Baijiu is the most consumed spirit in the world by volume, but it is virtually unknown outside of China!

We opened our bar Capital Spirits last summer in a hutong in Beijing, China, with the idea to bring Baijiu off the dinner table where it is traditionally consumed, and into a Western bar/pub setting. Since then we've been featured in the The Wall Street Journal, Vice, New York Times and other publications.

This August 8th will be the 1st Annual World Baijiu Day - check the website for listings to see if a city near you will be holding tasting events! Baijiu enjoys a thousands-year old history and literary culture, a distinct production process and a range of complex flavors. It is also extremely strong: typically ranging from 50-70% ABV, making it challenging for the uninitiated...but deeply rewarding!

AMA about Baijiu, drinking etiquette in China, how to drink and appreciate Baijiu, nightlife in Beijing, what it's like operating a bar in China, or whatever else you can think of!


EDIT: OK guys we've been up all night and the party has come to an end. Thanks so much for everyone's interest in Baijiu! Don't forget to check out World Baijiu Day this Saturday to see if you can attend a tasting event in a city near you. Ganbei!

Comments: 427 • Responses: 92  • Date: 

AnchezSanchez105 karma

Does "good" baiju exist? I am a frequent traveller to China, and I avoid the stuff like the plague..... I'm more of a whisky guy (being Scottish). Anything you would recommend?

CapitalSpirits145 karma

Many foreigners who visit to China who were introduced to Baijiu have a terrible experience. It could be due to the intense drinking culture, or equally likely you just got bad stuff. Did you drink Erguotou, by chance? Erguotou is an extremely cheap (about $4 per liter) and potent (112 proof) local Baijiu popular amongst working-class Chinese, that also unfortunately becomes many foreigners' first (and last) introduction to Baijiu due to its low price and wide availability.

Whisky is an acquired taste as well. Or beer. Imagine if you had never tried beer before, and someone gave you a tin can of Bud Light. You'd probably swear off the stuff forever! ;)

Baijiu should be drunk differently from western spirits. You shouldn't really shoot it, and it's best when paired with food. It's best to sip it through pursed lips and kind of atomize it inside your mouth.

As a whisky drinker, next time you are in China try anything labeled "strong" aroma, or "nong 浓" in Chinese. Avoid the light aromas, which are mostly just an alcohol burn without complexity. If you're into very complex scotch, you may want to try "sauce" aroma Baijius. (jiang 酱).

AnchezSanchez60 karma

Thanks for the information, I'll be out in October, will see what I can find :-).

Good luck with the bar, if I'm ever up Beijing way I'll pop in!

CapitalSpirits141 karma

Mention this AMA and we'll give you a free flight of different Baijius when you get here!

Press1028 karma

I think I'd swear off beer of someone have me a sextuple hopped oak aged IPA for my first beer. Bud Light is a pretty good intro to beer.

CapitalSpirits32 karma

You get the point though.

Sunfried19 karma

I've got a bottle of Erguotoujiu that a travelling coworker brought me, and it's as bad as you say. I keep it at the office in case I have to strip paint or disinfect something. I hope I get an opportunity to try something better.

CapitalSpirits19 karma

Erguotou is a totally hilarious thing to have.

just4youuu7 karma

I'm pretty sure I've had decent baijiu with my dad and his friends and I still find it extremely difficult to drink. I can slam back most liquors but there's something extra pungent about baijiu

CapitalSpirits20 karma

Baijiu shouldn't be slammed. Drink it slowly and deliberately with salty snacks and pickles.

nevercomment4 karma

Is there anywhere online you can buy bottles of quality baiju?

CapitalSpirits17 karma

If you're in China, one of our favorite local Baijius is Xingtian. It's named after a warrior of legend who tried who was decapitated by the emperor in a duel, and grew eyes in his chest and a mouth in his belly because he was so determined to win.

If you're in the States, check out ByeJoe. It's an ultra premium Baijiu produced in China, refined in the US. HKB and Vinn are produced in the US.

Most classic Baijius can only be found in China for the time being. In major cities in the US such as Chicago, LA and New York, you can find top-shelf Baijius. This Saturday is World Baijiu Day, so check out the website we mentioned and see if you are near a city that will be hosting an event!

bailtail3 karma

I don't know all the brands or types I've had, but I've probably had 10 or so different kinds in the time I've spent in China. This include at least a few that were quite expensive. I can honestly say there hasn't been a single one that I've found moderately enjoyable. I'm actually heading over on Monday. Do you have any recommendations as to what would be considered "good?"

CapitalSpirits3 karma

If you stop by Beijing, head to the bar and we'll help you find something that is more your speed.

GaiusBaltar_2 karma

I got a bottle of Moutai as a gift. It tastes very unique. Is this typical Baijiu? Is it high quality?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Maotai is probably the most famous Baijiu brad worldwide. It was the official state liquor of China for decades, and was served to Richard Nixon when he came on his official visit. Maotai has a whole range of labels, depending on which one you have, it could be worth thousands.

Maotai is a sauce aroma Baijiu, and its fermentation process is a very resource and labor-intensive nine month process. Over this time the grains break down in a very complex way, allowing for the unique savory flavor to develop.

