Category Archives: Liquor

I Will Never Drink This

In the earlier days of the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic, nearly everything in Changzhou but supermarkets were closed. You couldn’t go out to eat, and you couldn’t sit in a bar and chat with your friends over a beer. Life was rather boring, and that is not a complaint, either. Watching the news coming out of Hubei was highly depressing, and I always said, “If boredom is your biggest complaint, than you have nothing to complain about.”  There is only so much TV you can binge watch. Looking at social media was tantamount to witnessing the collective mental breakdowns of multiple people.I just couldn’t stay at home all day. Besides, I am a travel writer, and traveling in a time of an epidemic is a bad idea. I spent a lot of time in local supermarkets, though. By the way, “Fuked Mart” in the above picture may look like Chinglish, but it’s actually just misspelled Pinyin for the name 福客多 fu ke duo. There, I looked at nearly every label and product as if I were in a lending library.

I never go hunting for Chinglish, but as an native speaking English teacher in China, it always seems to find me. Yet, in what felt like endless days milling around supermarkets, I spent a lot of time in the alcohol aisles. I discovered that smaller, less corporate grocery stores sometimes carry lesser known baijiu and rice wines that their larger competitors lacked. For example, at Fuked, they have a very good variety of ginseng liquor, which is something I actually like quite a bit. And, then, to my surprise, I found this.

Somebody with absolutely no knowledge of Chinese wouldn’t be disturbed by this. The characters 三鞭酒 sanbianjiu translates as “Three Penis Liquor” or “Three Penis Wine.” It is a drink that that is infused with the reproductive units of three different male animals: usually a dog, a seal, and a deer. As a foreigner, it’s easy to get offended or horrified by some Chinese food and drink traditions. But, hey — I chose to live and work in this country, so it’s not my place to judge. Teaching English here is a privilege and not a right. There is a history here, though, with what seems like an obscene beverage to an American mind. Traditional Chinese Medicine has treated phallic organs as natural remedies for male vitality and virility. Essentially, drinking this stuff is supposed to raise a man’s libido, so it’s intended to be the TCM version of Viagra.

But, this also reminds me of something I often tell my university students. They often like to ask whether or not I like Chinese food. My response is always, “I’m willing to try 90% of it. However, there are some places I just can’t go — animal heads or faces, for example. Worms.” To that end, a drink with three different types of dick in it is one of those places I just can’t go. Ever. And to anybody who is curious: no, I did not find three penis wine at Fuked Mart.

Danyang’s Green Plum Liqueurs

Sometimes, a few westerners forget that “foreigner in China” does not exactly mean “westerner.” The word is more general than that. Typically, if I am tasked to describe the foreign experience in the Middle Kingdom, I divide all expats into two groups at first: Asian and non-Asian. Simply put, the Japanese, Koreans, Malaysians, and more also do a lot of business here, too. Those cultures actually have a lot more in common than one might think.

Take, for example, plum wine — it’s a huge deal in both Korea and Japan.  Some Americans — like myself — like to go on and on about the steady growth of Chinese craft beer. However, beer isn’t the only non-traditional alcohol the Chinese are trying to make domestic versions of. A good example of this would be 芳歌青梅酒 aka Fang Ge Green Plum Liqueur.

Fang Ge is made in Danyang, Jiangsu province. Personally speaking, it’s a small county-level city to the west of Changzhou — where I live — that is part of the Zhenjiang. The Danyang Yihe Food Company makes this, and they also do Chinese domestic versions of sake. Roasted sesame seed salad dressings too! But, who really cares about the tasty gloop you put on lettuce and raw vegetables? What does this plum booze taste like?

Well, it’s extremely sweet to point you can feel it in the corners of your mouth. However, it never gets overbearing. Some highly sweet liqueurs  have you not wanting more after a glass or two. So,at least, Fang Ge is not too rich. This is about 15%, and while you can’t taste the alcohol, you can feel it hitting your stomach. As drinks go, this is a sipper. Yihe’s website mentions that this can be diluted with warm water, or you can do a spritzer. Both cold, room temperature, and hotter servings are also okay. When you’re drinking it straight, though, it’s best to just be slow. There is another version available.

This looks very much like Japanese umeshu like Choya. Umeshu is a type of liqueur where unripened fruit is steeped into alcohol with some added sugar. The packaging confused me at first. The pull-tab top had me wondering if was supposed to sample it directly from the jar. I poured it into a glass anyway.

It’s lighter in flavor than its counterpart. You might be able to notice in the above photo — it’s lighter in color as well. It’s still sweet, but sipping this doesn’t have that corners of your mouth intensity. Also, this tends to have a raw, unfinished bite to it. I would assume that would be from the unripened plums the alcohol has been marinating. And oh, about that those …

You can eat them! As for which Fang Ge plum liqueur is better, I have to lean towards jar with actual plums. It doesn’t feel as thick in your mouth, and it feels less intense when it comes to its sugar levels.

On a closing note, fruity liqueurs are not my thing. I tend to be more of a beer, whiskey, or baijiu sort of guy. However, I enjoyed slowly drinking both of these enough to want to seek out the other products in Yihe Foods line of alcohol. They have something pomelo based that I am now actively curious about.