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5 Major Chinese Alcoholic Drinks

There are many varieties of Chinese alcohol. It was either classified by raw materials, or the brewing methods. Commonly speaking, there are five types of Chinese alcoholic drinks, Baijiu, Yellow Wine, Fruit Wine, Medicinal Alcohol and Beer respectively.

Baijiu (White Spirits)

Baijiu is made from the grains or corps that contain starch and fermented and distilled by using the distiller's yeast as saccharifying ferment.

Characteristics of Baijiu: colorless, transparent, pure, pungent, rich flavored and tasty.

Alcoholic Strength: strong, over 30 degrees.

Difference raw materials and producing processes can make different flavored Baijiu. There are 5 classifications of fragrance.

Light - such Baijiu is mellow, soft, refreshing, and pure.

Representative: Shanxi Fen Liquor.

Strong - such Baijiu has strong aroma and lasting sweet fragrance.

Representative: Luzhou Laojiao Liquor.

Sauce - the sauce-flavored Baijiu is fragrant but not gaudy, light but not tasteless.

Representative: Guizhou Maotai Liquor.

Rice-flavored - such Baijiu is pure, mellow and has honey fragrance and pleasant aftertaste.

Representatives: Guilin Sanhua Liquor and Xiangshan Liquor of Quanzhou.

Mixed - the Baijiu that has mixed flavors are called mixed flavor liquor. Such Baijiu has different smell, taste and aftertaste.

Representatives: Dong Liquor of Guizhou, Baishaye Liquor of Hunan and Lingchuan Liquor of Liaoning.

Among all these five classifications of fragrant Baijiu, the strong-flavored Baijiu are produced the most and then the light-flavored Baijiu. Only a small amount of sauce, rice and mixed flavored Baijiu are produced.

How to evaluate Baijiu? Baijiu is qualified based on its color, fragrance and taste. The best Baijiu should be pure and colorless with no suspended matter and precipitation. It has its own unique aroma, be it overflowing fragrance, spraying fragrance or aftertaste fragrance. In terms of taste, such Baijiu should have pure liquor taste and all the flavors should be harmoniously coordinated together with no strong pungency.

With the change of people's drinking habits, the alcoholicity of Baijiu is decreasing. Many famous brands produced more Baijiu with medium degrees of alcoholic concentration to better suit consumers’ needs domestically and overseas.

Baijiu (White Spirit)

Yellow Wine (Rice Wine)

Yellow Wine is also a traditional alcohol with long history in China. It is named for its bright yellow color. With glutinous rice, millet rice, and rice as raw materials, the Yellow Wine is fermented and squeezed with Chinese yeast and wheat koji as regent. It is mellow and suitable for long term storage. It gets more fragrant with time.

Alcoholic strength: 8-20 degrees.

Characteristics: mellow, fragrant, fresh and nutritious.

Besides drinking, the Yellow Wine can also be used as medicinal usher. Meanwhile, it can be used as a seasoning in cooking to deodorize fish and meat. All these functions of Yellow Wine make it the favorable wine of people in southern China and some Asian countries.

Based on the materials, brewing process and flavors, the Yellow Wine can be divided into following 3 kinds:

1. Yellow Wine Made from Glutinous Rice of Southern China

Such yellow wine is mainly produced in southern China and it is represented by the Shaoxing Yellow Wine.

How is it made? It's made from the glutinous rice and brewed with Chinese yeast and wheat koji as diastatic ferments.

Characteristics: mellow, bright yellow, tasty. It's better than ordinary rice wine and gets better with long-time storage.

Alcoholic strength: 13-20 degrees.

Varieties: Zhuangyuanhong Yellow Wine, Rice-adding Wine, Huadiao Rice Yellow Wine, and Shanniang Rice Wine.

2.Red-yeast Rice Wine from Fujian Province

It's made from glutinous rice and polished round-grained rice and brewed with red yeast as diastatic ferment.

Representations: Fujian Laojiu and Longyan Chengang Rice Wine.

Characteristics: light fragrant, and soft.

Alcoholic strength: around 15 degrees.

3.Shandong Millet Rice Wine

As the major variety of rice wine in northern China, the Millet Rice Wine is first produced in Shandong province and widely made in northern China areas.

How is it made? Millet Rice Wine is made from millet and brewed with wheat koji (which is made from the aspergillus oryzae) as saccharifying agent.

Characteristics: rich-flavored, and refreshing.

Alcoholic strength: round 12 degrees.

Representatives: Qingjiu Millet Rice Wine, Laojiu Millet Rice Wine and Lanling Rice Wine.

How to evaluate Yellow Wine?