GaiusBaltar_2 karma

This is what I have.

Brother in law brought back several bottles so I imagine it's not super expensive.

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Yep, that's one of Maotai's many labels, although not one of the premium ones. Enjoy, Gan Bei!

koolaidistheshit-3 karma

I'm ready for the downvotes, but I hate thick expensive micro brews. Bud light to me is perfect. It's taste isn't in your face and I can drink it on a hot day and it's refreshing and gives a nice buzz. Cheap hard alcohol is almost universally nasty though, so I see your point there. You gotta get the stuff with some quality to it or its like vomit city after polishing off a fifth.

CapitalSpirits12 karma

For the record, we said Bud Light completely arbitrarily. No offense to Bud Light drinkers XD

SuperfluousssLetters58 karma

How have you guys been received by the Chinese community? Do they enjoy the non-traditional approach that you guys offer?

CapitalSpirits88 karma

They're very curious about the usage in cocktails, and also about how foreigners react to it. They're a little confused as well that it is not served with food, especially when it is served outside of cocktails. Chinese always drink Baijiu with meals. We do serve spicy peanuts, and lately we've had smoked sausage from Hubei. Baijiu is also drank along with traditional snacks like cured meats and pickled vegetables.

They also really love drinking in such a non-pressure environment outside of the typical banquet setting where they are forced to drink shot after shot until they puke.

VAisforcreepers37 karma

Chinese always drink Baijiu with meals.

Tell that to the old man giving me capfuls on the subway train. Free baijiu. Ain't gonna complain.

CapitalSpirits39 karma

Some are alcoholics. There are no Blue Laws in China.

VAisforcreepers85 karma

If drinking on the subway makes you an alcoholic, then I don't want to be sober.

CapitalSpirits19 karma

The rules are different here.

mrdangran34 karma

is it true Nixon used to get way drubk off of baijiu?

CapitalSpirits85 karma

Yes! It was known amongst his diplomatic team, specifically Henry Kissinger, that Nixon could not hold his liquor, so they were actually really nervous that Nixon would get too sauced and make a fool out of himself when meeting Mao and the Communists in the early 70s. The Chinese knew this as well, and probably put the pressure on Nixon to drink...

Kissinger also famously quipped during the meeting that if "we drink enough Baijiu, we can solve anything."

Here's a historical photograph that we hang in our bar!

Bizmatech23 karma

Shenzhen resident here. The only baijiu I've liked was FenJiu (Maybe FengJiu. I dunno the spelling.) from up North. What makes this kind so different from the others?

CapitalSpirits36 karma

FenJiu is the oldest and most distinguished of the light aroma Baijius. It's made 100% out of sorghum and has a relatively short fermentation process, which is about two weeks, and occurs in clay or ceramic vessels. After distillation, the FenJiu is typically aged for an extended period of time, also in ceramic vessels, to filter out impurities and round out the flavor.

Bizmatech14 karma

My favorite part is the lack of the usual aftertaste, so I don't have to worry about burping half an hour later.

CapitalSpirits26 karma

Haha! Yes, the Baijiu Burps are a well known side-effect of cheap Baijiu...the gift that keeps on giving...

mcgillycuddy41217 karma

So correct me if I'm wrong, but Baijiu is basically Chinese gin?

CapitalSpirits51 karma

It is actually very different from gin, although there similarities. They both are colorless, and have a distinct taste that can be difficult to newcomers. Apart from that they are very different. Gin is a botanically-infused spirit, whereas Baijiu gets its flavor not from infusion but from the fermentation process. Gin has a lightly fruity, waxy, medicinal taste, but apart from that is very neutral. Baijiu makes you notice! It can taste hot, spicy, salty, smokey, savory, and some are very heavy on esters.

Gin is also commonly mixed into cocktails, whereas Baijiu is brand new territory. We've been reaching out to mixologists all over the world and coming up with some really delicious stuff!

jobeijing11 karma

What's the best strong aroma baijiu you have in your bar?

CapitalSpirits33 karma

The Guojiao 1573. It's made by Luzhou Laojiao. It is fermented in mud pits that have been in continuous usage since 1573. It is the oldest Baijiu distillery still producing today. The flavor of strong aroma Baijiu is dependent on the pits from which it comes. The most complex flavors come from the oldest pits, and its the oldest Baijiu pit in China.

Another one we really like is Jiannanchun (Sword Southern Spring), also from Sichuan, the historical home of strong aroma Baijiu.

tomatobeef10 karma

Are you aware of LA's Peking Tavern?? They've been serving Baijiu and baijiu cocktails for a couple years now.

CapitalSpirits7 karma

They are at the top of my to-do list for my next trip to LA, but I've never been there personally.

salve_sons2 karma

Yeah, I don't understand how revolutionary it is to open a bar in Beijing and serve the alcohol everyone drinks over there. But if you can add some hint of hipster fine taste to it? There's a lot of bars in Beijing anyway, but some target the foreign population looking for something artisan. Still, sake is the only asian white liquor worth drinking...

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Sake is not a liquor.

Darth_Trader_Jiu10 karma

With or without ice?

