A place designed to raise the capital's spirits

By Jimmy Nesbitt ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-09-27 07:26:54

A place designed to raise the capital's spirits

Matthias Heger (left), William Isler (center) and Simon Dang opened a bar dedicated to baijiu because they wanted people to experience the liquor in a new light. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

China's traditional rice liquor isn't to everybody's taste, but the owners of a new bar in Beijing are hoping to get customers to see it in a new light.

The first time I tried baijiu, it was definitely not love at first shot. I tried mixing it with Coke, but even that didn't dull the liquor's unique taste. Unique is a polite way of describing it. Others have compared the taste to bathroom cleaner or cheap perfume.

But, given the assignment of writing about Beijing's first bar dedicated to baijiu (and the world's first, the owners claim), I vowed to keep an open mind about the white spirit, at least for one night.

Capital Spirits opened in August, and is located in a quiet hutong near Guijie, or Ghost Street. The bar doesn't open until 8 pm because the people who run it have day jobs.

I get there a little before 9, and sit down at the bar next to a tall jar of snake-infused baijiu (more on that later). I ask the bartender, Matthias Heger, to recommend a drink, and he suggests a Baijiu Sour - a concoction consisting of bitters, sour mix and a light rice baijiu. For someone who is not a fan, it's a good reintroduction to the spirit.

And that, says Simon Dang, co-owner of the bar, is what Capital Spirits is trying to do: let people experience baijiu in a new light. Many visitors to China try baijiu for the first time at a banquet or dinner, and are often encouraged to drink glass after glass.

Dang, 44, of San Diego, California, says he first tried baijiu in 2002, when he moved to China to study the language. "I didn't really like baijiu until (we opened) this bar," says Dang, who also handles public relations for Capital Spirits.

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