Pop Quiz: What was the world’s most consumed form of liquor in 2012?
Answer: You’re wrong.
(We like to give our readers the benefit of the doubt, but seriously, there’s no way you predicted this one.)
The real answer is baijiu (pronounced “bye-joe”), a really intense Chinese liquor that is roughly 110 proof. It’s a clear liquor distilled from sorghum, wheat, or rice. China drank over 11 billion liters of it last year. To put that in perspective, the U.S. (only) drank 600 million liters of vodka. And to further put it into perspective, Russia (only) drank 2 billion liters of vodka. Crazy. 99.5% of all liquor consumed in China is firewater, so if you thought sake was popular, you were sorely mistaken. Have we blown your minds yet?
So, what does it taste like? It’s flammable, it’s pungent and Michael Pareles, manager at the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Beijing said, “I thought it tasted like paint-thinner and felt like a liquid lobotomy.”
The good news? Pareles also said that like many other things in China, he eventually grew to like it. Needless to say, distillers are trying to figure out the best way to bring baijiu to the people of America.
It’s more common in China to consume baijiu with food, but in America, many people choose to drink on an empty stomach. Oh, and the smell and aftertaste are both pretty reminiscent of a trip to the gas station. Because of this, some distilleries are already working to make their baijiu more palatable to American tastes by re-filtering and tweaking recipes. However, we don’t think it needs many adjustments. Remember tequila? And sake? They weren’t always popular in America – but now those days are gone.
Any liquor that is nicknamed “fire water” can earn a place in our liquor cabinet. Welcome to America, baijiu. Take it easy on us.