CapitalSpirits23 karma

Baijiu is traditionally drank neat, room temperature and unmixed in tiny, thimble-sized 10mL glasses. Lots of mixologists have been experimenting with Baijiu cocktails in recent years. Our signature cocktail is the Baijiu Sour. It's good!

lululag10 karma

I feel like baiju with ice would be gross.

CapitalSpirits15 karma

Depends on the Baijiu to be honest. Bill likes to have his WuLiangChun, a mid-range strong aroma Baijiu from Sichuan, on the rocks with a squeeze of fresh lime.

fuckthisthread8 karma

Can you give me the address? I live in Shandong and will be going to Beijing Saturday to meet some friends and would like to stop by. Do you guys have wechat for your bar?

CapitalSpirits14 karma

Our official WeChat ID is "Capital-Spirits" You can get the address there.

Saturday is World Baijiu Day! DEFINITELY stop by!! We open at 8pm.

Youre_awesome_so_i7 karma

Where are all of you individually from and what brought you all to China?

CapitalSpirits18 karma

Bill and David are cousins and are from Florida.

Matthias and Johannes are from Germany.

Julia is from France.

We all were brought here by airplanes. :P

YS151187 karma

What are your opinions of MaoTai and WuLiangYe? They sre immensely expensive and quite famous among the Chinese people as being expensive gifts.

CapitalSpirits10 karma

They are classic brands, and their high (possibly too high) price makes them a good gift for someone looking to impress. I think that as far as their top-shelf offerings are concerned, they're both fantastic baijiu, but if you can't afford them there are other products made by less prestigious distilleries that will get the job done.

sotamatt6 karma

Thoughts on Maotai? I drank it over there with my friends trying to impress people. I have a bottle of it sitting on a shelf here and I'm waiting to indulge.

CapitalSpirits9 karma

It depends on if it is real or not. There are a lot of fakes. There are more Maotais sold each year than are produced by the Maotai factory.

Not everybody likes the "sauce jiang酱" aroma Baijius. They are probably the most acquired taste of them all. But the people who do swear by it. I recommend you try it with some salty snacks and some pickles to go between sips. Don't drink it like you would a vodka or something similar. It is a different experience. Drink it very slow and try and suss out the flavors. It is very complex and takes over nine months to produce.

Fun fact: When the Communists were fanning out in the Chinese countryside recruiting young soldiers, they didn't have many resources or support to maintain the civil war against the Nationalists or the Japanese. After entering Guizhou province, a family that had been making Baijiu in the locality supplied the Red Army with Baijiu, and that was Maotai. That's how it became the official national drink of China.

SatansLH6 karma

I've never heard of Baijiu. What are the base ingredientsfor it? I gathered from some of the answers that in some cases it's distilled fermented sorghum but are there other ingredients you can use? Are there certain restrictions as to where it can be produced like Bourbon or Champagne? Can it be produced in the US? Are there restrictions on ingredients to still be considered Baijiu?

CapitalSpirits8 karma

Great question. What makes a Baijiu a Baijiu is the fermentation process. So long as a spirit is made through solid-state fermentation, it can be considered a Baijiu, regardless of where or what it is made of. Another definition is any alcoholic spirit made in China is a Baijiu. But this will probably collapse over time as Baijiu is more and more appreciated abroad and has strict standards applied to its production.

The most commonly used grain is sorghum as you said. However, Baijius are also often made from a cocktail of different grains. Wuliangye, one of the most famous and expensive Baijius, is made from rice, glutinous rice, wheat, corn and sorghum.

iamPause6 karma

Why is it notorious?

CapitalSpirits10 karma

Great question lol. It's notorious because a lot of foreigners come to China and have a bad experience with Baijiu. It is a very strong spirit with a distinct taste that can be difficult for the uninitiated. You'll hear stories of Baijiu that tastes like rocket fuel. Not far from the truth.

edibubble5 karma

I have tried baijiu only once - a bottle of something called Confucius Wisdom. It was the worst thing I've ever tasted, had a truly foul aroma, and was overall utterly undrinkable.

Is this a typical example of the drink?

CapitalSpirits9 karma

Confucious Wisdom already sounds like it'll taste terrible. Sorry you had that experience.

Tangsta15 karma

I am not sure if it was because our host was forcing us to drink shot after shot of Baijiu when I was visiting Dengfeng but I have heard, and vaugely remember from experience, that Baijiu is an especially potent liquor. Is there any truth to this?

CapitalSpirits9 karma

Baijiu ranges between 32% on the low-end to over 70%. Our guess is you had something on the high side.

Flippy285 karma

How is your business actually going? Are you turning a profit yet?

CapitalSpirits12 karma

We've been doing quite well since the beginning due to a unique concept, we are the first baijiu bar in the world, and the locals are fascinated by this.

genzgasse5 karma

Is baijiu flammable?

CapitalSpirits9 karma

Some are. We have a shot here which is 50% snake-infused Baijiu (yes, snake) that is topped with 67% "Hengshui 衡水" aroma Baijiu and then lit on fire.

reallyfasteddie5 karma

I am a Canadian living outside Dalian. Do you know any good local baijiu? I like 50% or stronger. I like to drink a glass or two with dinner.

