

50ml Silent Pool Gin
25ml honey water
Top with Fever Tree Indian Tonic
Spritz camomile aromatics

Method:

Fill the glass with plenty of ice.
Pour in 50ml of Silent Pool.
Add in the honey water and Fever Tree Indian Tonic and stir.
Add the camomile aromatics and garnish with Kaffir lime leaf and a slice of orange.

Glass: Copa
Ice: Cubed
Garnish: Kaffir lime leaf, edible flower and orange slice