From apple-brandy and hot toddies to mulled red wine, nothing beats a warming alcohol beverage at a party on a chilly evening. If you’re looking for a different warm drink to impress your guests during the upcoming Thanksgiving, embrace the local culture and warm up some huangjiu, or yellow wine, in the Chinese way that your guests will never forget.
It’s a Chinese tradition to drink warm Huangjiu, in winter to get rid of coldness. Huangjiu is a type of Chinese alcoholic beverage brewed directly from grains such as rice, millet, or wheat. Unlike baijiu, these liquors are not distilled and contain less alcohol.
But by Chinese drinking standards, the 14-20 percent alcohol in the amber-colored liquor with (perhaps a bit more overpowering than mulled wine) is considered as a mild and casual drink.
People in north China are familiar with maize-based yellow wine, but it is Huangjiu from East China’s Shaoxing city in Zhejiang Province, brewed from rice and husked millet, that has made the name both at home and overseas.
Local people love to drink the yellow wine warm, even when it’s not cold outside. Serving it between 40-50℃ is believed enhance the aroma and the alcohol’s medical value to drive away internal cold.
Traditionally, people warm up yellow wine in a “water bath flask”. It is a typical way to allow the temperature raise gradually without overheating, keeping the drink warm while consuming it slowly.
To use this method, pour the wine into a flask put it into a bigger container with boiling water. Wait for the temperature to rise until the flask feels slightly hot in your hands. Then pour it into a small porcelain cup and fan the air above to let the fragrance out. The people of Shaoxing take great pleasure in drinking away a whole afternoon with nothing else but a plate of aniseed-flavored beans.
When the yellow wine is promoted in other provinces, people also add different ingredients to mix up the flavor. Common ingredients to make mulled yellow wine are plum, ginger, and brown sugar. People who look for extra medical functions to boost blood circulation and energy flow can also add litchi, Chinese red date and ginseng.
You can find Shaoxing Huangjiu (绍兴黄酒) in most supermarkets and order a set of water bath flask on Taobao.
Photos by d2fang and tamacko (Flickr)