Moutai, a clear and potent spirit famed its incredibly strong taste, is known for being the drink-of-choice amongst many Chinese politicians and businesspeople looking to impress their colleagues.
And now, the prestigious brand is hoping it can tap into a younger market by launching its very first Moutai ice cream store, selling sweet treats infused with the notoriously strong spirit that’s 53% alcohol.
The first ever Moutai Ice Cream shop opened on May 19 in the lobby of the Moutai International Hotel in the city of Zunyi in southwest Guizhou province. The Kweichow Moutai group, which produces the spirit, is headquartered there.
Moutai is the most expensive type of baijiu, which is often referred to as China’s “national spirit.” It’s almost exclusively drunk in the country yet is the world’s most heavily consumed hard liquor. It’s served at pretty much every festive occasion across the nation, from wedding receptions to business banquets.
While the cheapest bottles of baijiu cost as little as $1 at convenience stores in China, a 500 milliliter to 700 milliliter (18 to 24 fluid ounce) bottle of Moutai typically costs from 1,499 yuan ($223), to over 16,000 yuan ($2,390) for rare vintages. In 2021, a rare case of Moutai sold for more than $1 million in London – the highest price ever paid at an auction for a single lot of the spirit outside China.
How does it taste?
Given that Moutai’s strong taste has earned it the nickname “firewater,” many people in China have been curious about how an ice cream flavored with the liquor might taste.
The ice cream store will reportedly introduce 14 flavors of Moutai-infused ice cream including matcha, chocolate and green plum, with prices ranging from 39.9 yuan ($6) to more than 100 yuan ($15) per serving.
Those who have already tried the ice cream describe it as having “a light Moutai flavor”, according to local media reports.
Distilled from sorghum and rice, a batch of Moutai goes through eight rounds of subterranean fermentation over the course of a year, a process that gives the spirit an almost savory flavor resembling soy sauce. Notes of mushroom, caramel and bitter herbs add to the amazingly rich flavor.
The shop will officially open on May 29, but for now two flavors of Moutai ice cream are available: the original Moutai ice cream and vanilla Moutai ice cream, each selling at 39 yuan per serving.
Moutai ice cream is more expensive than Haagen-Dazs, arguably the most famous ice cream brand in China. But while brands like Haagen-Dazs offer distribution options through cold chains, for now Moutai ice cream can only be enjoyed in the flagship shop.
That has left foodies across the country longing for a taste of the baijiu-infused ice cream.
“It seems that Moutai ice cream will turn into a buzz. I can’t afford the liquor, but I can definitely afford an ice cream. I must try it some time,” says one post on China’s Twitter-like microblog platform, Weibo.
“When will the Moutai ice cream store also open in Beijing?” another asked.
Don’t eat and drive
Liquor distiller Kweichow Moutai is now China’s second-most valuable publicly-listed company, with a market cap of over $338 billion.
The brand’s foray into the ice cream world has sparked both delight and debate. A hashtag that translates to “Moutai ice cream is 39 yuan per serving” has amassed over 180 million views on Weibo.
But while some felt Moutai may be an odd choice for an ice cream flavor, many hailed the innovation.
“Why can’t there be Moutai ice cream while there is rum ice cream?” wrote one Weibo user.
“Moutai distillers can also launch ice creams according to the series of Moutai vintages. A salty ice cream with a baijiu flavor may become a market to watch as well,” stated another.
Some are already looking forward to the next crossover, hoping for Moutai-infused chocolate, coffee and milk tea.
Netizens were nevertheless swift in questioning the potential effects of consuming the alcohol-infused ice cream.
“Will one get tipsy upon eating one cone if they can’t hold their liquor at all?”
Produced jointly by the Kweichow Moutai group and one of China’s biggest dairy companies, Mengniu Dairy, the ice cream is made up of 50 grams of Moutai per kilogram of milk, customer service staff at the International Hotel told local media.
Because it contains an alcohol concentration of 3%, the research and development team advises consumers not to drive after eating it and minors are not allowed to buy it.
Moutai is not the first brand to get a bit adventurous with China’s national spirit. Baijiu-infused pizza and gummy bears have already hit the market, while one chef in Beijing invented a deep-fried baijiu cake.
Top image: Bottles of Moutai line the shelves of the brand’s flagship ice cream store. Credit: VCG/Getty Images