Thursday, December 15, 2011


This blog bit could also have been appropriately titled “The Ultimate Chinese Torture Test”.

I have an American-Chinese friend named Gui Hong, and she recently returned from a trip to China that she had given herself as a Holiday gift. In Nanning, she has a number of extended family members whom she had not seen for a long time; some of them are getting quite old and Gui Hong wanted to see them again while she still had the opportunity.

Just before she returned to the U.S., one of her uncles – or some old goat related to her in some way – gave Gui Hong what he said was a bottle of highly prized and coveted Chinese wine. Since she does not drink alcohol at all, but she knows I’m “the town drunk”, my friend decided to pass the bottle of ‘Guizhou Maotaizhen’ on to me.

My first thought upon seeing it was:

Sheesh! It looks like a bottle of motor oil, power steering fluid, or transmission fluid – something one might pour into an automobile.

[Can you find the Chinese wine amongst these common household products?]

The box it came in was labeled almost entirely in Chinese and the only things that seemed understandable to me were “500ml” and “53% vol”. Naturally I took that 53% to be alcohol content, making this “wine” a whopping 106 proof! Hokey-Smoke! One could set himself on fire with that if he wasn’t careful.

Of course I thanked Gui Hong, and I opened the bottle to smell it. It had a very unusual, complex aroma; I could catch a hint of what seemed almost sake-like, sake being a Japanese rice wine (I loves me some sake!) but there were other scents too, something almost floral and sweet, and who knows what else. I could imagine this wine had the potential to be quite good OR quite bad; the aroma wasn't a good enough clue to the flavor.

Well, a couple nights later, I decided to try Maotaizhen for the first time. I put a couple ice cubes into my little silver cup that Althea gave me in 1959 to commemorate my birth (you know, what I have referred to on my blogs as my “GraMar cup”), and I poured the Maotai over the ice and let it chill for a bit.

Finally, I raised the cup to my lips and took a small sip.

Eventually my body stopped convulsing on the floor and my vision returned to me. I kid you not, that was perhaps the foulest taste my mouth had ever experienced. And that’s saying a hell of a lot, people – you don’t know where my mouth has been!

And then I quickly had this awful thought (and, no, I’m not kidding here and being snarky in an attempt at humor) . . .

Gui Hong speaks only very basic Chinese - having been born in the U.S., her vocabulary is rather limited. How can I be sure this stuffs is REALLY meant to be consumed by human beings? What if she misunderstood that old man who gave this to her and in fact it truly is Chinese transmission fluid? Or perhaps that "53% vol" meant it was 53-weight motor oil!

So, before taking another sip, I immediately went to the computer and started Googling the name of this supposed Chinese wine, and wondering if I had already, just by that one sip, poisoned myself to death.

To my surprise, I discovered that Guizhou Maotaizhen, or Maotai, as it’s more commonly referred to, truly is a Chinese wine. Not only that, but indeed it really is highly prized and admired in China.
At  it is described this way:

Gather the spirit of mountains and rivers, accumulate the sun and the moon essence.

Open maotai-flavor liquor, the first tree model. Outstanding, quiet and tastefully laid out and delicate, very full-bodied, the aftertaste is long, the empty cup stay joss-stick lasting.

Successive crown of national alcohol comparison, as the national wine.

OK! OK! Color me Convinced. Yeah, it “stay joss-stick lasting” alright!

There was quite a bit of information about this stuffs on a Wikipedia page.

In part, Wiki sez:

Maotai has been used on official occasions in feasts with foreign heads of state and distinguished guests visiting China. It is the only alcoholic beverage presented as an official gift by Chinese embassies in foreign countries and regions.

It received additional exposure in China and abroad when Zhou Enlai used the liquor to entertain Richard Nixon during the state banquet for the U.S. presidential visit to China in 1972. It is one of China's official state banquet wines and claims to be one of the world's three best known liquors (together with whisky and cognac) and is therefore presented to all official guests of state.

For a long time I’ve said that if I could spend a day speaking with any person in history, my first choice would be Jesus Christ, and my second would be Senator Joseph McCarthy.

I’m forced to make an adjustment. Who I would now most want to talk with is Richard Nixon, just to be able to say, “Tell me, Tricky Dick, what did you honestly think of the Maotai?”

I also found a pretty funny Internet exchange pertaining to Maotai between some wine connoiseurs [Whoa! I spelled it correctly!] at the Wine Berserkers site here:

Believe me, people, this Maotai stuffs will melt the enamel right off your teeth; it could be used to kill fleas on dogs, de-claw cats and execute laogai prisoners.

The real challenging thing for me now is try to come up with something I can use as a mixer for it.

What? - Huh? - Am I REALLY going to drink the rest of this stuffs?

Well, hell yes, I’m going to drink it! How could you even ask me that? What’s wrong with you? Did you not read above where I said Maotai is 106 proof?! Sheesh! You people are a bit slow in the head.

So, what can I use to dilute it and hide the awful taste of it? I’m thinking that first I will try Windex. According to Gus Portokalos in the movie 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding', Windex will fix anything.

If that doesn’t cut it, I’m thinking I’ll try the nubile blood of virgin sacrifices. Perhaps I can trade something for some of the leftovers from those nice folks at BOHEMIAN GROVE.

Failing that, as a last resort, I will simply drink straight shots of Maotai, followed by vodka and peppermint schnapps chasers.

