Tag Archives: Chinese 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.

Jiang Xiaobai and the Spirit of Youth

For some foreigners, there is a misconception about baijiu. Just the word summons the image of crusty old Chinese men chain smoking cigarettes and yelling at each other while drinking and playing either cards or mahjong.  Some of these geezers may or may not sport epic comb-overs. This, of course, is absolutely wrong to levels of absurdity. A more common perception is that of the “Chinese business lunch,” where vast amounts of this sorgum-based grain alcohol is consumed. Well, actually, that does happen a lot. However, the simple reality is that baijiu is just a pervasive part of Chinese culture at all levels and age groups.

Take, for instance, Jiang Xiaobai 江小白. This particular Chongqing brand has had a consistent and heavy marketing strategy aimed at the younger generation. To many respects, Jiang Xiaobai has tried to take on a hip, trendy air. This is especially true with it’s S100. The company has sponsored hip-hop music festivals, street dance competitions, and street art  exhibitions. They also have a separate line of alco-pops and weakened / diluted variations. This drive to be “youthfully contemporary and cool” is evident even in the spirit’s packaging.

The text next to the young woman might be summed up as “not everything important is what you want.” However, it should be noted that this is a hasty and inexact translation on my part. My Chinese is pretty terrible. So, I’m more than likely wrong. Other bits of packaging look like this…

The packaging — in terms of quotes and images — on this 20 RMB small glass  flask changes per bottle are all decidedly emo. But enough about that. What does this taste like? Well, let me slip off one of the cardboard sleeves.

Jiang Xiaobai S100 comes in at 40% alcohol. It goes down pretty smooth and cleanly if you’re drinking it neat. Baijiu notoriously can burn your mouth, throat, and stomach, but the extent of that stems more from quality of each brand and variety. Besides, it’s not uncommon for some baijius to be be much stronger and upwards of 50%. This is not that; it’s relatively mellow.

Giving this the one ice-cube whiskey treatment — or just doing on the rocks — makes it even smoother. However, Chinese people tend to drink their grain alcohols at room temperature, and I would guess” the rocks” treatment is more of an western imposition of loving cold drinks. Quick and dirty mixtures, in my opinion, fare well here.  Sprite Zero goes down easy. So does Coke Zero. It didn’t try fruit juices because I am not a fruity sort of guy. Some people would claim that doing stuff like this is polluting a timehonored Chinese tradition when it comes to their spirits. To them, I would readily remind them that number of the larger Chinese baijiu distillers are encouraging drinkers to find ways to turn their spirits into cocktails. Jiang Xiaobai is no different on their English language website. 

All in all, Jiang Xiaobai is a very decent, cheap, and easily accessible baijiu. I wouldn’t say it’s excellent, but there are forms this particular Chinese spirit that do make you want to vomit up both your stomach and intestines. This is definitely not one of those, and I would definitely buy it again.