Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Byejoe

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Baijiu, just the very name is mysterious.  But translate it literally from Baijiu to it’s more user friendly name Byejoe, well now, that is something that needs to be explored.  In recent years, with the great influx of immigration from the Far East to Canada and the United States, it stands to reason that the liquor trade would soon follow.  Fortunes have been made here in the United States and these fortunes fuel the fires of thirst from the old country across the Pacific Ocean. 

Byejoe is the product of China, reinvented for the modern American market.  It is firewater, I feel there is no doubt about that, should I call it Chinese Moonshine?  I wouldn’t want to get into trouble.  Byejoe is a vodka-like spirit, in this case distilled from Red Sorgum.  Trendy?  I don’t think a spirit this venerable can be trendy, but it can be repackaged for a younger set.  This makes Byejoe something quite unique in the marketplace.  

Drinking a shot of Baijiu is how you would close a business deal.  This was over the span of several thousands of years.  It’s popular as an aperitif when mixed with  Lillet and a splash of Seltzer water.  I like it as a digestive with a splash of Tia Maria and a hit of espresso coffee.  There are so many things that I can do with this very un-vodka like liquor from the other side of the world.  But have no fear on purity.  The distillate is treated to a scientific formula that is proprietary in nature.  It is sold at eighty proof instead of the hair growing 140 to 150 Proof back in the old country.  I imagine in the wrong hands this could set a small town ablaze. 

At any rate there are two versions of Byejoe.  The first, rolling in at eighty proof is distilled from Red
Sorghum.  This grain makes a softly textured mouthfeel and a delineated long finish from the hearty grain.  Red Sorghum doesn’t need special soil, nor does it need much water.  It is in many respects similar to our rye grain.  Hearty and mouth filling I’d say on the flavor profile.  I couldn’t imagine drinking the 150 Proof version straight, but that’s how the business of business gets done in China.  A drink of this stuff straight up will seal the deal.  Honor actually means something and the idea of a handshake and a shot of Baijiu is unknown in our part of the globe. 

The second version is lighter and aimed at a younger crowd.  I understand that sweet drinks are necessary from a marketing standpoint and so I’ve worked my mind a bit to reveal a cocktail that works to a more adventurous palate.  I want to say that Byejoe is lovely at every age, young or… older.  You can actually drink it very lightly mixed because it is (only) seventy proof and it has such exemplary taste. 
If a field infusion of lychee, dragon fruit and hot peppers appeals to you, than by all means indulge your senses!  And if you are at all interested in gluten free liquors, and Kosher certification, Byejoe is the only Chinese spirit that accomplishes both these requirements. 

Here are two unique ways of serving Byejoe Red and Byejoe Dragon Fire.

Dragon’s Breath On My Earlobe
2 oz. Byejoe Red
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
½ oz. Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit juice
2 Dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Style Bitters
mere splash of seltzer water
Freshly cut ice spear

To a Boston Shaker- Fill ¾ with ice
Add the liquors and grapefruit juice
Cover and shake hard for 20 seconds

Pour over your ice spear in a Collins glass
Add that splash of seltzer water
Dot with the Jerry Thomas bitters

#15 Ch’ien- Modesty ( from the I Ching)
1 oz. Byejoe Dragon Fire
1 oz. Casa Noble Joven Tequila
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 oz. Simple Syrup
3 dashes Bitter Truth Spiced Chocolate Bitters
Pinch of Sea Salt (Fleur de Sel)
Large cubes of hand cut ice

To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with ice
Pour all the liquors and the lemon juice with the Simple Syrup
Shake hard for 30 seconds
strain into an old fashioned glass with one large cube of hand cut ice
Add the Spiced Chocolate Bitters and sprinkle the fleur de sel over the top to finish


Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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