As we near the Chinese New Year, taking place this year on January 23, it is time to fill our kitchen and liquor cabinets and prepare for the great celebration. Though a few of these purchases might be a bit out of the ordinary for some, cultural holidays like this provide a great opportunity and excuse to expand our palates and learn new culinary ways.
Though this holiday focuses more on family time and food, a basic understanding of popular Chinese alcohols can be a fun and different way to honor the yearly tradition.
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Whether your are celebrating in a city nearby or simply having a dim sum-themed evening in, these traditional beverages will provide the perfect pairing. Though they might be a bit more difficult to find in some areas than others, you can generally find them in Asian grocery stores, depending on your region and the liquor laws in place there.
The lychee wine, with its golden color, is made of 100% lychee fruit, making it a very sweet and full-bodied dessert wine. This treat is best served cold or on the rocks with food.
Though this is traditionally a Japanese drink, it is also popular throughout China. Green plums are steeped in a clear liquor, infusing their sweet flavor into the alcohol.
This "white liquor" is generally about 80 to 120 proof, meaning about 40-60% ABV. Made from glutinous rice or wheat grains, the alcohol is typically served either warm or at room temperature and had with food rather than on its own.
This liquor, unlike many others, is not distilled and typically has under 20% ABV. There are a variety of these wines, ranging from dry to extra sweet and coming from a variety of production methods. Some of the most popular types include Mijiu (similar to sake) and Fujian (made from glutinous rice).