For the Chinese, the New Year celebration becomes all the more festive with alcohol to drink with family and friends. As the people’s exposure to different culture broadens, foreign drinks have begun finding their way on many dining tables, alongside some traditional alcohols. Most of these drinks are paired with the dishes prepared for the occasion.
Preferred Chinese New Year Drinks in the Greater China Markets
For the Mainlanders, the Chinese white wine, baijiu, remains the most consumed drink for all occasions. Its strong and fiery flavor is perfect for family reunions and get-together during the Lunar New Year. Tusu and Jiao wines are two types of baijiu that play significant roles during the celebrations in China. They symbolize peace, health and longevity.
Other popular alcohols for the New Year are beer and red wine. The Chinese like having a well-chilled lager within reach to balance those spicy dishes. Meanwhile, red wine is preferred because of its health benefits. A fruity Pinot Noir is a good choice for many. Its hue is also considered a lucky color, as red symbolizes good fortune and joy.
A traditional New Year feast for Hong Kongers consists of pun choi (a dish made of meats, seafood and vegetables), chicken, and neen go (a sweet made from glutinous rice flour and brown sugar). While alcohol is not commonly consumed during the New Year, most families serve light wines like a fruity Beaujolais or a crisp Riesling.
For the older generation, foreign spirits like cognac and whisky are the preferred choices. Those Hong Kongers who celebrate the New Year in restaurants typically order beer and house wines. Hotels likewise offer sparkling wine like champagnes and romantic rosés to their guests as celebratory drinks.
During the New Year, the people of Taiwan perform rituals to show respect for the departed. Their offerings often include fo tiao qiang (a thick stew), fish and daikon cake, among others. These dishes are paired with traditional alcohol, like rice wine. Shaoxing and Kaoliang are two drinks that are considered essential at the Taiwanese table.
Kaoliang is an unflavored baijiu, a favorite among the northerners. It has been around since the Ming Dynasty. Shaoxing wine is milder than Kaoliang and is great for toasting during a Taiwanese dinner. It is usually served warm. Meanwhile, some Taiwanese housewives offer their homemade brews made of sub-tropical fruits like longan, plums and peaches.
Visitors in Macau typically celebrate the New Year in hotels where they are served champagne and signature cocktails to go with the food. There is also a range of beers and house wines to choose from. Classic French and Italian wines are popular choices. For beer, some prefer simple lagers while others go for the unique taste of craft beers.
The New Year for the locals, on the other hand, is not complete without some Portuguese alcohol. They put a European twist to their dishes by serving good quality wine and beer that are often rich and sweet in flavor. For the occasion, the Macanese prepare a mixture of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines, like dried oysters with hair moss and pato de cabidela.
The Chinese have been known to splurge for food and drinks for the New Year celebration. For many retailers, the occasion is an opportune time to take advantage of the demand to boost their sales and earn profits. Some offer discount and freebies to attract buyers, while others come up with clever campaigns.