CapitalSpirits6 karma

There are a number of good Dongbei baijius I could recommend. Yuquan makes a nice mixed-aroma (part strong, part sauce) and Daoguangnianwu makes one that's really unique. Beidacang is a great inexpensive sauce aroma. But if you like the strong stuff try Yushuqian.

buttwhole_keyi_ma4 karma

What are the challenges that your business must overcome to survive in the years to come?

What odds do you give that you guys will go out of business?

Is your target customer a westerner or a local?

CapitalSpirits7 karma

Our customers are about half Chinese and half foreign. The Chinese customers appreciate seeing their traditional spirit presented in a new and fun way, while the foreign customers enjoy receiving an educational approach to the world's most misunderstood spirit.

EDIT: We are doing pretty well now, so hopefully we won't go out of business! I think the biggest challenge is getting people to understand Baijiu to get past its bad reputation that has come about through misguided introductions and the aggressive social drinking culture in China.

Whatley444 karma

Hello, I actually have a couple questions!

I was gifted two bottles of Wuliangye 1618 from my wife's father (my in-laws are Chinese). I am wondering if they have an expiry date and/or when the best time to drink it is? I want to keep them for many years and wanted to know if they would still be good to drink? Also would aging them increase the value of them at all?

CapitalSpirits8 karma

They are distilled spirits and they will improve with time. With the way the market is going, they will most likely be worth much more in years to come.

Darth_Trader_Jiu4 karma

Are you guys getting drunk on baijiu during this AMA? If so, what baijiu are you drinking?

CapitalSpirits10 karma

Yes! We are drinking lots of different kinds.

Bill and Julia are drinking Xingtian, on the rocks, a corn-based Baijiu from Hubei that you could say is a Chinese moonshine.

Matthais is drinking a Baijiu Sour cocktail made from Guilin Sanhua.

David's drinking Xifengjiu, neat, a "phoenix 凤" aroma Baijiu from Shaanxi.

letsrapforit4 karma

I dated a Chinese man and visited china last year. It was my 21st birthday and decided to drink baijiu for the first time, not knowing its... capabilities.

Half a bottle later, I vomit everywhere and continue doing so for the next day.

No hangover though? Can anyone tell me why?

CapitalSpirits8 karma

First off, I wouldn't recommend drinking half a bottle of any hard liquor in one sitting. Second, you probably had no hangover because you barfed the booze out of your system.

DanielSank3 karma

Why do native Chinese speakers who also speak English call baijiu a "wine"?

Aside: This terminology lead to me being unpleasantly surprised when I tasted baijiu because I expect something with the sweet floral taste of grape wine, whereas of course baijiu is really straight up liquor. It's kind of the same effect as how if you expect a coke and accidentally pick up a beer it tastes really bad.

dsandhaus2 karma

The Chinese word jiu 酒 means something like "alcoholic beverage," but shifts meaning according to context. For example, huangjiu 黄酒 means "yellow wine," whereas baijiu 白酒 means "white spirits." So it's really a translation issue, in that it's used to mean wine and spirits interchangeably in Chinese.

CapitalSpirits6 karma

Well said. It's just a mistranslation. Perhaps in ye olden times, wine was the only foreign alcohol that made it to Chinese shores, so it stuck?

AssBoon923 karma

Holy shit, that's the stuff that we bought for like 8 yuan in a convenience store. It was not good. But I don't know that I would drink a $1.10 bottle of Vodka either.

Do they still shoot hard liquor after Gambei? We did it with Snow beer. It was funny the first few times, but good lord, did they drink heavily.

CapitalSpirits2 karma

The ganbei is a time-honored tradition, but it's a rough introduction to any hard liquor. If you must ganbei, make sure it's with something that costs considerably more than 8 yuan.

boredquick3 karma

First, congrats on bringing baijiu to mainland America. Second, any ideas on how to win the public over on a Chinese produced liquor when, in my opinion, most Chinese domestically produced consumables (foodstuffs, etc) have a generally negative viewpoint from the public?

BTW, have had legit maotai (something like $200+ for a 500ml?) and I thought it was delicious. I think most foreigners have had baijiu, or so they think, when they got a $20 USD bottle of it at a Carrefour.

CapitalSpirits4 karma

We are based in China, but definitely want to work towards broadening baijiu's appeal in the US. I think you are right that there is a generally negative impression of Chinese consumables, but all baijiu produced for export is subjected to the same rigorous US safety standards as any imported spirit, so one need not worry on that account. Education is the key to baijiu's ability to crack overseas market.

sagebeard3 karma

any more reasonably priced baiju I should try? so far only really had moutai, wuliangye and some other big shot/expensive bottle with blue labeling. not too terribly fond of them due to then fairly strong alcohol sting.

Though I must admit that, despite the high alcohol contents, the flavour and aroma is so strong that even a relatively young/inexperienced person can taste through the alcohol. seems to be easier to differentiate than with scotch and cognacs...?

For some reason, moutai reminds me of a calvados I once had in some french village...

