Drinking in China

In China, most drink beer. There’s good reason for this. Many parts of China are life-threateningly hot; so much so that cold beer is an integral part of your life-support equipment. That and spirits drinking is a knotty, complex area of Western culture that is stubbornly resisting assimilation into Chinese culture.

Case in point, an exchange with a waitress at a spirits-themed bar in Yangshuo:

“I’ll have a rum and coke.”

“Rum?”, she asks uncertainly.

“Yeah, rum.”

Waitress hurries off and scans a shelf of spirits bottles. Her finger passes Bacardi, Coruba and Captain Morgan.

“We don’t have ‘rum'”, she says anxiously.

“Uhhh huh… Well, I’ll have a bacardi and coke.”


Later on I’d order a Black Russian and receive a Martini glass filled with something milky-white coloured. At first I thought it was straight Kahlua, but on closer inspection I saw it was floating on top of about half a shot’s worth of Coke. Looks like somebody accidentally reversed the proportions in their bartending manual.

I feel curmudgeonly to be bitching about this. The fact that I could order in English at all is a tribute to the vast effort they must have put in scaling my side of the language chasm. They’ve obviously worked a lot harder than I have. I tried to learn some Mandarin phrases, but whenever I went to use them, the situation’s confusion and trouble just deepened.

1 Response to “Drinking in China”

  1. 1 Rich Switzer
    September 20, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    hey man, lets not forget about my drink at the very same bar. Remember when I ordered a dry martini? Well what I got was, surprisingly enough, martini “mix”…which i think was just vermouth. Why were the staff so surprised when I complained about my glass (not a martini glass BTW) of vermouth? Stick to beer or neat drinks.

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