Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chinese Moonshine

Three different bottles of baijiu primed for consumption
Rice wine or baijiu is a nasty drink. The strong alcohol content already hits your nose before your lips touch the small glass. And when you drink it, the liquor burns your throat as it goes down. If you have too much of it, your face immediately turns bright read and your head starts throbbing.

Whoever created this fiery concoction and made it a must-have beverage at gatherings must have had internal organs made of steel.

In any event, the baijiu industry has taken a hit now that higher Communist Party officials have decreed that banquet costs have to be cut down to avoid criticisms from the public, tired of them lavishly spending taxpayer dollars.

But how to keep the liquor flowing with visiting officials and other VIPs when baijiu is a must-have on the table?

in the small town of Baishun in Guangdong (population 12,600), the solution is simple -- brew its own rice wine.

Baijiu is a must-have beverage at official banquets
"It's not just cutting costs, but also healthier," one official was quoted as saying in the Southern Rural Daily.

The pressure to cut costs comes as perceived extravagance and corruption are the biggest grievances average Chinese have about officials in the local and provincial levels.

As a result some cities like Wenzhou have not only cut down on liquor, but on expensive brands of spirits, as well as banned shark's fin on the menu at official banquets.

But they haven't gone to the lengths that officials in Baishun have in making their own brew.

The Southern Rural Daily article doesn't explain how the town makes its own rice wine, but basically rice and yeast are mixed together and fermented for a period of time before it turns into a colourless spirit.

One Baishun official was quoted as saying the town consumes about 100 jin (a jin is half a litre) of alcohol a month during official banquets. "When leaders come, we drink close to 20 jin," he said. "When the village and town cadres come, we can't not drink."

The unnamed official even offered rough calculations, explaining that after buying rice, firewood and other costs, the town's rice wine or mijiu costs around 5 RMB ($0.80) per jin. Commercially-made baijiu which has a higher alcohol content and aged for many years can cost several hundred to up to 1,000 RMB a bottle.

However, he did not say where the money saved fro making their own baijiu was used for... which makes one wonder if the officials are setting up their own rudimentary capitalist venture of selling their own moonshine...

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