Chinese convenience store booze is a story of extremes: on the mellow end you have the watery slosh of shelf-stuffing lagers, filling out the middle ground is jingjiu, its medicinal undertones an acquired taste and, finally, comes the caustic zip of baijiu.
Plenty swear off the Middle Kingdom’s alcohol after the first sip, but this article will change that. Not by teaching you to appreciate some of the world’s most popular spirits, but by giving you three simple street-side mixes you can make on the cheap.
Watch our how-to video for all three drinks below (VPN off):
Outside China? Watch on YouTube.
Tools of the trade
This guide requires you to MacGyver some 'tools of the trade' – and by MacGyver, we mean empty a water bottle and save the cap.
No excuses. A water bottle can be substituted for this bartender basic – shake with caution when using fizzy liquids, as you risk an AV-style blow out.
Just turn the cap (of said water bottle) sideways to create a small gap in the opening, catching most of the fruit bits. Anything that gets through adds… texture and mouthfeel. Yes, texture and mouthfeel.
Scissor Me Timbers (RMB16.5)
My grandfather would call it ‘gut rot.’ In China it’s known as erguotou (二锅头), a usually cheap type of baijiu made from sorghum and widely available. It’s also about as classy as chugging a forty in your underwear before noon on a weekday.
So it was a shock when an avid cocktail drinker deemed the following mix ‘floral’ and ‘something I’d drink.’
• 50ml of erguotou
• 50ml of peach tea
• 1/3 of a cut apple
1. Cut the apple into pieces.
2. Add apple pieces into the shaker.
3. Add the erguotou into the shaker.
4. Add the peach tea.
5. Shake for 15 seconds and pour, using the bottle cap to strain out most of the apple.
The Sweaty Pig (RMB30)
A step up from erguotou, we call the baijiu in this drink ‘pig juice’ thanks to the pig emblazoned on its reusable vessel. The official name is Xiao Zhuge (小诸葛). Again, get the brand right for reasonable results.
The artisanally squeezed grapefruit juice lends this nepenthe a bitter, tongue-numbing flavor – paired with refreshing green tea and a hint of saltiness from the unfortunately-named Pocari Sweat.
• 50ml Xiao Zhuge Baijiu
• 50ml green tea
• 50ml grapefruit juice
• 15ml Pocari Sweat
1. Add the grapefruit juice, baijiu and Pocari Sweat.
2. Shake 15 seconds.
Bad Medicine (RMB21)
Years ago, the jingjiu and milk tea combo had a following among a certain cash-strapped Shenzhen set – let's call this drink an ‘evolution’ of that.
Note: it's important to use the Jinpai (劲牌) jingjiu, as this alcohol’s flavors range from ‘gag’ to ‘one more sip.’
In this mix, the jingjiu’s medicinal notes are paired with the flavor of Watson’s Vanilla Soda and a heavy dollop of milk coffee.
• 50ml of jingjiu
• 20ml Watson’s Vanilla Soda
• 75ml milk coffee
1. Add the vanilla soda, milk coffee and jingjiu to the shaker.
2. For 15 seconds, shake cautiously while pointing the cap in a safe direction, as the soda is carbonated.
3. Think about where you went wrong in life.
Special thanks to Ross Woodford at soon-to-open Life on Mars in Shenzhen.