Special thanks to Moutai Australia (@moutaiaustralia) for the invite to this event.

Moutai is China’s national baijiu brand – an extremely alcoholic spirit made from grain. Moutai is synonymous with celebration and strength and is frequently used as part of a toast (or ‘Ganbei’ in Mandarin).

Moutai’s event was geared toward showcasing the drink’s festive aspects as well as introducing its more creative side. Moutai food pairings were sourced from various neighbouring restaurants within Spice Alley and used the spirit as a base for cocktails.

Ham Jelly Moutai Pickleback

Our first canapé was a cube of ham jelly on the end of a plastic dropper filled with Moutai and pickle brine. We were instructed to firstly eat the jelly and then immediately squeeze the dropper to release the Moutai for the full experience.

This pairing was totally aimed at reflecting the strength of Moutai. The salty ham jelly and pickle brine cut through the spirit but by no means negated its impact, instead drawing out a sensation on every tastebud. I found the flavour profile strange and rather harsh on my first try, though my second attempt was more agreeable. It was a novel way for participants to have a little challenge amongst themselves, seeing who could keep a straight face after finishing the pairing.

Holy duck – pork belly baos

Next up were some pork belly baos from Holy Duck. The baos themselves were somewhat soft, though not particularly outstanding and were overshadowed by the succulent pork belly within. I found the pork-to-bun ratio was enough to satisfy without the contents spilling out of the bao as I ate. The accompanying bao sauce added a salty-sweet element to the morsel.

Chicken & Pork Skewers

Plates of skewers made their way around the room. I managed to try the chicken which I found juicy and quite tasty. However I would have enjoyed some more charring to lend a smokey and crispy flavour.

Cocktail #1: Roosters neck – Kweichow Moutai, pomegranate, lime, orange, red wine, soda.

This cocktail was aptly named – its colour was a stunning deep red. It had a slightly citrus scent that had a Moutai undertone. Its taste profile was primarily sweet and fruity followed by a Moutai smack! I’d compare it to a potent sangria.

Cocktail #2: Sneaky Beak – Kweichow Moutai, burnt orange, vanilla, sparkling wine, fluffy orange, mint

Next up was a summer-inspired cocktail – it was light orange in colour and came with bubbles. I found it rather light, sweet and refreshing, until it’s unexpectedly Moutai-heavy finish. I guess that’s why it was called a ‘Sneaky’ Beak!

Cocktail #3: Black Crow – Kweichow Moutai, stout, agave, sparkling wine, sesame.

Drawing inspiration from an ominous bird of prey for a cocktail gave me an excited chill. And with good reason – it had four kinds of alcohol in it! The Coopers stout gave the drink a bold, dark colouring and a touch of bitterness. I couldn’t really detect much of the sparkling wine as it was overshadowed by a massive hit of Moutai and agave. This cocktail was strong and wanted you to know it on your first sip!

Cocktail #4: Banana Dynasty – Kweichow Moutai, bitters, Creme de banana, Quintyen Rouge.

This was my favourite cocktail of the night!  I found its Moutai kick definitely present, though rather subdued by the creme de banana and Quintyen Rouge which lent fruity and floral tones to the drink. The dash of bitters also cut through some of the alcohol burn. Overall, the ratio of each ingredient was perfect, combining to lend their strengths to the cocktail.

Overall the Moutai event was really enjoyable as I was able to experience Moutai in a way I had never had before – through cocktails! It will be interesting to see Moutai integrated into other cocktail varieties throughout Sydney in the future.

Written by Lachlan Munnings (@mister_eats)