Skip to main content

The Manual Guide to Baijiu

Pronounced “bye-joe” and literally translating to “white liquor,” baijiu has been an integral part of Chinese culture for millennia. There are stories that stretch back over 4,000 years highlighting the importance of this spirit not only in social, but also religious and medical contexts.

Historically, baijiu was made from sorghum, and in some cases still is, though many distilleries now also employ rice as their grain base. In some cases, a mixture of both is used.

Related Videos

What makes baijiu baijiu, though, is a fermentation starter known as qu. Without this, you would not have baijiu (just like you wouldn’t have a bourbon if it were, among other things, not aged in a new oak barrel).

Even though there aren’t legal definitions that include the aging process, baijiu isn’t necessarily a quick spirit, though, even if it is white liquor. According to Michelle Ly, who is one of the proprietors of Vinn Distillery in Portland, they first ferment the rice for six months before distillation. Next, they distill the spirit three times in pot stills before storage for about a year before being bottled. Ly’s baijiu, which is one of the only baijiu distilleries in the United States, comes from a recipe that dates back seven generations in her family.

Related: World Sake Day with Ty Ku Sake

When drinking baijiu, Ly says, the flavor varies from palate to palate. Where someone may pick up sweet wine-like notes similar to what you would find in saké, other may latch onto smoky notes like those in tequila or whiskey. Some, depending on the brand, she added, might even find floral essences similar to some gins.

In other words, if you like booze, you’re bound to like something about baijiu.

To drink baijiu, you can go about it one of a couple different ways. First, you can take the traditional route of drinking it at room temperature during a meal, using the spirit to complement the flavors of the food you are consuming. For a more modern take on baijiu—and much like soju and other spirits with Asian roots—you can take a half ounce shot of the spirit, then repeat. And repeat. And, well, you get the idea.

One of the great things about baijiu is the aforementioned ability to call to mind flavors similar to other spirits—this, Ly says, allows baijiu to work well in a wide variety of cocktails, from bloody Marys to margaritas.

To order baijiu, check out the distillery’s website or on Baijiu America.

Editors' Recommendations

The Borg drink is a viral Gen-Z favorite that’s really not all that new
Sorry, kiddos. "Borg" has been around for a while. We just call it something else.
borg drink recipe

Every new generation thinks they've invented the wheel when it comes to anything trendy. We're sorry to say, Gen-Z, but "flared leggings" are called yoga pants, most of us were using flip phones before you were born, and don't even think about talking to us about pop punk unless you know who Billie Joe Armstrong is.
When it comes to drinks, most generations have a hallmark party beverage that defines their college years, holding the power to flood them with a rush of nausea and fuzzy memories even decades later. For Gen-Z, that drink is called "Borg." What they haven't realized yet, though, is that this falsely fruity concoction has been around for years under the name "Jungle Juice."
While Jungle Juice was originally invented by U.S. soldiers during the Second World War, it was Millenials who made it the truly trashy, hangover-inducing party swill it is. Most stereotypically mixed in a large bucket or something else that can be found in a dorm garage, Jungle Juice is a mixture of vodka and a cheap, fruity mixer such as Kool-Aid. Naturally, there aren't any hard and fast recipe rules, but that's the usual gist of Jungle Juice.
The Gen-Z twist, Borg, does have some clever upgrades, and for that, we give them due credit. Firstly, the rather gross-sounding name is actually a witty acronym for "Black Out Rage Gallon." We love that there's no beating around the bush with this generation. They know how to call a spade a spade. Second, unlike the communal trough that's used to dole out Jungle Juice, Borg is made and served in individual plastic jugs, cutting down on germ spread. We can appreciate that growing up in the days of COVID has made for some much healthier thinking. We also love that Borg can be capped, making it much more difficult for potential predators to tamper with a drink.
Of course, the optional addition of new ingredients like Liquid IV also help to curb the hangover that will undoubtedly come with drinking vodka from a plastic jug. That sure would have been nice back in the day.

Borg drink recipe

Read more
Is erythritol harmful? What a dietitian says new data means for your Keto diet
Erythritol is common in many keto foods - what does that mean for your health?
erythritol in keto diet advice

While sugar substitutes have been around for more than a century, they didn't really become mainstream here in the United States until around the mid-70s. According to Carolyn De La Pena, professor of American Studies at UC Davis and author of Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda, between 1975 and 1984, Americans increased their consumption of artificial sweeteners by 150 percent. This timeline makes sense when you take into account that the late seventies coincided with the start of our crazed diet culture and the revolving door of fad diets.
One such diet that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, however, is the Keto diet. Still hugely popular among Americans trying to shed a few pounds, Keto focuses heavily on limited or no carbohydrates. Because sugar contains carbohydrates, followers of Keto have turned to artificial sweeteners to satisfy those late-night cravings - sweeteners that, more often than not, contain erythritol. Erythritol in particular has become hugely popular because it's much better for baking than other sugar substitutes, has less of an artificial flavor, and will keep the eater in Ketosis, which is key for losing weight on the Keto diet.
A new study has made waves recently because its findings indicate there's a link between erythritol and higher rates of heart attack and stroke (though the study did note that only an association was found — not causation. So should you be worried?
We asked Dan LeMoine, RD, the award-winning author of Fear No Food and the Clinical Director at Phoenix-based Re:vitalize Nutrition, what he had to say about erythritol, including its benefits and potential health risks. "Artificial sweeteners are still sweeteners. While many are non-nutritive or zero-calorie, we tend to view them similarly as we do regular sweeteners or sugars — moderation is key. While many have amazing implications on weight loss – being low to no-calorie options and having little impact on blood sugar, some have their downside," he says.

While some of that sugar substitution has been good for waistlines and health issues that come from obesity, it seems to be causing more and more concern when it comes to other potential health issues. "For example," says LeMoine, "some research indicates the popular sweeteners stevia may have negative effects on the gut microbiome. And the recent study showing correlation between the sugar alcohol, erythritol, and heart attack and stroke."

Read more
Feeling adventurous? 5 of the weirdest cocktails from around the globe
Would you order a cocktail with a pickled human toe? You can in Canada, apparently
unusual and unique cocktails sourtoe cocktail

We all love a good cocktail, but it's easy to tire of the classics. There's nothing wrong with a perfectly frosty, salted-rimmed margarita, or a warm-to-your-bones, cherry-topped old-fashioned, but sometimes, you just want something new. Something that makes you think. Something that, perhaps, gives you a chuckle. These are those cocktails.
Pig's Blood Piña Colada (USA)

Back in 2014, bartender Jason Brown of Chicago's Kinmont restaurant and bar, concocted this cocktail after listening to a Werewolves of London lyric about a werewolf drinking a pina colada. His creativity sparked, and the "Werewolves of London" cocktail was born.

Read more