Emilio Villarruel
Emilio Villarruel
Director of Marketing

Tipsy Travels: Bombastic Baijiu in Beijing

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Tipsy Travels: Bombastic Baijiu in Beijing

This Chinese New Year we visit one of the most widely consumed spirits in the world - Baijiu. China is home to many culinary delights, duck into the hutongs of Beijing to explore more!

When it comes time to discuss my years in China, there’s frankly, quite a lot to unpack. A whirlwind experience, starting with a study abroad trip in my college years ended abruptly with an unplanned departure at the start of the pandemic. A place equally rooted in its 4,000 year old history as its commitment to unprecedented modernization, China offers a lot to uncover for the adventurous traveler.

Growing up in America, prior to visiting China I never really experienced international life. Aside from Detroit-style Chinese food (yes, it’s a thing) and Bruce Lee movies, there was no context to understand the culture shock I’d later experience. The blend of old and new, East and West, pointing out the cultural shifts is not a unique take, but the experience of stepping into it hit me unlike any article ever could. There’s a certain gravitas of “change” there, as if the tectonic plates of modernization and history are constantly grinding together, and changing the landscape of the country at every intersection. 

China, though unabashed in its love of country and tradition, is by no means an unwelcoming place - and while thinking of which fond memories to share to best highlight my experience there, there’s an abundance to choose from. Despite viewing the country through a lens of foreignness and unfamiliarity, I unsurprisingly found common ground quickly with the locals over my love for Chinese food - really, it was love at first bite.

From indulgent, buttery pineapple buns to delightfully crispy Beijing duck to the flavor explosion of spices of Xinjiang-style lamb, China offers up a delightfully broad range for what’s often generalized as simply “Chinese food”. There is such a variety of options, that even as a picky eater, I found constant enjoyment exploring the different regional offerings my friends were eager to introduce me to. If I may risk overstepping a bit in my analysis, there’s a sense in China that their cultural contributions have been overlooked or under-appreciated; and as a Westerner exploring delicacies I didn’t even know existed I can’t help but feel there’s some truth to the sentiment. 

This is not to say that every food experience in China was a pleasant one. While the great meals far outnumber the bad ones, there were a few experiences that brought about as much discomfort to me as it did comedy to onlookers as I attempted to brave a few unconventional eats. China is the first place where I’ve looked forward to my fried chicken order, only to find my meal staring back at me. Using more parts of the animal is admirable, but admittedly also something I learned to quickly ask that they leave out of future orders. Attempts at frog, snake, and turtle (to name a few) were made - to varying degrees of success, and much entertainment to everyone around. Thankfully, any potential faux pas was met with laughter, and a quickly offered cup of baijiu to wash it down (alongside any memories of the experience). 

Baijiu, is a bit of a wild ride, to put it mildly. Ranging between 30% to 60% alcohol by volume it is not a casual sip, you really have to know what you’re getting yourself into. Often served at room temperature, you might be lulled into a false sense of security by its sweet introduction only to be burned by its strong, palate dominating finish. Throughout my time in Beijing, though I usually preferred to start my evenings at Maomaochong (a now-shuttered gin bar tucked away in the traditional hutongs), inevitably an evening would end up huddled around late-night lamb barbecue skewers and a few cups of baijiu

Much like the drink itself, my memories involving baijiu often started sweet, but in short order took a harsh turn - a phenomenon in which I, admittedly, share much of the blame. When it came up in our most recent episode of Late Night Snacks, I described it as “rough” to put it mildly, and while I’m hesitant to malign a much-loved spirit, I have to stand by the fact that when baijiu is involved, you’re playing with fire.

Now, with all that as a disclaimer,  we’ve covered our bases, and well, playing with fire, can be fun. After thinking back on my time in China and many a Beijing evening punctuated by a cup of ‘jiu, I felt compelled to revisit the drink for a bit of nostalgia. Widely cited as the most popular liquor in the world, there has to be something those of us without a bottle in our cabinets are missing. There’s no time like the present to find out, and this next cocktail in our series is my attempt at playing with fire - The Little Dragon. 

The “Little Dragon”

2 oz Tonic Water

1 oz Baijiu
1 oz Gin
.75 oz Cherry Syrup
1 Lemon
1 Orange


  1. Juice your lemon and orange, reserving a sliver of each for garnish
  2. Mix your cherry syrup, baijiu, and gin into a shaker cup
  3. Pour in fresh citrus juice
  4. Shake with ice
  5. Serve with citrus sliver and top with tonic water

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