This morning I sent my parents off to the airport after they had spent a month visiting China. Since the day they arrived I promised (read: threatened) to do a baijiu dinner with them. For their last meal, I made good on the promise, going full Sichuan with some Luzhou Laojiao 泸州老窖 to wash down some spicy bullfrog.
A word about our test subjects. They both hail from the American Midwest, not a region known for exciting cuisine (our corner, Kansas City, enjoys a bit of spice and has, if I may be so bold, some of the world’s best barbeque). Neither are heavy drinkers, but they are both adventuresome eaters, up to a point discovered when I accidentally ordered raw yak in Kangding a couple weeks back. This was not the first time they had tried baijiu – we had gagged our way through a New Year’s party with hideous Erguotou cocktails in Shanghai six years prior – and they weren’t exactly eager to try it again. But blood is thicker than baijiu and they were good sports.
When my father first smelled Sichuanese baijiu he said that it recalled a particularly pungent cough medicine from his childhood. My mother agreed. Not a good start. Moving right along, I proposed the first toast of the evening and we (my parents, wife and I) ganbei-ed the first glass.
“Not bad,” declared my father. “Reminds me a bit of gin.”
“Much better than that stuff we tried in Shanghai,” echoed my mother.
There you have it, two baijiu novices brought into the fold merely by selecting the right baijiu. And it was a rather tasty baijiu, Luzhou Laojiao’s 52% alcohol by volume touqu 头曲 (prime qu). Full bodied with a strong, slightly fruity flavor and with a not unpleasant aftertaste. At RMB 24 (US$4) for a small bottle, it’s a good value, too. We made short work of the rest of the bottle, which, as always, went well with the spicy Sichuan fare.
If I can get my parents to like baijiu on their second go – after a bad first impression, no less – surely you too can learn to like it.