CapitalSpirits3 karma

If you're finding the burn to be too much, I recommend trying the baijius of Guilin Sanhua or Xinghuacun Fenjiu.

dafuq4533 karma

Do you have processes in place to deal with imitations and fake wines? In my experience the higher the grade of goods the more likely imitationa are to be produced. How do you guard against dodgy stock?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

We've gained quite a reputation with major producers who like that we're opening up new markets for Baijiu. Most of our premium Baijius come direct from the manufacturers. The mid-range Baijiius are not as valuable and so you don't really have to worry about knock-offs.

AustinxRyan3 karma

Are you planning on expanding to other country's? Stuff like this could be a hit in America we're always looking for new stuff to drink.

CapitalSpirits10 karma

Yes! We are seeking like-minded people to help us introduce people abroad to Baijiu culture. Half of us here on staff are Americans. Decades ago, tequila used to be a totally weird thing to us. The ritual with the lime and salt, as well as popularization through music and theme parties made it mainstream. Could the same thing happen with something as exotic as Baijiu? Let us know...

Longnez3 karma

From what I tried, cocktails with baijiu ended up quite foul-tasting. What kinds of stuff do you use in your cocktails?

I prefer to drink baijiu while eating, since I find it goes very well with Chinese food, and to finish with a whisky or cognac if there are still people standing, but I wouldn't mind trying a few cocktails for fun.

CapitalSpirits7 karma

Well, we'll tell you how we make our Baijiu Sour:

  • 50mL of rice aroma Baijiu (we use Guilin Sanhua)
  • 10mL of Cointreu liqueur
  • 5mL of concentrated lemon juice
  • a dash of orange bitters
  • juice of one kaffir lime

Shake and serve on ice.

Yes, Baijiu is definitely best with food or snacks. The Chinese drink when they eat. If you come to China, you'll be amazed by how people behave in restaurants. They are loud, wild and rowdy, because that's where they go to party. The idea of a bar here, a place where people just go to congregate and drink, is an import. The flavor of Baijiu as it has evolved through history has been perfected and refined to go with Chinese food.

Come by and try a cocktail on the house!

two_off3 karma

What makes it deeply rewarding compared to other hard liquors?

CapitalSpirits6 karma

Baijiu comes on you slow. If you drink it the proper way with food, it will slowly build a warmth. Much like there is a Tequila drunk, a Whisky drunk, etc, there is a Baijiu drunk. And it is marvelous.

TheXigua3 karma

My question is what is it about Baijiu that gives it the ability to overpower literally anything it is mixed with?

Like many here my first and only experience with baijiu was bringing some back with me after a college trip to China. From what I remember I had a cheap, medium, and expensive bottle (15RMB, 75RMB, and 350RMB).

Like we made a scorpion bowl with about 3 shots worth of the expensive stuff and all anyone could smell was the Baijiu despite it being mixed with whiskey, tequila, vodka, rum and about 12 different fruit juices.

CapitalSpirits3 karma

One of the key selling points for spirits in China is the strength of their fragrance. Chinese spirits are distilled differently than Western spirits, in a way that produces aggressive punchy flavors. This can make mixing more difficult. That said, some styles of baijiu, like light-aroma and rice-aroma are more delicate and much easier to mix. Choosing the right style is really key.

TheXigua4 karma

Thanks for the reply, the next time I am in Beijing, I will definitely stop by!

CapitalSpirits3 karma

Fantastic. We'll be glad to see you.

freeflyrooster2 karma

Chemist here, always been interested in distillation and fermentation. (Several question warning)

I just read your reply about fenjiu and it fermenting in ceramic vessels.

Is the ceramic material aspect all-important or just tradition?

What distillation method you use? Copper still?

How has a sorghum beverage done in the west? Iirc historically they haven't done well outside of the eastern countries (and Africa maybe?) Because of its bitterness

CapitalSpirits2 karma

There are said to be a host of minerals in the ceramic which enhances the flavor of the final product, not sure of the legitimacy of this, could just be tradition.

We don't use any stills. some Baijiu producers use pot stills, while other more potent ones use column stills, some but not all are copper. Remember there are over 10,000 Baijiu distilleries in China, many different methods are used to create Baijiu.

I think sorghum is gaining popularity in the west now due to the whole gluten-free movement. I know several gluten-free beers are made from sorghum.

freeflyrooster2 karma

That's cool! How do you get your abv to the 50-70% mark without a distillation method? Are you using some sort of super saiyan yeast?

Has anyone ever done studies of different types of baijiu fermented in different container types and do you need a chemist? Lol

CapitalSpirits2 karma

All Baijius are distilled, the high ABV comes from distillation.

"Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits" is available on Amazon and goes in-depth on the different styles of fermentation used in Baijiu production. Definitely worth checking out.

Pstyles0012 karma

I hear there is no hangover from drinking baijiu, is that true?

6ca22 karma

No hangovers when you're dead

CapitalSpirits30 karma

LOL grow a pair :)

CapitalSpirits20 karma


It depends on the quality of the Baijiu you are drinking, just like any other alcohol.

Arknell2 karma

Is it like soju?

CapitalSpirits6 karma

The rice aroma "mi 米" ones are similar, but the Baijiu that most people are familiar with is waaaaaaaay stronger! Each category of Baijiu is as different from the other as whisky is from vodka. The word "baijiu 白酒," which translates to white alcohol, is a catch-all for any distilled spirit produced in China. There are more than 10,000 unique distilleries here.

