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Baijiu (Chinese: 白酒; pinyin: báijiǔ, pronounced [pǎɪ̯ t͡ɕi̯òʊ̯]); Cantonese: bak jau, or shaojiu (燒酒) is a Chinese distilled alcoholic beverage. The name baijiu literally means "white liquor", "white alcohol" or "white spirits". Baijiu is often translated as "wine" or "white wine". However, it is actually a distilled liquor, generally about 40–60% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Baijiu is a clear drink usually distilled from sorghum, although sometimes other grains may be used; baijiu varieties produced in southern China are typically made from glutinous rice, while those from northern China are generally made of sorghum, wheat, barley, millet, or occasionally Job's tears. The jiuqu starter culture used in the production of baijiu mash is usually made of pulverized wheat grains.
Because of its clarity, baijiu can appear similar to several other liquors, but generally has a significantly higher ABV than, for example, Japanese shōchū (25%) or Korean soju (20–45%).
Chinese liquor, which has been made for over 5000 years, is characterized by a double semi-solid state fermentation using fungi as the main microbial starter for the saccharification. This is a typical feature of liquors produced in the Far East. Chinese baijiu is mainly brewed with grain except for a few kinds using fruit.
Modern culture 
Chinese people have always celebrated important occasions with alcohol. They will invite their close friends to a drinking session when someone moves into a new house, marries, starts a new business, even when their children get into a good school. In ancient times, soldiers would celebrate by drinking baijiu after winning a battle. If a warrior fell in a battle, his fellows would scatter baijiu on the ground as part of a memorial ceremony. Today, people just play simple finger-guessing, depending on the volume of drink being consumed. A common phrase exchanged would be, “If we are good friends, then bottoms up; if not, then just take a sip”.
Chinese traditionally serve baijiu either warm or at room temperature in a small ceramic bottle. They then pour the baijiu into small cups. Baijiu may be purchased as a set of items consisting of bottles of baijiu, a small heater, and four to six small cups. The serving method and containers are similar to those used for sake and soju, though baijiu differs significantly. Baijiu is generally sold in glass or ceramic bottles and consumed in shot glasses, much like vodka. It is traditional to drink baijiu with food rather than on its own, though the latter is not uncommon.
In 2007, a report in Time magazine mentioned integrating baijiu into cocktails.
Low grades of baijiu can be quite inexpensive; a bottle of roughly 250 mL (8 Ounces) may be purchased for the same price as a can of beer. However, higher grades, which are often aged for many years, often have prices which are artificially manipulated due to the custom of gifting valuables; the highest grade of Wuliangye (五粮液) retails for 26,800 yuan (US$3,375). Some popular varieties of baijiu include Maotai jiu, gaoliang jiu, erguotou, Luzhou Laojiao (Luzhou Old Cellar), and Wuliangye.
Crockery jars of locally-made baijiu
in a liquor store in Haikou
, China, with signs indicating alcoholic content and price per jin
Chinese fermented liquors, or huangjiu, have a wide variety of classification methods, but baijiu are grouped primarily by their fragrance. Baijiu has a distinctive smell and taste that is highly valued in Chinese culinary culture. Connoisseurs of the beverage focus especially on its fragrance.
- "Sauce" fragrance (醬香; pinyin: jiàng xiāng): A highly fragrant distilled liquor of bold character. To the Western palate, sauce fragrance baijiu can be quite challenging. It has solvent and barnyard aromas, with the former, in combination with the ethanol in the liquor, imparting a sharp ammonia-like note. It has been described as stinky tofu crossed with grappa. To the initiated, it is quite delicious and is considered the perfect complement for fine preserved and pickled foods (醬菜, jìang cài). This class is also referred to as "Mao xiang" (茅香), after the best known liquor of this class, Maotai.
- Heavy/thick fragrance (濃香 or 瀘香; pinyin: nóng xiāng or lú xīang): A class of distilled liquor that is sweet tasting, unctuous in texture, and mellow, with a gentle lasting fragrance contributed by the high levels of esters, primarily ethyl acetate. Most liquors of this class are made using Aspergillus type starters. An example of this type of liquor is Five Grains Liquid (Wuliangye, 五粮液) of Yibin.
