What is it?: Baijiu is a Chinese liquor usually made of sorghum. It typically runs between 40 and 60 percent ABV and is definitely an acquired taste – people often refer to it as “The White Devil.”
Where have you heard of it? Moutai, one of the largest manufacturers of the stuff, came under fire last year for both a contamination scandal and the high price of the baijiu it sells. The latter is largely due to the drink’s popularity among government officials, which jacks up the cost.
Where can you get it? Baijiu is tricky to find in the U.S. because of import laws and the lack of an established market here, though manufacturers are trying to change that. Your best bet is heading to a Chinatown in your nearest city.
What is it? Jeppson’s Malört is described as a Swedish-Style Brännvin, or a wormwood liqueur (what absinthe is made of). Though it’s been around for almost a century, only recently has malört gained popularity, despite its bitter taste.
Where have you heard of it? Perhaps on this very site!
Where can you get it? Though only manufactured in Chicago, out-of-towners can buy it online.
What is it? A bitter Italian aperitif that tastes like black liquorice, Fernet-Branca has a 40 ABV rating.
Where have you heard of it? Perhaps from one of the numerous articles touting its growing popularity among the San Francisco and Los Angeles hip. In fact, 35 percent of the consumption in the U.S. occurs in California. And some consider it a remedy for a stomach ache.
What is it? A Scandinavian spirit, akvavit is usually flavored with caraway seeds and has about a 40 percent ABV. It’s traditionally drunk as a shot, sometimes chased with beer, but some bars will mix it into cocktails. It has a flavor not dissimilar to jäger.
Where have you heard of it? If you’ve been in Denmark and Norway around Christmas, you’ve seen akvavit used for holiday celebrations. Or at a place like New York’s Vandaag.
Where can you get it? Northshore Distillery in Illinois sells akvavit; you can purchase it through these venders online. House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon also makes the beverage and you can buy it here.
What is it? The Turkish version of ouzo, raki is made from grapes and flavored with anise seeds. It’s often drunk mixed with water, turning it a milky color, which is why some people call it “lion’s milk.” It has a 45 percent ABV.
Where have you heard of it? Unfortunately for the Turkish economy, raki consumption in that country has fallen by 50 percent in the past several years. Economists attribute the drop to the low tax on alcohols like vodka, and the rising cost of raki.
Where can you get it? Popular brand Yeni Raki is distributed in 12 U.S. states.
What is it? Literally what the name describes: a dessert wine made from grapes that were frozen while still on the vine. It’s typically produced in Germany or Canada, can be red or white and ranges from six to 13 percent ABV.
Where have you heard of it? It hasn’t been cold enough lately in Canada, so ice wine production is really suffering.
Where can you get it? If you’re in the United States, a large amount is produced in Michigan, but German and Canadian varieties are available online and at specialty wine shops.
What is it? Made of sugar cane juice, cachaça is often called Brazilian rum (though traditional rum is distilled from molasses). It runs between 38 and 48 percent ABV and is used in Brazil’s national drink the Caipirinha.
Where can you get it? There are several popular brands available in liquor stores in the US, like Beleza de Minas and Pitu.
What is it? Pulque is a fermented agave nector, yeasty-tasting and milky in color, made in Mexico. There, it’s served fresh at bars made for just drinking pulque, called pulqueria’s.
Where have you heard of it? If you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan, he talks about it on an episode of No Reservations.
What is it? Also called white dog by those in the industry, white whiskey is essentially a fancy way of saying moonshine. It’s a clear whiskey that hasn’t been aged in a barrel, usually made with a combination of rye, corn and barley, with anywhere from a 40 to 60 percent ABV.
Where can you get it? Jack Daniels just released a white whiskey, but there are also a number of smaller American distilleries making their own as well.
What is it? An Ethiopian mead also known as honey wine, tej can be home-brewed. Tej made in Ethiopia is usually between 6.98 and 10.9 percent ABV.
Where have you heard of it? A lot of Ethiopian restaurants brew their own, so you may have had it over dinner.
What is it? A Korean liquor traditionally made from rice, though a lot of modern suppliers use other starches to make this alcohol, which is similar in taste to vodka. It can have an ABV of anywhere from 16 to 45 percent and is traditionally drunk straight.
Where have you heard of it? In states like New York or California, soju can be served in restaurants that would normally only be allowed to serve beer and wine because of its low ABV. Korean company Jinro’s soju has been the most popular liquor in the world for eleven years.
Where can you get it? You can find popular brands like Jinro all across the U.S.
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