'Most popular drink in the world' to be launched in Sheffield bar takeover

If you were asked to name the most popular spirit in the world, you might guess vodka, whisky, or maybe gin – but you’ve probably never heard of the real answer.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 6:00 am
Craig (right) with colleague jack at their brewery.

Baijiu, a strong distilled spirit drunk in households throughout China is the clear winner, according to Craig Butler, CEO and founder of Baijiu society, and he should know.

Now Craig, who is from Sheffield, wants to bring Baijiu, with a few contemporary twists, to a western audience, and is hosting a bar takeover at 99 Mary Street in November to launch his product line.

Craig said: “Five of the world’s most valuable alcohol companies are Chinese Baijiu producers, it’s just that no-one in the west has ever heard of them.

Craig has implemented some twists on the spirit, making it more suitable for western tastes.

“I lived in China for years so I drank lots of Baijiu, some I really loved because of their distinct flavours. China is so big and diverse that Baijiu encompasses many different types of clear spirit.

When Craig returned to the UK he worked in the craft beer industry and decided to create a Baijiu infused beer which he took to the Chinese Market.

Craig added: “Beer that had these key notes of Baijiu is very interesting. I bought a brewery in Cropton and I brought this beer back to China - it sells in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Now I am bringing it to the UK. We are blessed in Sheffield with great Chinese restaurants with delicious food but then they will serve you a bottle of Tiger, which is essentially German lager.”

Craig explained that in China, most Baijiu drinkers are older and have it neat with an evening meal. In bringing the drink to the UK and adding western elements, he hopes to capture a younger demographic.

Baijiu beer as well as the whole Baijiu Society range of drinks will be available to try at the Mary Street launch event.

He said: “Part of our contemporary twist is that we have infused ours with berries, fruits, a botanical mix. We have brought the alcohol down to 40% [from 60%] and worked with blending technology so it works really well with tonics and in cocktails.

“The plan is not just to copy Chinese Baijiu. It’s a blend of Chinese Baijiu with some western elements and some twists, it is an evolution of the Chinese spirit.”

The launch will take place on November 26 for press and 27 for public, and will be by invitation only.