hard liquor


hard liquor
China produces all sorts of alcoholic drinks, but primarily hard liquor, commonly called baijiu (white liquor) or shaojiu (burnt alcohol). Hard liquor is fermented from assorted grains such as rice, sorghum and wheat. The most famous brand names are: Maotai, Wuliangye, Jiugui [Drunkard], Xifeng, Fenjiu, Gujinggong, Jiannanchun, Yanghe Daqu, Guizhouchun, Luzhou Laojiao, Baiyunbian, Beijingchun, Kongfu [Confucius’s Family] and Erguotou, a popular low-priced brand. The first two of these sell for about 300 to 500 yuan per 500 ml bottle. To satisfy alcohol drinkers but to minimize drunkenness, most hard liquor maintains a strength below 40 per cent, and hard liquor is almost always consumed with food. There are also medicinal forms which promote good health and virility. Ginseng liquor and snake liquor in fruity concoctions are two popularly taken as tonics.
Maotai, China’s most famous hard liquor, is named after a town near Chishui (Red River) in southwestern Guizhou province. Dating back to the Song dynasty (960–1279), the liquor is made from sorghum and barley.
It is fermented eight times and distilled seven times, and ranges between 38 and 55 proof. The entire process takes from one to five years. The town of Maotai itself has become a tourist spot, hosting Maotai festivals and dominating the Museum of Liquor and Wine in nearby Zunyi, a city associated with Mao Zedong’s rise to dominance over the CCP in 1935.
Wuliangye [Five-Grain Liquid], produced in the city of Yibin in southern Sichuan province, is another high-grade liquor and one of the most expensive brands. As the Chinese name suggests, Wuliangye is a spirit distilled from five types of grain: Chinese sorghum, glutinous rice, husked rice, wheat and corn. The raw and auxiliary materials are carefully chosen and proportionally prepared before they are steamed and mixed with yeast. Then they are fermented in sealed cellars and finally distilled into extracted liquor, which is then stored until blended. This liquor is distinguished by its mellowness, some say lusciousness, and lingering fragrance. Other varieties include: Wuliangshen, Wuliangchun, Wuhuye and Jianzhuang. Both Wuliangye and Maotai are the most common liquors served at state banquets and by Chinese consulates abroad, and are favourite gifts of China’s political leaders when visiting foreign countries.
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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