New recipes

La Chine, Opening in the Waldorf-Astoria, is Unlike Any Other Chinese Restaurant in New York

La Chine, Opening in the Waldorf-Astoria, is Unlike Any Other Chinese Restaurant in New York

“La Chine” is the French term for China, which should give you a good idea of what to expect when the restaurant with that name, which will be located inside the Waldorf-Astoria in the space formerly occupied by Oscar’s American Brasserie, opens this week. During a press preview last week, Waldorf culinary director David Garcelon and executive chef Kong Khai Meng showcased a handful of dishes from the menu, and they’re unlike any that are being served at any Chinese restaurant in the city.

First of all, the dining room itself is stunning, even moreso when you learn that it was constructed from start to finish in less than two months (Garcelon told us that they began removing lighting fixtures while Oscar’s final customer was paying his bill). The room is all black and ivory, with a dramatic chandelier as its centerpiece and a mural of horses on the back wall. There are both Art Deco and Chinese-inspired touches, and the overall impression is very much in line with the Waldorf aesthetic. The tables are well-spaced and the chairs are velvet and comfortable.

The chefs here are clearly taking some risks with the food, going for big flavors and bold presentations; due to the large number of Chinese guests that stay at the hotel, they had to make sure that each dish would be recognized as authentically Chinese but still appeal to the American palate, and in the process they’ve created something that’s quite exceptional.


Star anise and soy foie gras cherries are balls of umami-rich foie gras mousse dipped in cherry gelee and styled to look like cherries, and they’re a must-order to share with the table. Spanish mackerel is smoked and crisped and served with pickled napa cabbage under a smoke-filled glass cloche, and is rich but balanced. The raw bar, inspired by the raw seafood eaten in traditional Zhejiang cuisine, is perhaps the most show-stopping part of the menu: options include rare Maine lobster tail with black bean, winter melon, and citrus soy; Long Island fluke with chinkiang vinegar and smoking-hot peony oil (which you won’t find at any other restaurant on the Eastern seaboard); and a stunning big eye tuna tartare with caviar, tomato, and soy vinegar, arguably the highlight of the entire menu. Soups include a rich and comforting chicken consommé (which is made in the less time-intensive Chinese style). Barbecue dishes include Berkshire pork collar glazed with Waldorf rooftop honey and bruleed before being doused with liquid nitrogen to create a crispy, luscious play on char siu. Sea bass is cooked sous vide and glazed with a sauce of honey, soy, and black pepper, and is light, delicate, and very flavorful. Chunks of perfectly medium rare wok-seared lamb rubbed with cumin and shallot round out the meat selection. Vegetable dishes include tender sautéed snow pea shoots, and soft homemade carrot tofu with honshimeji mushroom and broccoli is delicate and refined. Noodle dishes include toothsome buckwheat noodles with barbeque pork and shrimp, full of flavor and not greasy at all. Desserts include fromage blanc polochon with earl grey tea and berry granite; and coconut tapioca soup with dragon fruit, mango, and horned melon. They’re very refined and artistically plated, and are probably the most “fusion” section of the menu with plenty of French influence apparent.

It’s no question that La Chine immediately enters the conversation about the finest high-end Chinese restaurants in New York City, and possibly the country. The market for this type of restaurant isn’t as built-in as, say, the one for a high-end Japanese restaurant, but once words gets out, I have a feeling that a loyal clientele come out of the woodwork.


Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

Image

Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

“In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

Five Weeknight Dishes

Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
    • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
    • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
    • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
    • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

    Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

    “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

    For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

    Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

    Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

    The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

    While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

    Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

    One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

    Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

    And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

    “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

    Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

    What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


    Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

    Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

    By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

    With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

    Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

    And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

    Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

    In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

    Image

    Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

    But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

    “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

    Five Weeknight Dishes

    Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

      • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
      • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
      • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
      • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
      • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

      Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

      “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

      For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

      Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

      Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

      The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

      While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

      Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

      One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

      Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

      And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

      “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

      Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

      What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


      Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

      Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

      By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

      With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

      Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

      And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

      Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

      In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

      Image

      Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

      But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

      “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

      Five Weeknight Dishes

      Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

        • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
        • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
        • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
        • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
        • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

        Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

        “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

        For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

        Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

        Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

        The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

        While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

        Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

        One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

        Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

        And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

        “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

        Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

        What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


        Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

        Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

        By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

        With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

        Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

        And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

        Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

        In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

        Image

        Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

        But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

        “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

        Five Weeknight Dishes

        Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

          • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
          • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
          • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
          • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
          • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

          Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

          “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

          For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

          Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

          Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

          The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

          While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

          Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

          One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

          Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

          And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

          “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

          Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

          What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


          Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

          Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

          By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

          With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

          Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

          And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

          Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

          In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

          Image

          Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

          But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

          “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

          Five Weeknight Dishes

          Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

            • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
            • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
            • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
            • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
            • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

            Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

            “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

            For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

            Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

            Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

            The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

            While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

            Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

            One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

            Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

            And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

            “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

            Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

            What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


            Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

            Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

            By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

            With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

            Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

            And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

            Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

            In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

            Image

            Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

            But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

            “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

            Five Weeknight Dishes

            Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

              • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
              • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
              • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
              • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
              • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

              Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

              “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

              For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

              Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

              Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

              The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

              While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

              Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

              One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

              Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

              And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

              “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

              Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

              What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


              Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

              Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

              By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

              With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

              Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

              And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

              Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

              In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

              Image

              Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

              But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

              “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

              Five Weeknight Dishes

              Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

                • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
                • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
                • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
                • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
                • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

                Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

                “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

                For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

                Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

                Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

                The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

                While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

                Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

                One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

                Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

                And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

                “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

                Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

                What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


                Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

                Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

                By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

                With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

                Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

                And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

                Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

                In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

                Image

                Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

                But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

                “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

                Five Weeknight Dishes

                Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

                  • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
                  • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
                  • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
                  • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
                  • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

                  Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

                  “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

                  For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

                  Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

                  Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

                  The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

                  While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

                  Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

                  One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

                  Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

                  And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

                  “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

                  Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

                  What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


                  Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

                  Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

                  By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

                  With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

                  Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

                  And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

                  Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

                  In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

                  Image

                  Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

                  But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

                  “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

                  Five Weeknight Dishes

                  Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

                    • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
                    • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
                    • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
                    • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
                    • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

                    Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

                    “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

                    For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

                    Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

                    Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

                    The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

                    While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

                    Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

                    One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

                    Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

                    And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

                    “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

                    Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

                    What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”


                    Baijiu, the National Drink of China, Heads West

                    Sam Anderson, the head bartender at Mission Chinese Food in New York, was sitting on a panel of mixologists last spring when the conversation turned to baijiu, the national drink of China.

                    By volume, baijiu (bye-ZHO), a clear liquor made primarily from sorghum and rice and aged in terra-cotta barrels, is the most widely consumed spirit in the world. But for many non-Chinese drinkers, it is also the most challenging, its aroma variously described as resembling stinky cheese, anise, pineapples, musk and gasoline.

                    With Mission Chinese about to reopen in a new spot, Mr. Anderson told his fellow panelists he was thinking about giving his menu a distinctive touch by concocting a baijiu cocktail. “Everyone sort of chortled,” he said. “They said, ‘Good luck with that.’”

                    Undeterred, Mr. Anderson raided a nearby liquor store and came back with 20 bottles, varying in intensity from near-vodka subtlety to Limburger pungency. He settled on a brand called Hong-Kong Baijiu, which is lower in proof and relatively tame in flavor. He paired it with white rum, pineapple juice, peach liqueur, lime juice and basil seeds to create Firewater Walk With Me, a spin on a Singapore Sling and a nod to the “Twin Peaks” theme that pervades the restaurant.

                    And it works: The fruit and rum tame the baijiu, while it gives them a rich, earthy complexity. Mr. Anderson said the drink is one of his best sellers. And while it’s not uncommon for guests to send it back, many order a second round. “It’s definitely for people who are adventurous, people who are down for something new,” he said.

                    Baijiu isn’t about to take over the bar, but over the last year it has established a solid beachhead. Bartenders in New York, Washington and Los Angeles have taken it on with the same sense of challenge they once brought to similarly aggressive spirits like overproof whiskey and mezcal.

                    In New York, along with Mission Chinese, places serving baijiu cocktails include Red Farm, the Peninsula hotel, the Park Hyatt hotel and La Chine, a new restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria. In May, the country’s first baijiu-centered bar, Lumos, opened on West Houston Street, featuring more than a dozen baijiu cocktails and infusions.

                    Image

                    Still, getting Westerners to drink baijiu can be difficult. There is very little information available to help non-Chinese drinkers understand what makes a good baijiu, let alone how to appreciate it. “There hasn’t been a good effort to introduce Westerners to the spirit,” said Derek Sandhaus, a spirits consultant who lived in China for almost a decade and wrote “Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits,” one of the few books on the liquor.

