Perpetual Motion (Sumiao Hunan Kitchen)

Alexis Jesup

Baijiu. It’s the most widely consumed spirit you’ve never heard of—literally.

A staggering amount of the high-proof spirit is imbibed in China, where it has been distilled from rice and grains for more than a thousand years. Baijiu has yet to gain mainstream traction in the US, but Cambridge’s Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is introducing it to local palates the best way it can: in a cocktail.

Sumiao, which focuses on the spicy cuisine of China’s southern Hunan province, stocks five types of baijiu. Most hover around the 100-proof mark, and the category as a whole has a reputation for bold, punchy flavor that can be funky, floral, and admittedly bracing to the first-time sipper.

“Baijiu is known to be strong. It has a unique fragrance, almost like gin but stronger,” says manager Zimu Chen. With gin you have that fragrance of pine, but baijiu has a fragrance of spice.”

The Perpetual Motion is a simple, three-ingredient cocktail that balances the fierce nature of baijiu—it uses Mianzhu Daqu, a traditional brand bottled at 104 proof—with fruity blood orange purée and St-Germain, an elderflower liqueur.

The resulting drink is sweet, herbaceous, and medicinal all at once. It demands you take your time, as you may experience the flavors differently once you become accustomed to baijiu’s bite.

Perpetual Motion
1 ounce Mianzhu Daqu Baijiu
1 ounce St-Germain
2 ounces blood orange purée
3-4 mint leaves
Mint leaf, for garnish.

Muddle together mint leaves with other ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, then shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube. Garnish with mint leaf and serve.

Brian Samuels

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