To say baijiu is an acquired taste is an understatement. Distilled from sorghum, wheat and other grains that have been fermented in earthen pits, and stored in clay vessels, the world’s most consumed spirit (thank you, China) is wickedly pungent and lingering. It’s the durian fruit of the booze world, and it’s coming to Las Vegas.
Hakkasan Beverly Hills was the first in the group’s portfolio to offer baijiu (pronounced “bye-Joe”); the restaurant in MGM Grand is next, and beverage manager Constantin Alexander thinks it can work. “It really completes us as worldwide brand,” he says. Alexander admits first-timers will need to have an open mind. “It still has that earthy, barnyard flavor. You really get complex nuances—after the initial shock.”
So can Hakkasan make Las Vegas love baijiu? “Challenge accepted!” lead bartender Tim Weigel says. He played with all five baijius Alexander is making available by the bottle and carafe, and his resulting cocktail, Weapon of Choice ($18), blends gin, Shui Jing Fang Wellbay baijiu, Wondermint and Hum liqueurs, and peach bitters. “Even though there’s only a half-ounce of baijiu, it still takes center stage,” Weigel says. The “spirit of China” arrives at Hakkasan this week—are you up for the challenge?
Weapon of Choice
As served at Hakkasan Restaurant in MGM Grand, $18
In a mixing glass, combine 1¼ ounces Gin 209, ¾ ounce Death’s Door Wondermint liqueur, ½ ounce Shui Jing Fang Wellbay baijiu, ½ ounce Hum liqueur and 2 dashes peach bitters. Add ice, stir till the drink is thoroughly chilled and strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a mint sprig that has been smacked between two hands (to release its essence).