Two weeks ago, Bill Isler and Simon Dang of Beijing bar scene newcomer Capital Spirits gave me a crash course on distillation and showed that making hooch can be cheap — the kit costs less than rmb500 — and easy — it took an hour to transform a few liters of anemic Yanjing into a toasty 40 percent-plus spirit a.k.a. as YJ45. (Note: Before deciding to open a baijiu-themed bar, the four partners at this place had considered a more general spirits focus, and thus have been making their own at home for some time.)
Just as we’ve witnessed Beijing bar people experiment with creative cocktails, infusions, home-brew and so on over the years, my guess is we’ll see them start creating their own hand-crafted artisanal boutique house spirits. Hopefully they make the booze without all that fancy-pants language but with some kind of quality control.
If that comes to fruition, expect lots of “locally themed” products, like gins carrying the flavors of goji, star anise and peppercorn, or flossed Guangzhou pork and sun-dried eight treasures tea, or good old chuanr seasoning. I also predict a rise in the number of friends seeking “mules” to carry juniper berries to Beijing. We’ll see…
By the way, the guys at Drei Kronen 1308 occasionally make “beer schnapps” — they don’t sell the stuff but simply make it for personal use — that is incredibly smooth for something that tops out at 60 percent alcohol….