Baijiu Makers Change 1,000-Year-Old Ways to Attract Western Drinkers
While the fiery Chinese liquor baijiu has been distilled for a thousand years exactly the same way, its makers want to transform it into "the new tequila" to attract western drinkers, Bloomberg reported.
The makers of the 106-proof alcohol are struggling with its sales after Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered public officials to cut down their expenses. As a result, revenues plunged to up to 13 percent, and store prices dropped by half.
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With less than 1 percent of baijiu consumed overseas, makers are now planning to dilute the drink's potency, hire mixologists to experiment flavors, and promote the new concoctions at in bars across the world.
"Baijiu must change, transform and explore," Song Shuyu, director of the China Alcoholic Drinks Association, said.
"We want to see baijiu have its moment in the world," Tony Tian, commercial director of Diageo Plc's China White Spirits unit, said. "Tequila had it, vodka had it. Why not baijiu?"
Brands such as Shuijingfang, Beijing Red Star Co., ByeJoe, and HKB are revamping the drink to make it more suitable to the palates abroad. They lowered the alcohol content to 80-proof, infused bottles with flavorings, and promote the antioxidant powers of its main ingredient sorghum.
"Baijiu is not a spirit you can just pour into a martini glass and grow an appreciation for its taste immediately," Orson Salicetti, co-founder of the Lumos bar in New York, said. "The trick to appreciating baijiu is embracing its unfamiliar flavor in cocktails."
Makers have nothing to lose in the first place since exports account for just 0.1 percent of baijiu sales in 2015, according to the figures of the International Wine and Spirit Research in London.
"We want to introduce our baijiu to Western drinkers slowly," Tian said. "We want people to first try it in the context of a cocktail. They may be intrigued by it and then slowly move up to the real version."