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Oct 4, 2012 07:22 AM

Where can I buy aged Maotai in NYC ?

Where can I buy aged Maotai in NYC ?

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  1. Personally, I find most Baijiu - of which Maotai (usually spelled Moutai over here) is one brand -revolting. It smells and tastes like stale baseball-card bubble gum. I think there's a reason that with the whole fancy cocktail renaissance, and mixologists all vying to be the one with the most obscure ingredients, nobody seems to be playing with Moutai.

    I've seen it in a few Chinatown shops, and I think uptown at Mister Wright's I saw a bottle or two. But keep in mind that "aged" when referring to to Maotai generally means bottle-aged, NOT barrel-aged, and bottle aging has no effect on spirits whatsoever, as spirits aren't "alive" like wine or lower-alcohol beverages.

    The prices for old bottles have skyrocketed over the last decade with the rise of the moneyed class in China, as well. Kind of like how certain Cognacs (often the crappiest ones at that) went beyond their "real" value and were marketed purely as status symbols - where the market value has more to do with the bottle itself, not what is actually in it.

    There are slight differences in older bottles, in that China was less polluted when they were produced. And some will justify the crazy expense for 1980s and earlier Maotais with that... I mean, maybe those taste better, I dunno. They couldn't taste worse.

    All that aside, check Mark's on Mott below Bayard, or Elizabeth St. Wine & Spirits. I've certainly seen bottles with very high prices, and numbers which seem to indicate years, though I've never (to my knowledge) seen any of the ultra-ultra fancy Baijiu, like Wuliangye or something. Some of the fancier stuff might not be on the shelves, helps if you speak Chinese I suppose...

    I'm not sure it's even imported into the US. I would bet you could find it in Canada, where there are concentrartions of more moneyed Chinese populations, but that might be a little far to go for a bottle of booze.

    10 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      Thanks for the reply .
      Any bars where I try the old stuff by the glass ?

        1. re: sgordon

          No ; but I can go with people that do .
          The Chinese speakers that I know aren't drinkers , other wise I would just ask them these questions .
          But If I had a place or list of places they would accompany me as a favor .

          1. re: kid cha

            Hard to say, but some of the better / fancier places, especially those that cater mainly to Chinese clientele, will probably have a stash. There's a restaruant actually called "Wuliangye" that might be as good a place as any to start.

            You could try Hakkasan, even though they're more for Western folks they're very high-end so they might carry some. Though even if they have it, it'll probably be staggeringly overpriced.

            Otherwise, some of the higher-end places in Chinatown - maybe Oriental Garden. Golden Unicorn isn't great food-wise but I noticed a big display of alcohol there, and they get a decent amount of Chinese clientele.

            If you're willing to venture out to Flushing, you might have even better luck out there.

            Have one of your Chinese-speaking friends call around for you before committing to a meal on the hopes they'll have what you're looking for. Have them ask about Baijiu, not just Moutai (which is simply a kind of Baijiu) - there are aged Baijius from all different regions. Moutai might be one of the better ones, sure. It's certainly - next to Wuliangye - the most expensive one.

            If you do find any, let me know - I used to be kind of curious myself, but after tasting a bit of mid-range stuff (in the $60/bottle range) and hating it all, I couldn't see myself shelling out for anything higher end.

            1. re: sgordon

              will do ; xièxie

              I recall seeing a bottle of Moutai behind the bar at Cafe China .
              But it was being sold as bottle only ; $350 for the 375ml .

              1. re: kid cha

                There is no need to speak Chinese as long as you can convince them you know what you are talking about. The 茅台 liquor has seen its price skyrocket recently, so $200-250 a bottle wouldn't be totally unexpected. Somehow $350 doesn't quite shock me: the bottle that you've seen can be a vanity item, 70 or so years old. Why not simply ask the bartender at Cafe China what liquor store carries liquor "like this".

                Or ask at a good liquor store in Flushing, such as Beijing Liquor and Wines on Main, down the block from the library. I am pretty sure there are good liquor stores in Chinatown, but it's been years since I shopped there.

                1. re: kid cha

                  Given restaurant mark-up, that's no surprise. Standard wine markup nationwide is usually double retail, but in NYC it tends to be a bit higher - 3X or even 4X at the fanciest places. That aside, liquor markups are usually even more extraordinary - 5X is not unheard of for by-the-glass prices, and bottle service... forget about it. If you want to pay $400 for a $25 bottle of Smirnoff, be my guest. Most restaurants, though, don't sell liquor by the bottle - but it wouldn't surprise me if that $350 Moutai was something in the $50 range, retail - for a 750ml bottle, at that.

                  In fact, as far as I know the Moutai company only exports two varieties to the US, and they're both in that general price range. So unless this was part of someone's private stash (in which case it probably wouldn't have had any English on the label) - sounds like a pretty hefty rip-off.

                  Next time you're there snap a pic to post, maybe one of us will recognize it.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    A 750 ml bottle of 老茅台酒 is, most likely, a counterfeit..

                    1. re: diprey11

                      English, for god's sake. Most of us don't read Kanji, y'know. What's the point of that?

                      I'm not positive I remember the bottle size. They might have been 375s or 500s. Also, it was at least five years ago I'm talking about, so who knows what was available then?

                      I think Moutai - if whatever the heck it is you wrote in Chinese means "Moutai" - only comes in 375s in the US currently, at least according to - but many Baijiu come in many different sizes...

                      1. re: sgordon

                        I am really sorry. That was aged maotai. I put it in Chinese characters so that the OP could print it and show at the store. I found this is the most effective way to help people who do not read Chinese. :-) The most likely bottle size is 250 ml or 375 ml.
                        The link you included is for the right brand name, but the difference between maotai and aged maotai is 20+ years and $100 or so

      1. Personally, start with the cheap stuff and decide if you want to keep going - Er Guo Tou (basically, the 2nd distilling - $20/bottle at Mark's in Chinatown last time I bought one, make sure you have some kind of fatty food to consume it with, like pork belly or hong shao rou, etc.

        There's also Wu Liang Ye and various other Chinese white spirits as noted below, they all taste about the same, some are smoother, the flavor profile tends to be the same in general.

        1. There are at least three Chinese liquor stores in Chinatown - one is on Walker Street, not far from Canal on the south side of the street. Sam Wai at 17 East Broadway and another on Mott, between Bayard and Pell.

          4 Replies
          1. re: scoopG

            Yes, thank you, now I remember.

            I liked Sam Wai a lot (although it was five years ago): they had some really interesting stuff. The quality of service was excellent too, which is especially important to OP who (if I understand correctly) doesn't speak or read Chinese. The family-operated store on Mott, just south of Bayard, has a good selection, but I doubt they would carry expensive, rare liquors (of course, one never knows). Never visited the store @Walker so can't comment.

            1. re: diprey11

              The one on Mott is Mark's Wine & Spirits. I do remember seeing some bottles with three-digit prices there - though it's been a few years since I've been in that shop.

              1. re: sgordon

                Thanks for all the replies .
                I'm more interested in trying a few different types by the glass , so I'll just search for some high end restaurants in Manhattan and Flushing .
                By the way , I've had home made Chinese Snake Wine on more than one occasion , so while I might not enjoy the baijiu I should be able to handle it .

                1. re: kid cha

                  You might want to try a trendy Chinese restaurant, such as MuLan in Flushing