                    But baijiu’s reputation precedes it. Even people who haven’t tried it typically have a friend who, on a business trip to China, was subjected to a night of baijiu shots, a slow march toward a vicious hangover, one thimble-size glass at a time.

                    “In China, when you drink baijiu, it’s like a knife fight,” said Shawn Chen, the beverage director at Red Farm, a restaurant in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. “You enjoy the reactions on each other’s faces.”

                    Five Weeknight Dishes

                    Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

                      • The brilliant Kay Chun brings the flavors of Korean barbecue to the burger format in this recipe for Korean cheeseburgers.
                      • Ali Slagle has a trick to get brash flavor on this ginger-lime chicken: using mayo in the marinade.
                      • Yasmin Fahr stirs together thick yogurt, feta and Persian cucumbers to toss in this salmon and couscous salad.
                      • This salad pizza with white beans and parmesan is a complete meal, inspired by California Pizza Kitchen.
                      • The name yo po mian, a staple from the Shaanxi Province in China, means “oil-sprinkled noodles.”

                      Nor does it help that in China, there are thousands of brands of baijiu, ranging in flavor and quality from dollar-a-liter rotgut to decades-old bottles that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

                      “Baijiu is just a catchall term for all Chinese spirits, with as much variation as whiskey and rum,” said William Isler, an owner of Capital Spirits, a baijiu cocktail bar in Beijing.

                      For all that variety, there are commonalities to all baijiu that take some adjustment, above all an earthy, musky funk that lingers long after the liquid is gone. “I always tell people that it’s an acquired taste,” said Kris Baljak, a bartender at Bar at Clement in the Peninsula hotel, who started using baijiu in cocktails last spring.

                      Baijiu fans point out that its flavors are broadly appealing on their own: cheese, fruit, licorice. “There’s no flavor there that’s undesirable, but they’re odd in this particular context,” said Christopher Briar Williams, an owner of Coppersea Distilling in the Hudson Valley, who is considering making a baijiu of his own. “I tell people it’s more of an eating experience than a drinking experience.”

                      Put baijiu in a cocktail, though, and things change. Because it has so many flavors, it works well in a variety of combinations.

                      The key to making a good baijiu cocktail, Mr. Anderson said, is to pair it with equally powerful flavors. “If you do a baijiu cocktail with St. Germain,” he said, referring to the soft liqueur made with elderflower, “the St. Germain will get blown out of the water.”

                      While baijiu’s smell and flavors can be formidable, it is remarkably easy to drink. “When I first tried it, I got notes of an old sweat sock smell,” Mr. Baljak said. “But when I tasted it, it’s very smooth,” a quality that lets it play well with others in a mixed drink.

                      Not just any pairing will work, though. “Baijiu and sweet vermouth are gross, but baijiu loves Campari,” said John Mayer, a former bartender who works for a liquor distributor in Massachusetts. Citrus goes very well with it so do absinthe and mezcal.

                      One way to approach baijiu in cocktails is to edit it, adding ingredients to mask some of its flavors and enhance others. Mr. Baljak mixes baijiu with absinthe, midori and lemon foam in a drink he calls the Hidden Dragon. The absinthe cuts some of the funkiness, while the citrus brings out the fruit notes, like strawberry and pineapple.

                      Others take a more conservative approach. Fernando Sousa, the head bartender at the Back Room at the Park Hyatt, uses an atomizer to spritz baijiu over a gin and tonic. “It’s a great way to start spreading knowledge about the spirit before throwing two ounces of it into a cocktail,” he said. “So far, the reaction has been pretty positive.”

                      And while baijiu isn’t about to replace mezcal or rye as the in-crowd’s tipple of choice, it has a growing number of fans. Ben Collier, a hotel consultant sitting at the bar at Mission Chinese Food, said he fell in love with baijiu during a trip to China.

                      “It’s commonly misunderstood as ‘this nasty Chinese liquor I tried once,’” he said, sipping one of Mr. Anderson’s concoctions. “I like that it’s different. It is what it is. If you’re truly open to new things, you should definitely try it.” (Many online retailers and big-city liquor stores carry baijiu.)

                      Andrew Wong, an owner of Peking Tavern in Los Angeles, said putting a baijiu cocktail on the menu was an easy call. “It’s something you can’t find in other places,” he said. The bar has several baijiu drinks, including Peking Coffee, made with Red Star baijiu and a coffee liqueur.

                      What bartenders aren’t doing, at least so far, is recommending that anyone try baijiu on its own. “Occasionally people will order it neat,” Mr. Anderson said. “But usually as a joke.”