It has been a few weeks since I came back from Taiwan and several things bring back memories from the trip again and again. One of the new things that impressed me was the local liquor called Kaoling.
Kaoling is an essential product of the islands Kinmen and Matsu which historically have been part of China. There is no surprise that chinese locals have kept their many traditions, one of which is to make spirits. Many great alcoholic beverages were created from an excess of a locally grown important raw ingredient called sorghum.
Kaoling is a type of Baijiu. It is a clear spirit that is closest to vodka that has an alcohol variation between 38 – 63% abv with production being for several centuries old. One will need to ferment sorghum and then distill it to produce kaoling wine.
Believe it or not, kaoling liquors contributes to 75% of the economy for the Kinmen and Matsu cities. They are extremely popular with local bartenders who are also very proud of the ingredient and who love using it in their cocktails.
I found the clear spirit similar to vodka with the character of mezcals and good tequilas. The production of spirits provides Kaoling with earthy, mineral, herbal aromas with vegetable notes and barbequed wood. The mouthfeel is creamy and oily varying with each brand. The flavours of kaoling are exceptional and varies from dried fruits, pickled tomatoes with a refreshing grassy to cucumber finish. Some locals compared it to wine with the strength of vodka.
You might be wondering how it is traditionally served? It is mainly served to complement food and the various alcohol levels complement different stage of spiciness of the local cuisine. It is chilled in a freezer and poured into a small glass. My one regret is that I missed the chance of try the aged kaoliang.
For many westerners, it can be harsh and tough to accept. For bartenders, it is a great and unusual ingredient.
Bartender’s note: “When you sip kaoliang, keep it on your tongue for several seconds before swallowing.”