Baiju May Violate the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility

I remember Gary Becker suggesting that there may be rare exceptions to the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Maybe baiju, discussed below, is one of those rare exceptions?

(p. A13) Newcomers to China are usually horrified by their first encounter with baijiu, the fiery spirit consumed at banquets and family dinners, typically comparing it to jet fuel, paint stripper or drain cleaner. Even long-term expatriates often shudder at the stuff. So can foreigners learn to love baijiu? Derek Sandhaus proves it is possible. But it takes some work, as he describes in “Drunk in China.”

A Mandarin-speaker and the trailing spouse of an American diplomat to China, Mr. Sandhaus sniffs his first glass of baijiu and compares it to “the last whiff one senses before waking up in a serial killer’s rumpus room.” So when a friend tells him it takes 300 shots to learn to love the liquor, he accepts the challenge and starts a blog about his odyssey. The promised epiphany comes after 70 shots when Mr. Sandhaus cracks open a bottle of National Cellar 1573, made by Sichuan’s Luzhou Laojiao distillery. “This was not simply a magnificent baijiu,” he writes. “It was a magnificent drink. Period.”

. . .

China’s distillers need to find new markets for baijiu, and Mr. Sandhaus has embraced this mission with the zeal of a convert. He co-founded Ming River Sichuan Baijiu to sell a baijiu produced by Luzhou Laojiao, the same distillery that produces the 1573 hooch he first fell in love with. He believes that cosmopolitans will embrace authentic Chinese baijiu if it is presented in a familiar form. To that end, he promotes the creation of baijiu cocktails. It’s a gutsy bet, especially by one who initially thought baijiu “smelled as if someone had wrung a garbage bag of soiled gym shorts into a bucket of fish sauce, stirred in an equal measure of Drano, rotten fruit, and blue cheese, and left it to marinate a few days.”

For the full review, see:

Hugo Restall. “BOOKSHELF; The Proletariat’s White Wine.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, January 17, 2020): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 16, 2020, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Drunk in China’ Review: The Proletariat’s White Wine.”)

The book under review, is:

Sandhaus, Derek. Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World’s Oldest Drinking Culture. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2020.

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