Arknell3 karma

Oooh. So it's just a word for "booze" but can be as different as gin vs dark rum?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Bai means "white" and jiu means "booze," yes. It is sometimes mistranslated as "white wine." If you want to have a laugh, give someone Baijiu and tell them it is white wine.

Darth_Trader_Jiu2 karma

What's the best baijiu that retails under 50 kuai in China?

CapitalSpirits7 karma

Anything typically under 100 kuai is not a real Baijiu, meaning it is not produced by traditional methods.

Having said that, if you are at a restaurant in Chia and want to get a Baijiu to go along with your dinner, anything that comes in a cardboard box around 50 RMB (~$9) might be drinkable, but will wear on you over time. It'll just be mass-produced industrial alcohol. Buyer beware.

dsandhaus2 karma

I heard you guys put Viagra in your baijiu, is that true? And if so, will you save some for me?

CapitalSpirits1 karma

That was shady producers that have nothing to do with us. We linked the news story on our website here.

cdawg922 karma

Baiju, personally, is just too strong for my tastes. How do you convince people to like it?

CapitalSpirits6 karma

We present different styles of Baijiu side by side, enabling people to compare and contrast the widely diverse host of flavors that can be found in Baijiu. Oftentimes, people don't like every Baijiu presented, but most people wind up enjoying one or two of the styles. We convert about 90% of the people who come to our bar, many of whom come in claiming that they hate Baijiu.

vger_2 karma

I'm very interesting in trying baijiu. However, I won't be going to China any time soon, and I don't speak or read any Chinese. Though I do have several Chinese grocery stores nearby. How can I recognize a decent baijiu? Should I be wary of bottles with english or pinyin on the label? Also, is it pronounced like it's spelled, or will I sound like an idiot asking for "BUY-jew"? Thanks for doing the AMA!

CapitalSpirits5 karma

It is pronounced BYE-joe. If you want to be really authentic, it is BYE with the second tone, and joe with the third tone. So say "BYE" like you are asking a question (BYE?) and then joe like you are doing vocal fry. Like as low as you can possible say it. Then the Chinese will know you are a badass and show you the real stuff.

Most quality Baijius will have both English and pinyin (romanization of Chinese) on the label. If it looks cheap, it probably is. Most Baijius in the US and EU will be authentic because a low-grade Baijiu wouldn't be imported. If it comes in a ceremonial-looking bottle that's a good sign.


I've only had some stuff my friend brought back from Beijing to drink "as a dare." It was apparently the total cheapest shit you can buy out there, and tasted like a combo of hate, sadness, and despair.

I live in the US, and really want to try what good stuff tastes like. Do you know of any companies that import the good stuff? It sounds interesting, but the bad stuff was worse than well tequila.

CapitalSpirits8 karma

Baijiu ranges from the absolutely horrid to some of the finest alcohol you can experience. It's a big country with a huge population and a corresponding range of quality.

Also, make sure you are drinking it correctly. If you are shooting it like wells tequila, that's the problem. Good stuff should be sipped slowly with food and appreciated like a fine brandy.

NafinAuduin2 karma

I work a stones throw from Chinatown in San Francisco, and I love new liquors. What brand of Baijiu should I look for if I want to try one of the strong flavored or aromatic ones here in the states? Got a cocktail that involves jack fruit? I still have ten pounds in my freezer from my last adventure in Chinatown.

CapitalSpirits4 karma

Wuliangye, Jiannanchun or Luzhou Laojiao are excellent and should pair well with your jack fruit.

NafinAuduin2 karma

I have located and acquired Jiannanchun. This should make for an interesting evening!

CapitalSpirits2 karma

That's great. Let us know what you think.

testosterOWN2 karma

Hi. I'm gonna be in Beijing for a week at the beginning of September to train for a job! I'll definitely have to try to find this place and check it out. My only experience with Baijiu is while studying abroad in China, which basically meant getting shitfaced on 12 kuai bottles from the grocery mart haha! Here's a question. We usually bought Baijiu for how incredibly cheap it was while also getting you insanely drunk (though it was tough to get down. ha) How much does the more delicious, high quality stuff cost at your bar? Also, where can you find this 'good' Baijiu for mad cheap?

Thanks from a young, poor, soon to be expat in China :D

CapitalSpirits4 karma

Well, we are one of the few if not the only Baijiu bars in the world! Most Chinese people who drink good Baijiu are very familiar with "the market" and know what to get and where to get it when they have business or family dinners. For foreign students and the like, it can be a bit harder to get the good stuff, so they usually resort to the cheap and powerful stuff. Which, for a student, is pretty awesome...haha

We offer a variety of flights that will allow you to sample premium Baijius. Come by next month when you are here and you won't leaving standing.

Sunfried2 karma

In your cocktails, are you mixing Baijiu with any western staple spirits like whisky, gin, tequila, or are they more about Baijiu plus mixers? Does Baijiu work with bitters and/or amari?

