Baijiu and the ‘Tequila Effect’

Haibao, the mascot to the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, suffering from the 'tequila effect.'

Early on in my (strictly pro bono) drinking career, I became aware of tequila’s inexplicable, perhaps supernatural, ability to alter the course of an evening. Quantity or circumstances matter little – it’s simply the presence of tequila in your bloodstream that seems to be the key factor. As little as a single shot is sufficient to transform a quiet night out with colleagues into a scene from Leaving Las Vegas (or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for that matter).

Why does this happen? I’m not exactly sure, but my knowledge of the occult is limited. Society, for its part, also seems willing to accept tequila at face value. Almost any socially deviant behavior short of triple homicide can be explained away by saying “I was drinking tequila.”

An example. Joe is having an after-work beer with a buddy, and plans to return home afterward to file his taxes. Unexpectedly, the buddy presents salt, lemon and a shot of tequila. The next morning Joe wakes up covered with blood, unaware of his location and with the uneasy feeling that he may have taken part in a Satanic ritual. When questioned about his activities by concerned family members, Joe need merely say “I was drinking tequila last night” and all is forgiven. (Try it if you don’t believe me.)

Only recently, in the aftermath of some of my baijiu forays, have I considered that this phenomenon – what I call the “tequila effect” – may also apply to baijiu consumption.

A couple weeks ago I was visiting a friend of mine in Kunming, let’s call him Scott to protect his identity. We were out to dinner with some of his friends and, ever supportive of my baijiu quest, Scott arranged for several glasses to be brought to the table. Instead arriving in the typical thimble-sized baijiu glass, it was served in beer glasses. Chinese beer glasses aren’t large, say five shots, but Scott insisted that we ganbei (“dry the glass,” i.e. chug it), going so far as to call my manhood into question. One shot of cheap baijiu is hard enough to get down, but five could wipe the smile off a clown’s face. Down it went, threatening to come right back up before settling. Scott had another, which I wisely declined.

I don’t remember leaving the restaurant and entering the nightclub (a gay bar I was later told, though neither Scott nor I picked up on that at the time), but there we were, dancing . . . a lot. I remember patches of the evening.  Failing to find a restroom and improvising, literally on the spot. Scott making out with a stranger on a very public raised platform, before mysteriously vanishing and not returning my calls. Our coats, for reasons unclear, in a pile outside the club at the end of the night. The ride back to Scott’s apartment, alone. Explaining to the security guard that my friend had taken a woman back to the apartment and that I would need his help getting in the building (interestingly, this is a task I would struggle to perform in Chinese while sober).

I woke up the next morning to Scott telling me: “You don’t know how relieved I was to see you on my couch this morning.” Apparently his night had not ended in romance, but instead violently retching down the side of a cab before passing out alone. He remained out of commission for a full 24 hours.

All signs point to the tequila effect at work, but the results thus far are inconclusive. Further research is required.

249 shots to go.

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