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What is Baijiu?

Baiju is a distilled alcohol that can look similar to vodka.
Baijiu is often considered China's national drink.
Baijiu is often made from grains such as sorghum.
Baijiu may be made from wheat grains.
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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Baijiu, which literally translates from the Chinese language as "white liquor," is a powerful distilled alcohol that is traditional in Chinese culture. Baijiu is typically made from grains such as sorghum or wheat, but baijiu made in northern China may be made from glutinous rice instead. It can be similar in appearance to vodka, but it has a unique flavor that is not comparable to any other type of spirit. Historians say that the tradition of making baijiu may be as much as 7,000 years old.

Baijiu is considered to be China's national drink, and is frequently present at special occasions such as birthdays and business meetings, and any time a foreign guest is present at the dinner table. Typically, baijiu is served warm or around room-temperature, and is poured from a ceramic bottle into small shot glasses. In the Chinese culture, it is considered rude to turn down a glass. However, the drink is rarely offered to females in Chinese society.

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As with wine, it is possible to buy either a cheap, mid-range, or expensive bottle of baijiu. A low-grade bottle of baijui may be purchased for several dollars, but a bottle that has been aged for many years may cost in excess of $3,000 US Dollars (USD). Baijiu can also be categorized according to its scent. The traditional fragrances for the drink are sauce fragrance, which can be distasteful to the Western palette; heavy fragrance; light fragrance; rice fragrance; layered fragrance; and honey fragrance. Some people prefer a more heavy and fragrant baijui, while others enjoy the light varieties.

Baijiu can also be available either flavored or unflavored. There are a wide variety of flavored types of baijiu, but many of them include medicinal herbs or tea leaves. No matter what type of baijiu you drink, you can always expect the alcohol content to be extremely high. Baijiu typically contains between 40 and 60 percent ethanol, or 80 to 120 proof.

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