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China & India – our own distinct spirits

February 18, 2011

China and India are relative teetotalers as compared to their BRIC counterparts – Russia and Brazil when it comes to alcohol consumption. The two nations seem almost buddhist when compared to the rest of the world which is estimated to have consumed the equivalent of 6.1 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2005. While China consumed roughly four liters of pure alcohol per person per capita, India consumed less than one liter per person per capita in 2007, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

Spirits seem to dominate the India-China drinking list with beer and wine coming a distant second and third. Males also drink more, while more females abstain from alcohol in both developing nations.

While China and India both don’t have an active drinking culture, both brew their own unique spirits. While China’s baijiu or white rice wine dominates the drinking sphere for a majority of the nation, Indians have acquired a special taste and place for Old Monk – heres a bit about both our own unique blends –

Baijiu – Generally about 80 to 120 proof, or 40-60% alcohol by volume, Baijiu is a clear drink usually distilled from sorghum in the North and rice in Southern China. Baijiu which is considered China’s state drink by many is served either cool or hot at all official and informal functions in delicate ceramic bottles. Potent, Baijiu has a distinctive smell and taste that is highly valued in Chinese culinary culture. Connoisseurs of the beverage focus especially on its fragrance. While there are several provinces famed for making Baijiu and various ways of distilling the drink, the most famous brand of Baijiu is Maotai. Mao Zedong served maotai at state dinners during Richard Nixon’s state visit to China, and Henry Kissinger once remarked to Deng Xiaoping that “if we drink enough Maotai we can solve anything.”

Old Monk – is a vatted Indian dark rum, blended and aged for 7 years (though there is also more expensive, 12 year old version). It is dark, with an alcohol content of 42.8%. Indians have a special affinity for old monk which is brewed in North India, like Baijiu, Old Monk too has an acquired taste. It is the third largest selling rum in the world.The drink is had either neat on ice or usually mixed with coca cola. Connoisseurs of old monk will swear by the name and although word of mouth is its best advertising, everyone from the youth to old aged grandpa’s love Old Monk.

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