Baijiu Drinking Guide and Cocktail Recipes

Published March 14, 2022
Bottle of Maotai and a bottle of Wuliangye baijiu liqour

Odds are you've passed baijiu on a liquor store shelf and never even noticed. Baijiu is a white liquor with a very divisive reputation. While the bouquet on the nose is incredibly appealing, as it's often floral, light, and slightly sweet, the flavor can be overwhelming. The singular flavor results from fermentation, but instead of yeast, distillers use Qu instead. The resulting flavor? Well, it's a full-body and complex flavor that some liken to rotting fruit with just a whisper of nuttiness. Don't let this deter you from trying out baijiu cocktails. There's a bold world of flavor in that bottle.

Baijiu Liquor 101

Tiny Baijiu liqueur glass in hand

How do you drink baijiu? Thankfully, this couldn't be simpler. To start, people most often enjoy baijiu liquor on its own and is most often served at room temperature. The traditional way to serve baijiu is neat in a shot glass or other cocktail glass. Only after toasting with your host or guests do you then take the baijiu as a shot, drinking the liquor in just one sip.

The flavor may not be right up your alley just yet, as baijiu is an acquired taste. You didn't start off drinking whiskey neat, either. So start slow, start small, and see if you can locate a baijiu pop-up bar that will help to facilitate your journey. The good news is that there are four main types of baijiu to sample: sauce aroma, strong aroma, light aroma, and rice aroma.

  • Sauce aroma: Baijiu classified as sauce aroma will have the characteristics of soy, sesame, or other savory-umami flavors.
  • Strong aroma: Strong aroma comprises several grain products and has sweeter, sometimes fruity notes such as pineapple or even banana. Some, however, may have a more acidic bouquet.
  • Light aroma: The light aroma is the most accessible for those just starting their baijiu journey. The light aroma baijiu is crisp and clean, with soft fruit or even chamomile notes, making it one of the best options for baijiu cocktails.
  • Rice aroma: Rice gives baijiu a gentler palate, so it's mellower, and some even view it as a distant cousin of Japanese sake.

Baijiu Cocktails

With such a dominating flavor and profile, baijiu demands full attention in any cocktail. However, the forward flavors became more palatable for the uninitiated with a bit of mixing magic.

Baijiu Tonic

Baijiu Tonic

Start simply with a highball-- with the flavors of the baijiu diluted by the tonic water, it adds a refreshing level to this distinctive spirit.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces baijiu
  • ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Ice
  • Tonic water to top off
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a highball glass, add ice, baijiu, and lime juice.
  2. Top off with tonic water.
  3. Stir to mix.
  4. Garnish with lime wedge.

Tropical Baijiu

Tropical Baijiu

Pineapple is a very cutting and sharp citrus flavor, and with just that right amount of sweetness, this balances the baijiu so well.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces baijiu
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Pineapple wedge for garnish, optional

Instructions

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add ice, baijiu, pineapple juice, and simple syrup.
  2. Shake to chill.
  3. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice.
  4. Garnish with pineapple wedge, if desired.

Spicy Baijiu Cooler

Spicy Baijiu Cooler

Add some heat to a baijiu style cooler by adding not just muddled cucumber but muddled jalapeño coins as well. Don't worry, the baijiu flavors won't be lost to the heat.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 jalapeño coins
  • 3-4 cucumber slices
  • 2 ounces baijiu
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Club soda to top off
  • Jalapeño coin for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle jalapeño coins and cucumber slices with simple syrup.
  2. Add ice, baijiu, and lemon juice.
  3. Shake to chill.
  4. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice.
  5. Top off with club soda.
  6. Garnish with jalapeño coin.

A Beautiful Baijiu Pear

Baijiu Pear

Explore the softer sides of baijiu by using a light aroma baijiu, if possible. If not, consider using pear vodka and a splash of simple syrup to soften the baijiu.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce pear nectar
  • ¾ ounce baijiu
  • ¼ ounce elderflower liqueur
  • Ice
  • Pear slice for garnish, optional

Instructions

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add vodka, pear nectar, baijiu, and elderflower liqueur.
  2. Shake to chill.
  3. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice.
  4. Garnish with pear slice, if desired.

Baijiu for Both Beginners and the Curious

Don't be deterred by the new and unusual. You'd miss out on a whole wide world of flavors, not to mention the chance to see just what the most consumed liquor in the world tastes like. Go ahead and join the baijiu boom. Take a chance, take a sip, or give it a shake; whatever or however you do, give it a try.

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Baijiu Drinking Guide and Cocktail Recipes