The quality of millet rice wine is also based on its color, fragrance and taste. The best Yellow Wine should be bright clear yellow (except the Jimo Rice Wine), strong-flavored, lightly sweet and with no sediment or acor.

How to store Yellow Wine (rice wine)?

Most of the Yellow Wine is stored in pottery jars and sealed with mud to help esterifying, making it more fragrant with long time storage. It must be kept in cool environment with stable temperature. As rice wine is low-degree wine, it must be consumed once the pottery jar is open. Otherwise, it will be contaminated and go bad.

Yellow Wine (Rice Wine)

Fruit Wine

Definition: Any wine brewed and fermented directly from fruits and berries can be called Fruit Wine. There are many kinds of fruit wine in China and they are named after the fruits they are made from.

Characteristics: Different fruits and berries can be made into different flavored Fruit Wine. The fruit wine often have the fragrance and smell of its raw fruits and pleasant color and taste. It also contains a lot of nutrition like sugar, minerals and vitamins.

Varieties: As people loved to brew wine with grapes, the fruit wine can be divided to grape wine and other fruit wine like Apple Wine, Hawthorn Wine, Red Bayberry Wine, Tangor Wine and Pineapple Wine. Grape Wine is the most produced fruit wine.

Fruit Wine

Medicinal Alcohol

Definition: Medicinal Wine is based on the wine base (mostly white liquor) and brewed and soaked by adding various Chinese herbs and sugar. Different herbs added in the wine will have different medicinal functions.


1. Tonic Wine. It's a kind of beverage that has the tonic effect, such as green bamboo leaf wine, schisandra wine, men's wine, and women's beauty wine.

2. Medicinal Wine. It can improve the curative effect of the medicine by using the alcohol to extract the effective ingredients within the herbs. Such wine are mostly sold in traditional Chinese medicine stores.

Medical Wine


Definition: Beer is a kind of undiluted alcohol made from barley, and germinated, saccharified and fermented by using the lupulus. People often take it as a cooling beverage.

Alcoholic strength: 2-5 degrees.

Characteristics: it has the distinct sweetness of malt and lupulus and tastes pure and refreshing. It also contains a large amount of carbon dioxide and rich nutrition that can help to digest and boost appetite. In addition, beer contains 11 kinds of vitamins and 17 types of amino acids. The calories produced by 1 litre of beer equal to that of 10 eggs, or 500 grams of meat or 200 ml milk. Thus, beer is also regarded as the “Liquid Bread”.


1.According to whether the beer is sterilized, it can be divided into draught beer and pasteurized beer. The draught beer is not sterilized and has short storage time. It can be stored for 3-7 days under 15 degrees celsius. Its refreshing taste makes it very popular among consumers. The pasteurized beer is sterilized and stable, making it easy to store. Generally speaking, it can be stored for 3 months. However, its taste is not as good as draught beer.

2.Based on the wort concentrations, beer can be divided into low-concentration beer, medium-concentration beer and high-concentration beer. The low-concentration beer has about 7-8 degrees of wort concentration; medium-concentration beer has 10-12 degrees of wort concentration, while the high-concentration beer has 14-20 degrees. The alcohol content contained in beer also increases with the wort concentrations. the low-concentration beer has 2% alcohol, medium-concentration beer has 3.1%-3.8% alcohol, and high-concentration beer has 4%-5% alcohol.

3.Based on the colors, beer can be divided into yellow beer, black beer, and white beer. Yellow beer is also called light beer and it has a mellow taste. Currently, most of the beers produced in China are yellow beer. Yellow beer can also be light yellow, bright yellow or dark yellow. Black beer is called called rich color beer. It is usually coffee colored, shiny, rich in flavor and has a burnt flavor. Such beer is only produced in Beijing and Qingdao. White Beer is white, and contains low alcohol. Such beer is mainly for people who don't often drink.

4.Based on whether it contains alcohol, beer can also be divided into alcohol beer and alcohol-free beer. The latter is a breakthrough of recent beer brewing technique. It retains the original beer taste but with no alcohol.

How to evaluate beer?

Beer can be qualified based on its clarity, color, foam, fragrance, and taste. The best beer should have shiny clear color, strong malt flavor, better and refreshing taste of lupulus, and pure white and fine foams hanging on the glass for a long time.


Taste Chinese Alcoholic Drinks with Lilysun China Tours

Interested in Chinese alcoholic drinks but not sure where to taste? Join the Wine Tasting Tour with Lilysun China Tours. In this experience, you will have 2-3 hours to understand the long and rich alcohol history and culture of China, and taste various kinds of drinks such as Baijiu, Rice Wine, and Fruit Wine.

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