- Light fragrance (清香 or 汾香; pinyin: qīng xiāng or fēn xiāng): Delicate, dry, and light, with a delectable mellow and clean mouthfeel. The flavours of this distilled liquor is contributed primarily by ethyl acetate and ethyl lactate. An example of this kind of liquor is Fen jiu (汾酒; pinyin: fén jiǔ) of Shanxi.
- Rice fragrance (米香; pinyin: mǐ xiāng): The character of this class of liquor is exemplified by baijiu distilled from rice, such as Tri-Flower Liquor (San Hua jiu, 三花酒) of Guilin. This type of liquor has long history and is made using Rhizopus spp. type starters ("Small starter"). It has a clean mouthfeel and is slightly aromatic aroma, dominated by ethyl lactate with lesser flavour contributions by ethyl acetate.
- Honey fragrance (蜂香; pinyin: fēng xiāng): A class of distilled liquor with the fragrance of honey. Liquors of this class are subtle in flavour and sweet in taste.
- Layered fragrance (兼香 or 復香; pinyin: jiān xiāng or fù xiāng): A class of distilled liquors that contain the characters of "Sauce", Heavy, and Light fragrance distilled liquors. As such, liquors of this class vary widely in their aroma, mouthfeel, and dryness. An example of this type of liquor is Xifeng Jiu (西凤酒; literally "Western Phoenix Liquor"), produced in Fengxiang (Phoenix Flying, 凤翔) County of Shaanxi.
Types of baijiu 
- Fen jiu (汾酒; pinyin: fén jiǔ): this liquor dates back to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (550 AD). It is the original Chinese white liquor made from sorghum. Alcohol content by volume: 63–65%.
- Erguotou (二锅头; pinyin: èrguōtóu; lit. "head of the second pot") is a strong, clear distilled liquor. It is often inexpensive, and thus particularly popular among blue-collar workers across northern and northeastern China. It is probably the most commonly drunk baijiu in Beijing, and is frequently associated with that city. Red Star (红星, hóng xīng) is a popular brand found in Beijing homes everywhere.
- Maotai (茅台; pinyin: Máotái, spelt Moutai on the bottle): this liquor has a production history of over 200 years, originally coming from the town of Maotai, Guizhou. It is made from wheat and sorghum with a unique distilling process that involves seven iterations of the brewing cycle. This liquor became known to the world after winning a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California. Mao Zedong served maotai at state dinners during Richard Nixon's state visit to China, and Henry Kissinger once remarked to Deng Xiaoping that "if we drink enough Maotai we can solve anything". Alcohol content by volume: 54–55%.
- Luzhou Laojiao (泸州老窖): Luzhou Laojiao is one of the most popular liquors within China, with history extending over 400 years. It is famed for the quality of its distillation along with its unique aroma and mouth feel, the latter of which is due to the unique clay used within the brewing environment, which infuses the spirit with the taste it is so renowned for.
- Gaoliang jiu (高粱酒; pinyin: gāoliáng jiǔ): "Gaoliang", commonly written "Kaoliang", is the Chinese word for a specific type of sorghum. The liquor originates from Dazhigu (大直沽, located east of Tianjin), first appearing in the Ming Dynasty. Nowadays, Taiwan is a large producer of Kaoliang. Alcohol content by volume: 54–63%.
- Daqu jiu (大麴酒; pinyin: dà qū jiǔ): Originally from Sichuan with 300 years of history. This liquor is made with sorghum and wheat and is fermented for a long time. Alcohol content by volume: 52%.
- Shuang zheng jiu (雙蒸酒; pinyin: shuāng zhēng jiǔ; lit. "double distilled liquor") and San zheng jiu (三蒸酒; sān zhēng jiǔ, lit. "triple distilled liquor"): two varieties of rice wine from the area of Jiujiang, Jiangxi, made by distilling twice and three times respectively. Alcohol content by volume: 32% and 38–39% respectively.
- Wuliangye (五粮液; pinyin: wǔ liáng yè) is a strong, aged distilled liquor produced in the city of Yibin, in southern Sichuan. Its factory includes, on its grounds, a Liquor History Museum. Wuliangye uses five grains (sorghum, rice, glutinous rice, corn, wheat) as raw material, hence the name—"five grain liquor". The water which is using brew WuLiangYe is from the middle of Min River.
