Baijiu might be the most popular drink you've never heard of. Made from sorghum or rice, the distilled Chinese liquor packs a huge punch and has drawn unkind comparisons to paint stripper. Some say you must sample baijiu around 50 times before acquiring a taste for the liquor.
Bartenders around the world have attempted to splice the ancient drink into experimental cocktails. But a big rush to baiju isn't likely in fashionable bars. Instead, the world's most consumed spirit by volume is expected to find favor with the estimated 50 million Chinese living outside their native country. Once again Diageo has been making moves: the drinks house launched its premium baiju brand Shui Jing Fang in Europe last year.
Building a link with local cuisine is a crucial next step in driving take-up of baijiu in Western markets. Baijiu's entry onto the world stage will be a slow burn, Maladrankis says, with Asia-Pacific drinkers and Chinese expats the key targets in the short term.