China’s recent crackdown on corruption has spelled hard times for the liquor industry. With extravagant drinking and dining now a government no-no, the makers of liquor like baijiu have seen a serious decline in sales over the past two years.
But Baijiu makers have found a surprising solution to their financial woes: make the grain alcohol more luxurious by adding a little jeweled sparkle into the mix.
A counter-intuitive reaction to the government’s new plain Jane approach? Possibly, but China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission announced last month that it was seeking professional advice on whether to approve adding gold flakes to baijiu.
Since ancient China’s own golden years, the bright metal has been associated with food and drink. The wealthy, believing gold signified immortality, would eat and drink from golden vessels. Alchemists even advocated consuming the metal itself as part of a recipe for longer life. But ingesting gold also had negative connotations in classical Chinese literature, with heroes and heroines swallowing ingots as a means of suicide.
Baijiu fans need not worry about the fatal affects of gold in their drinks, however, since distilleries will be adding dust, not ingots, to the alcohol. When ingested orally, gold dust is not toxic because it isn’t easily absorbed, and European liqueurs like Goldschläger and Goldwasser have long been adding small amounts of gold to their products.
But just because drinking gold won’t kill you, doesn’t mean it’ll make you stronger. “I’m still not clear on the purpose of adding gold flake to baijiu,” Ma Yong, a member of the baijiu expert committee of the China National Food Industry Association, told The Beijing Times.
The newspaper interviewed one baijiu drinker, identified as Mr. Zhao, who drank gold flaked baijiu and suggests one reason why gold may be a good idea. “When the gold flashes, it gives you a lot of face,” he said. “But as far as the taste, it makes no difference.”
Photo Courtesy of Weibo User 借问笑何事