You see, even at the height of my alcoholic haze dayz in my early and mid twenties, I never did like the taste of those two drinks. So, I’m figuring that using them as a chaser to wash down the Maotai, at the very least, I will finally learn to love vodka and peppermint schnapps after all these years.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


Six said...

This world of drinking you describe is foreign to me!

Why put this stuffs in your gullet? FOUL!!

Sig Wynne-Evans said...

That is soooo funny!! I have found in my travels that in other countries what is a prized libation is far from what I would find good. I think the thing is, if you live after drinking the (name your country) libation, you are worthy of living.

Wine in Bhutan tastes like rotten musty grapes. The prized wine in Romania's "wine region" is not any better.

You can develop a taste for Rakki, or Ozo over time (and killed taste buds)

Ok...German beer is is Spanish Sherry, and Portugese Port

Oh, and the National Libation of Morocco is Mint Tea, and that is pretty good.

Just forget drinking ANYTHING from Asia!! Its a wonder that dysentery is not a normal condition.

Wait!! Maybe it is!!


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

As the intoxicated Santy Claus says in 'Miracle On 34th Street': "Well, a man's gotta do SOMETHING to keep warm!"

Secondly, my question to YOU is: How are you able to face "this world" without it?! Hell, it's only the thought of another "Happy Hour" that gets me through each day. And even then, only barely so.

Thanks! Glad ya liked it!

"Ozo"? Did you mean (or is that just another way of writing) "Ouzo"? - the Greek liqueur that tastes like licorice? If so, I used to like that stuffs way back in the early '80s.

Rakki, I've never heard of. The name alone is kinda scary.

German beer - check.
Spanish sherry - definitely check!
Portugese Port - don't think I've had it, but I'm guessing you're quite right.

>>...Just forget drinking ANYTHING from Asia!!

Ya know, as much as I rant and rave about the U.S. and the corruption here... after one GraMar cup-full of Maotai, I was really thinking what a blessing it is to live here. Imagine if Maotai was considered, like, the "Cadillac" of American alcoholic beverages!

I ain't saying I'd go "on the wagon", but I think I can safely say I'd never have another hangover! (I couldn't stand to drink enough of it in one night to really tie one on. It took me about 35 minutes to get that small GraMar cup's-worth of it to cross my tongue!)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Karen Peterson said...

I wasn't going to try it because I don't drink ever, but now that I know the "empty cup stay joss-stick lasting," I'm thinking I need to get some.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...


Listen to me... listen CAREFULLY!...

Yes, it's true, the "empty cup stay joss-stick lasting" - if I denied it, I'd be lying. And I try never to lie.

But - LISTEN - it's still NOT worth it! The "joss-stick lasting" notwithstanding, this stuffs is just NOT WORTH DRINKING. You'll only end up poisoning yourself, particularly considering that your system isn't used to strong drink to begin with.

Forget about the "joss-stick lasting" - don't listen to that siren's song.


~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

mousiemarc said...

WOW man that was some funny stuffs. A bunch of my coworkers at the hospital are reading over my shoulder during lunch, and were all laughing our asses off. Good stuff. If the stuff kills ya will ya put me in your last will and testament? I'd love to have yer HO BIB and keep the yearly reading going... This one was great brother. A true gem amongst the gems. Or maybe I'm just dog tired. But we all enjoyed it.

mousiemarc said...

My old man used to drink Ouzo with his farm buddies. They had some interesting nights conversing with the plants after the second bottle. My mom got me a bottle of Ouzo for my 21 st birthday but my future sister in law broke it on a move.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks for the comment. Glad I could provide a quarter of an hour's worth of entertainment to the hard-working hospitalites.

I don't like ouzo like I uzedto, but it's still not bad - a black licorice-flavored liqueur, like anisette.

>>...I'd love to have yer HO BIB and keep the yearly reading going...

Oh, dude, it does my heart GOOD to see you mention my "Ho Bib" - which means you do remember that old blog bit at F-FFF which (by some coincidence) I just sent a link to it the other day to another friend of mine.

She's sort of an orthodox Christian, so I didn't expect her to approve of my anti-American interpretation. But she wrote back: "I found your theory very likely."

Tonight, I poured myself another GraMar cup-full of that awful Maotai shit in order to toast the '72 Miami Dolphins...

I can NOW tell you - definitely! - what it tastes like:

... Maotai tastes EXACTLY like a combination of olive oil and human vomit!

No, sir, I am not IN THE LEAST bit exaggerating.

Let's be honest... we've all had that happen to us, where a little bit of vomit kind of squirts its way back up into our throat and into the back of our mouths.

You remember that sharp, unpleasant, acidic taste of a little bit of vomit finding its way back into the upper part of your throat? Well, imagine that taste mixed with a little bit of olive oil and you will have a pretty accurate understanding of what this highly prized Chinese wine, Maotai, tastes like.


~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Anonymous said...

so its a few years later, I am looking to get some so I can make a toast with some Chinese business associates....
I had some of this stuff in the late 1970s and early 80s. It doesnt put hair on your chest, it burns it off. It morphs into lava as it enters your body. And as it leaves too. The best taste description I have is that it mixes together the worst elements or kerosene and lighter fluid

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>... The best taste description I have is that it mixes together the worst elements or kerosene and lighter fluid

I can't really argue with that.
I must say though that I definitely picked up more than a hint of the flavor of acid reflux when it sneaks back up into one's throat.

One thing's for certain: One sip of this stuffs and it's something you'll never ever forget.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'