Pearl Red is attempting to change China’s alcoholic beverage scene, one bottle at a time. Although you may not be familiar with the brand’s revered yellow wine, the liqueur boasts almost 500 years of history since it was first crafted in 1516 in Guangdong. Today, Pearl Red continues to brew one of China’s most traditional forms of alcohol by hand.
Generally made from water, cereal grains, sorghum, millet and wheat or a jiuqu starter culture, yellow wine is better classified as a liqueur than a wine. And while it is sometimes loosely compared to baijiu, the beverage differs in that it is not distilled and contains less than 20 percent alcohol.
Pearl Red currently offers two varieties of this poetically celebrated drink, cleverly named Today and Tomorrow. Both are crafted in a similar fashion, whereby ingredients (differing slightly from those named above) are loaded by hand into giant metal pots and simmered over burning sweet straw, according to Mars Cai, Pearl Red’s co-owner and director.
When the liquid has been smoldered to perfection, it is separated into two layers – a clear deposit on top and a murky coating below. The clear layer is removed and will become Pearl Red’s commended elixir Today, while the darker layer is mixed with ginger to become the fruity and bold Tomorrow.
What sets these products apart from other boozy beverages made in China is that the whole process is essentially done by hand, which limits production to 300,000 bottles per year.
Both Today and Tomorrow are noted for having a sweeter taste than traditional yellow wine, earning the title ‘The ice wine of Chinese liqueurs.’
Currently sold in a number of supermarkets and restaurants across Guangzhou, Pearl Red sees the sky as its limit and aspires to become a household name in China before eventually extending its reach throughout the world.
“Our goal is to share traditional Chinese alcohol with younger generations and foreigners that may not be aware of yellow wine’s history,” explains Cai. “Many people in China are familiar with expensive French wine or Scottish single malt, but far less are familiar with high-quality, handcrafted Chinese offerings.”
Pearl Red’s dreams of global alcohol domination have, so far, met little resistance – a number of celebrated Bordeaux vintners praise the drink’s quality and taste.
“My trip to Bordeaux was very promising, with a number of notable winemakers expressing shock that this product came from China,” recalls Cai. “We are so happy to be sharing this traditional drink with a bit of modern flair.”
Recipes for Today:
Flower of the Ocean
100ml Pearl Red Today
45ml raspberry vodka
10ml raspberry syrup
20ml elderberry syrup
10ml blackberry syrup
1-2 slices of lemon and lime
frangipani (garnish, optional)
Mash the lemon and lime slices in a glass with the other ingredients. Adorn and serve in an iced copper cup. Scented with lemon and frangipani, this drink fades into subtle hints of osmanthus and honey.
30ml Pearl Red Today
20ml Molin raspberry syrup
100ml grape juice
Anise and cinnamon
1-2 slices of lemon and orange
Warm the ingredients to 60 degrees and blend them together in a glass or mug. Inspired by Spanish sangria, this cocktail truly warms the heart.
> If you would like to get your hands on a bottle of Today or Tomorrow, visit Guangzhou Aeon locations city-wide, or shop online at tmall.com.