- Jiugui (酒鬼; pinyin: jiǔ guǐ; lit. "drunkard" or "alcoholic"; also called Sot) is a clear distilled liquor made from spring water, sorghum, glutinous rice, and wheat. It is produced by the Hunan Jiugui Liquor Co., Ltd., in the town of Zhenwu, in Jishou county-level city, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, in the western part of the Hunan province, and ranges from 38% to 54% alcohol by volume.
- Meiguilu jiu (玫瑰露酒; sold as Mei Kuei Lu Chiew; pinyin: méiguīlu jiǔ; lit. "rose essence liquor"): a variety of gaoliang jiu distilled with a special species of rose and crystal sugar. Alcohol content by volume: 54–55%.
- Guihua chen jiu (桂花陈酒) is a distilled liquor flavored with Sweet Osmanthus flowers. Its alcohol content is 17-18%.
- Wujiapi jiu (五加皮酒; sold as Wu Chia Pi Chiew; pinyin: wǔ jiā pí jiǔ): a variety of gaoliang jiu with a unique selection of Chinese herbal medicine (including Angelica sinensis) added to the brew. Alcohol content by volume: 54–55%.
- Yuk Bing Siu Zau (玉冰燒酒; Mandarin: yù bīng shāo jiǔ; less commonly known as 肉醪燒, Mandarin: ròu láo shāo): a Cantonese rice liquor with over 100 years of history, made with steamed rice. After distillation, pork fat is stored with the liquor but removed before bottling. Its name probably derives from the brewing process: in Cantonese, yuk ("jade") is a homophone of "meat", and bing means "ice", which describes the appearance of the pork fat floating in the liquor. Cantonese rice wine breweries prospered in the Northern Song Dynasty, when the Foshan area was exempted from alcohol tax. Alcohol content by volume: 30%.
- Sanhua jiu (三花酒; pinyin: sānhuā jiǔ, lit. "three flowers liquor"):photo a rice liquor made in Guilin with allegedly over a thousand year history. It is famous for the fragrant herbal addition, and the use of spring water from Mount Elephant in the region. Alcohol content by volume: 55–57%.
- Zhuyeqing jiu (竹葉青酒; pinyin: zhúyè qīnq jiǔ, lit. "bamboo leaf green liquor"; also spelled Chu Yeh Ching):photo this sweet liquor, produced in Shanxi, is fen jiu brewed with a dozen or more selected Chinese herbal medicines. One of the ingredients is bamboo leaves, which gives the liquor a yellowish-green color and its name. Its alcohol content ranges between 38 and 46% by volume.
- To Mei Chiew (荼薇酒; Mandarin: tú wéi jiǔ) is a Cantonese liquor produced in Xiaolan Town, Zhongshan prefecture-level city, Guangdong province, from rice wine, with added to mei (荼薇) flowers and crystal sugar syrup. Aged for more than one year. 30% alcohol by volume.
- Pi Lu Chiew (碧綠酒; pinyin: bì lǜ jiǔ; lit. "jade/emerald green liquor"):photo Of Wuhan origin, this liquor is infused with Chinese medicinal herbs and sugar.
- Imperial Lotus White Chiew (御蓮白酒; pinyin: yà lián bái jiǔ; lit. "court lotus white liquor"): This is a variety of kaoliang jiu (sorghum liquor), infused with twenty medicinal herbs. It was first produced for the Chinese royal family in 1790.
- Chajiu (茶酒; pinyin: chá jiǔ, literally "tea liquor") is a product of fairly recent origin. It consists of gaoliang jiu flavored with tea leaves and hawthorn berries. It is usually a light reddish brown in color (similar to oolong tea), and varieties made with oolong, green, and black tea are available. Chajiu is produced by several manufacturers, primarily in the Sichuan province. Although the strength differs according to the brand and variety, chajiu ranges between 8% and 28% alcohol by volume.
- Xifeng Jiu
A glass and bottle of Zhuyeqing jiu from Shanxi province
See also 
External links