Derek Sandhaus is the author of a new book on China’s national liquor, baijiu, and the culture surrounding baijiu. His book Drunk in China has been released today.
I was fortunate enough to interview him over baijiu and spicy food at Washington, DC’s Sichuan Pavilion on the day Drunk in China came out. Sandhaus is a very you-hao and re-qing person (friendly and hospitable/full of warmth). Having read excerpts of his book, I can say his re-qing and you-hao also come out in the book, which is one of the few English language works about bailiu. (Sandhaus has also written a guidebook about baijiu, Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits.)
Drunk in China is focused both on the story of baijiu, its history and cultural impact, and partially on Sandhaus’s story in China. Sandhaus has been in China on and off since 2006 and also authored Tales of Old Hong Kong and Tales of Old Peking.
While baijiu often tastes harsh to foreigners on their first (or second, or third…) try, Sandhaus advises foreigners not to be dismissive.
“One thing that’s very important is that at the moment you encounter something that really blows your mind is to not immediately discard that experience. Most of the world hasn’t gotten to that reflective of a state when it comes to baijiu, but had I not gotten there, I would have missed out on so many amazing experiences interacting with the people I meet in China,” he said.
Remarking on the lively atmosphere surrounding baijiu drinking in China: “If this were a restaurant in China and we were drinking baijiu together, the night would reach the state at a certain point that they call re-nao [roughly translated as “exciting”/“lively”], “loud and hot,” where you’ve been eating for a while, you’ve been drinking for a while, you’re kind of drunk on the spice, you’re drunk on the liquor, and you’re in this mood of pure joy. You can bounce around a little bit; you can go sit at a stranger’s table and make a toast to them, invite them to join in your revelry. ”
In addition to writing, Sandhaus is the cofounder of Ming River Sichuan Baijiu, which is available in New York, California, and Oregon in the U.S.
My full interview with Sandhaus will be posted next week. Sandhaus will be talking about his book at Washington, DC’s Politics and Prose Bookstore on November 10.