CapitalSpirits5 karma

We have two approaches to Baijiu cocktails. The first is just making a classic cocktail where we replace the liquor with Baijiu. The second is one where we showcase the special of flavor, which is a lot tricker. But to answer your question, we use Campari, rum, tequila, limoncello , and many other ingredients, including orange bitters in our cocktails.

Our signature cocktail the Baijiu Sour uses orange bitters.

CapitalSpirits3 karma

You can mix a rice aroma Baijiu as you would a vodka or a gin for the most part. Yes bitters work very well

crazazyasian13372 karma

What kind of western food do you guys think baijiu pairs well with?

CapitalSpirits4 karma

We've been experimenting. Blue cheeses go great with the stronger aroma Baijius, smoked meats and salty stews, especially chili go great with the light aroma Baijius.

nomadicoregonian2 karma

I've lived in China for over a decade and had my fair share of baijiu is various forms - what is your particular favorite, and what region in China does it come from? Also, have you heard about any of the "American baijiu" productions that are apparently now being done in the Pacific Northwest?

CapitalSpirits4 karma

Typically we prefer Sichuanese strong aroma Baijius, but that's just us. Every province and township and village has its own unique Baijiu. It's an alcoholic anthropologist's dream.

We've heard of some of these Pacific Northwest Baijius, and we are dying to try them!

cantRYAN2 karma

First off, Good for you guys! I love seeing entrepreneurial ideas like yours exposing the west to Eastern culture! From your experience, what is the best way to get the baijiu smell off your breathe the morning after? 谢谢!

CapitalSpirits7 karma


meteorii2 karma

I've visited Hong Kong a few times but never saw any Baijiu (though to be fair, I was a kid) - is it popular there as well? If it is, where would you recommend trying some Baijiu?

CapitalSpirits3 karma

Southeastern China was never a big baijiu-drinking region, as they have long preferred rice wines. However, you can still find a number of delectable rice baijiu brands at local Chinese markets throughout Hong Kong.

gbana2 karma

Do you have any advice, know of any specific programs (free or scholarship), or other tips for an American like me who wants to study Chinese in China?

CapitalSpirits1 karma

Don't drink too much baijiu and flunk out of school.

kanada_kid2 karma

Baijiu always seems to give me some kind of throat infection. It would leave my throat dry and 不舒服. This might be more of a hard liquor problem than a Bajiu problem but I never had this issue with Vodka and I drank that shit straight (nor with 151).

What's going on?

CapitalSpirits4 karma

If you get a throat infection from drinking baijiu you should see a doctor at once. Life is too short to not be able to drink baijiu.

OK_Soda2 karma

I tried to order erguotou, which I understand is a form of baijiu, in a bar in Beijing once, and after a lot of difficult communication, the guy told me in broken English, "it's just whiskey" and gave me a Crown Royal. I later asked a Chinese grad student I knew if she knew what I was talking about, and she produced a small bottle she had and was confused that I wanted to drink it because she said it was for sterilizing wounds. So my question is, what is erguotou?

CapitalSpirits4 karma

Erguotou is a form of light-aroma baijiu that originated in Beijing notable for short fermentation and aging periods. It's distilled from sorghum in pots. It's cheap to produce, not particularly complex, and probably the most widely available style of baijiu anywhere in the world. It's not the best, but it's not bad for the under-$5 range.

dihydrogen_monoxide2 karma

Do ya'll do any moutai drinks?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

No, Maotai is such a potent spirit that it obliterates the flavor of anything else you try to mix it with.

WeenieLoft2 karma

For someone with a bottle of Mao Tai in their cabinet,and has absolutely hated it. Do you have a cocktail recipe you would recommend?

kingbeerex3 karma

I can only advise- don't mix it! It makes it ten times worse. Just drink with spicy food...

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Some people have experimented with Maotai, but it's a really complex flavor profile that makes it difficult to use as the base to a cocktail. My advice for using it in a cocktail would be in extreme moderation, like in a wash to give a savory cocktail a little extra something.

Sgeng2 karma

Hi, I live in Upstate New York and I don't think there's any liquor stores that carry baijiu around me. If i were to buy one online, do you have any idea what type of baijiu you would recommend? Thanks

CapitalSpirits3 karma

A great place to start is with Luzhou Laojiao, an excellent and reasonably priced strong-aroma baijiu that is available in some parts of the US.

Bitasu2 karma

My dad has a bottle of MaoTai from the 80s that he claims is very valuable and would sell in the thousands of dollars range, does such a thing exist?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

If you can verify that it is real, it may very well be worth thousands.

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Absolutely. The Kweichow Moutai Distillery started operations in 1951, and has long been the most celebrated brand in China. Some of their older bottles fetch high prices at auction. Whether one from the 80s would be worth thousands, I can't say, but it's worth looking into if you want to sell it.

TheLongGame2 karma

I keep a fair amount of liquor from Asia in my cabinet. Got Jinro 24 and Hwayo 23 soju, Sang Som Thai rum(though they call it whisky for some reason) and a bottle of Red Star Erguotou baiju. I normally mix the Red Star with cream soda or orange soda, will have to try the Baiju Sour. Any other drink recommendations?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

I think light-aroma baijiu mixes well with citrus fruit, passion fruit is a particularly tasty option.

