Guizhou is one of China’s least populous provinces of China, yet one of its most diverse. I’m told the scenery is breathtaking. But for the purposes of this blog Guizhou is remarkable for being the home of China’s national drink: Maotai baijiu. And for the purposes of my Maotai tasting, Huan Tian Zhai Guizhou Restaurant felt authentic enough – waitresses in minority costumes, folk art on the walls and upsettingly recognizable pictures of roast dog on the menu.
It took me about five minutes to unpack the baijiu – all part of the efforts to fight the baijiu piracy discussed in my last posting. Much to Maotai’s credit, they rewarded my patience with a set of branded baijiu shot glasses (now proudly on display in my liquor cabinet).
Liquor poured, we took our first shot. In the past I hadn’t much cared for sauce aroma baijiu – a couple weeks earlier I was barely able to choke down Lang Jiu. Almost anything would have felt like an improvement, yet Maotai was clearly a better drink. It had the same in-your-face flavors as other sauce aromas, though in Maotai they were balanced. None of us were racing to refill our glasses, but there was a consensus that it was easy enough to drink and, more important, it was a worthy partner of Guizhou’s spicy-sour cuisine.
The second shot was a little harder than the first, the third a bit easier, and by third or forth I was hitting a nice rhythm. At some point a group of waitresses serenaded us with folk songs while pouring rice wine down our throats. “No hands allowed,” we were told. It tasted something like Nyquil. It didn’t matter at that point; we already had a solid spicy-sour-sauce-aroma buzz going.
I could elaborate on the evening’s revelry, but suffice it to say that six shots and several beers later, I had well exceeded the recommended dosage. And unlike the fake Maotai, this stuff stayed down. The anticipated catastrophic hangover never arrived the next morning – an apologetic sluggishness showed up instead. For that reason alone, if for no other, I give Maotai a passing grade.
210 shots to go.