Domestic Affairs

Baijiu can be a bottle of fun at parties

By Jerry Woods (
Updated: 2011-05-20 13:50
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I would like to suggest an entry to the "things to do before you die" list.

One word. Six letters, four of which are vowels (which sounds like howls and you'll soon know why).

Baijiu (bye chew, but with a "J") is what I call Chinese Moonshine or Chinese Firewater.

Let me go on the record as saying I like baijiu.

Many refer to it as "White Wine," but it is actually a clear drink distilled from sorghum - usually about 50-60% alcohol by volume.

However, the only "winey" things about it are the sounds coming from the mouths of the tasters.

This is often done in combination with facial contortions, involuntary twitching of various body parts, and other sounds never before produced by humans.

Wildly flailing arms - like on someone who has just been unexpectedly flung from the top of a tall building - is also a fairly common reaction.

It is the closest to a religious experience some people will ever get and man oh man it is fun to watch.

I like to bring a small bottle to parties as my evening's entertainment when I am back in America.

"Hey Jason, do you want to try something from China?"

I hand him the bottle.

They are always interested in the Chinese characters and the shape of the bottle - I often buy baijiu based on the packaging, picture on the front, or unique bottle shape.

Then they want to smell it, and this is where I have to be really persuasive to convince them to continue.

Some just laugh, say, "No way!" and then leave (quickly).

Some agree.

After the initial taste shock, it is great fun to watch their eyes roll back into the sockets as they struggle to find an undamaged spot in their brain that can process what has just happened.

It is similar to the moment a shark attacks and their eyes roll back and disappear to protect them from getting gouged out.

Every now and then, after taking a sip, someone will calmly note, "Hey, that's not bad."

I have found those are the types of people I eventually like – unflinching in the face of brain-numbing calamity.

A colleague compared the taste to dirty socks. Eyebrows raised, I was on the verge of asking him to explain exactly how he knew this, but I realized there are some things, like religion and politics, best not discussed at work, and besides, I don't know if I could ever look at him again the same should he truthfully answer.

Other taste comparisons are paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, diesel fuel, swamp water, and other colorful utterances ejected from the unconscious depths during the eyeball rollback phase (I simply call this ERP).

If you are at a party and see someone who looks like they may have just swallowed some glass or ingested poison and only the whites of their eyes are visible, just realize that although the ERP phase is fairly short, it can be extremely entertaining.

The author is the General Manager Of Asian Operations for Automatic Systems, Inc., lived in Shanghai for a year and a half, still travels frequently to China, and is a Tripfilms TripVlogger. Jerry is a guest lecturer on his experiences in China and of the Chinese Culture under the auspices of Dr. Dennis Karney at The University of Kansas Edwards Campus. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the China Daily website.