Whisky and the Chinese New Year

Although many of us may not follow the Chinese calendar, it is a fascinating one even at a glance. A traditional Chinese calendar follows the pattern of a typical lunisolar calendar which means that it is not the Gregorian calendar that one is accustomed to seeing. If you are wondering how a lunisolar calendar works, it is simply by taking into consideration both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. Depending on how the solar year is defined, that is, if it’s a tropical year or a sidereal year, the season or constellation is determined. A very interesting fact about the traditional Chinese calendar is that it has undergone centuries of evolution. It has several aspects that differ even within the Chinese cultural sphere.

In the Chinese calendar however, months begin on the night of the new moon. And the year begins with the new moon that occurs between the winter solstice and spring equinox.  This year, it’s forecasted to be on the 16th of February and to be honest, it’s not just the Chinese who are excited but the bunch of us who simply enjoy the idea of celebrating an occasion. That aside, people all over the world embrace the Spring Festival because it is so beautiful in marking the beginning of life. What makes the Chinese New Year fascinating to us is also how it associates an animal or bird to denote the year. This is based on deep astrological calculations and has a huge bearing on people and events of the year. But for the moment, let’s not go into the intricacies of astrology. Instead let us tell you how to celebrate the Spring Festival this year with the right amount of light, music, food, and of course, plenty of whisky.

You need to know what you are celebrating when you say you are celebrating the Spring Festival. Now that you know it is not your regular New Year Eve, let us tell you the long tale of how it came to be. It is believed that a mythical beast “Nian” which lived under the sea or on top of a mountain and resembled an ox except with a head of a lion, came out once a year to bring chaos, loss, and death to mankind. After years of suffering and studies, a few wise men discovered that the Nian was scared of loud noise, fire, and the colour red. As a measure, people started gathering on the eve of the Nian’s arrival to defeat it together, with red duilians, lanterns, fireworks, and dance to traditional music. However, the same legend says that the ancient Taoist monk Hongjun Laozu, soon arrived, defeated and captured the Nian thus saving all men from the clutches of misfortune. This came to be known as the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival.

What better way to celebrate the Chinese New Year than with whisky and tea! You can make a cocktail on the eve of the occasion by simply adding two ounces of Chivas Regal 12 Year Old to a Collins glass full of ice cubes and filling it with iced green tea. Easy to make and supremely refreshing, you can start your evening with the cocktail, and don’t forget to serve Chinese Almond Cookies with it. Of course you can move to Taro Cakes, Shrimp Balls, and Gong Bao Chicken and serve it with all your favorite scotch. For instance, try pairing The Glenlivet with the Shrimp Balls and the Taro Cakes and Chicken with either 100 Pipers or Aberlour 18 Year Old.

No Spring Festival is complete without Peking Roasted Duck and while you can pair it with any bourbon you like, we would recommend you savor it with Baijiu instead. Had China produced local whisky, we would definitely ask you to pair your Peking duck with it but they don’t. What they do however, is Baijiu, which is apparently the best selling liquor in the world now. Isn’t that something? So, make a resolution this Chinese New Year to not just drink all things whisky but also try out new food and liquor. On that note, just when the clock strikes 12, pop a few whisky liquor candy!