All hail the Yellow Emperor

Paul Mathew and his baijiu masterpiece

UPDATE: Paul’s posted his half of the story and the full recipe online. Enjoy! Catch it here:

Last week at Beijing’s Flamme Steakhouse I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing history in the making. Mixmaster Paul Mathew, who inspired my earlier foray into baijiu cocktails, was working the bar. I had just returned from a visit to the Erguotou factory, so I probably didn’t need another drink (as Paul would later correctly remark on Twitter), but I’ve a fairly consistent track record to maintain in terms of ignoring my better impulses.

Bracing myself with a cup of coffee, I told Paul that his Twitter handle, @wisebartender, might be slightly immodest, but my doubts were quickly silenced. Paul presented me with two pocket-sized bottles of baijiu he had behind the bar, one in a small ceramic bottle with Chinese calligraphy on the side and the other simply labeled “TNT.” They had been sitting behind his bar for god knows how long and smelled just wretched. I bet him a hundred RMB that he couldn’t turn one into a drinkable cocktail.

Mathew set out about his task with the calm confidence of a sushi chef. Several glasses and instruments came out, a splash of something here, a bit of ice there, and another splash of something there. He scooped passion fruit into a cup, seeds and all – though no seeds found their way into the finished product. There was shaking, stirring, tasting and then, thankfully, serving.

An opaque, bright yellow liquid was placed in front of me in a champagne saucer. It was crisp, refreshing and sweet but not cloyingly so. In a word: delicious.

China does not yet, to my knowledge have a national cocktail, but this new concoction, which I’m calling the Yellow Emperor, is a worthy candidate. It’s as quaffable as anything in the international canon, and could hold its head high among margaritas and Singapore Slings. In fact, I’m so confident in the quality of this cocktail I’m willing to guarantee that if you are not 100% satisfied with your Yellow Emperor, Paul will personally make you another cocktail of your choice in exchange for money (relevant ingredients withstanding).

“So what exactly goes in a Yellow Emperor?” I later asked Paul – I was frankly too blitzed at the time of tasting to jot it down. Response: Erguotou, passion fruit, cherry brandy, lemon juice and sugar. Simple, creative and effective. Bravo, Wise Bartender, bravo.

Try the Yellow Emperor for yourself: visit one of Paul Mathew’s bars in Beijing. He seems to work Tuesday evenings at Flamme on the third floor of Beijing’s Sanlitun Village, and will also be behind their bar next Friday night. Visit Paul’s website at

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1 Response to All hail the Yellow Emperor

  1. Pingback: The Yellow Emperor « Blood & Sand

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