PalebloodMcFluffins2 karma

Long shot, but do you guys have any idea what this is? A friend gave it to my brother but we have no idea if it's any good. We weren't fans of most of the baiju we had there lol.

CapitalSpirits2 karma This looks like a very nice bottle of Sitir: Dongfangyun, which is a uniquely "special" aroma Baijiu from Jiangxi provence.

liamsnorthstar2 karma

How similar is this rice wine to sake?

CapitalSpirits3 karma

Well, few Baijius are made entirely out of rice. Also, Baijiu is distilled (like a vodka) and sake is not (like a wine or beer), so Baijiu is very different from sake.

ratava9112 karma

I've always thought Baiju smells and tastes like fresh pineapple.. however, noone agrees with me. Have you ever heard people noting it's likeness to pineapple?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

In my early experiences with Baijiu I always described the taste as pineappley, but I would say that what you had were mostly strong aroma Baijius, which are a bit fruiter in flavor.

enderroark2 karma

My family background is Taiwanese. I'm wondering what Kaoliang is vs. baijiu. is it a type of baijiu or are they different?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

JinMenGaoLiang is a light aroma Baijiu.

zaperia2 karma

Only way I've been able to drink baijiu is to mix it with ice tea, do you guys mix it with anything to make it taste better? I did probably drink the cheapest one.

CapitalSpirits2 karma

There are plenty of great ways to spice up a baijiu. You can go the cocktail route—we make a few at the bar—or also infuse it with herbs and spices, which can really round out and tone down the flavor of a cheaper baijiu.

ABondaxFan2 karma

Where in Beijing are you? I'll be back later this summer.

CapitalSpirits3 karma

大菊胡同3号 (DaJuHutong #3), we look forward to seeing you.

ObeseAU2 karma

is there a difference between rice wine and Baijiu?
my girlfriend always serves hot Saké to me and i used to hate it but it has grown on me, is baijiu any different?
Last question, is it available in it's current form outside of china or do you need to travel to the country for the authentic experience?

Thanks for doing this AMA, i wish you luck in your groovy business idea!

CapitalSpirits2 karma

Rice wine is made 100% out of rice, few Baijius are. Most Baijius contain sorghum which has a very distinct flavor. Also, Baijiu is distilled while sake is not, so Baijiu is typically much, much stronger. To be honest, the two taste nothing alike.

Baijiu can be found in most major cities around the world, especially ones with a large Chinese community. August 8th is World Baijiu Day, check out the website to see if there are any events near you and you can try the spirit for yourself.

utdaydar2 karma

Is baijiu available in many liquor stores in the US? I currently live in Chicago and I imagine there is probably a place in chinatown I could get some. What kind would you recommend for someone who usually drinks whiskey or scotch?

CapitalSpirits3 karma

Baijiu is tough to find in the US, but that's starting to change. Some of the major brands have begun rollouts of their products, but mostly in California and New York, though I imagine Chicago won't be far behind. For someone who likes scotch, you'll probably want to start with a strong-aroma. The taste profiles are very different, but this category gives you a good sense of baijiu's complexity and is generally more approachable than sauce-aroma.

CleftDub2 karma

In Taiwan we have GaoLiang. Is it much different from BaiJiu? I'm pretty sure it is the same thing, but could be wrong.

CapitalSpirits3 karma

You are correct. Gaoliang is essentially a form of erguotou light-aroma baijiu, though they make it with considerably more flair in Taiwan.

mblenner2 karma

One time while I was travelling in China, I saw an employee at the hotel where I was staying use Baijiu to remove left-over adhesive from stickers that had been put up in the elevator. Considering I had consumed a lot of the stuff the night before, it definitely made me a bit uneasy. Are there any above-normal safety concerns with drinking Baijiu? If not, maybe you have some tips about other practical uses of Baijiu, like removing stuck on adhesive?

CapitalSpirits5 karma

Truth serum... gateway to another dimension... cooking wine...

ting_bu_dong2 karma

What are the visa restrictions when operating a bar in China as primary employment?

Are you able to obtain a temp/perm resident permit, or is it a duration based consultant-type visa (requiring exiting and reentering the country every two or three months)?

CapitalSpirits2 karma

The visa restrictions would be the same as operating any other business in China. None of us work at the bar as a primary form of employment, we all have day jobs with legitimate visas.

CapitalSpirits1 karma

Hi all, this is Derek Sandhaus, author of Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits, filling in for my friends at Capital Spirits. It's bedtime in Beijing, so I'll be fielding some questions on their behalf.

Deutschmeister8881 karma

Do you guys know elephant mountain? Best baijiu I've ever had in the states.

CapitalSpirits9 karma

We carry it here! It's really well received because it's one of the most mixable Baijius out there.

VTdaxiong1 karma


CapitalSpirits2 karma

Why not?

10050101-1 karma

The worlds first baijiu bar?? Have you ever been to China??

CapitalSpirits1 karma

Chinese people don't drink Baijiu in bars. They drink it in restaurants, at home, at fancy banquets and business meetings.

Chinese drink beer and western spirits at clubs and karaoke bars.