Let’s Make Chinese Herbal Tonic Wines

Originally published January 24, 2018

Baijiu has a long history of 5,000 years in Chinese culture, and until the past decade when Chinese people became interested in grape wines, was the celebratory drink of choice. Literally “white liquor”, baijiu is a clear, strong distilled spirit similar to vodka, and depending upon the region, can be distilled from fermented sorghum, wheat, barley, millet, or even Job’s tears (yes, Yi yi ren), and enhanced with the addition of medicinal herbs. Huangjiu, “yellow wine” is a liquor also made from water, cereal grains such as rice, sorghum, millet, or wheat, and a jiuqu starter culture. However, unlike baijiu, huangjiu ranges in color from yellow to brown, is not distilled and contain less than 20% alcohol.

The first known mention of herbal tonic wine is from the Wu Shi Er Bing Fang (Prescriptions for 52 Ailments), which was unearthed at Ma Wang Dui tomb, an archaeological site located in Changsha, China. It is believed to have been written around 200 BC, although the prescriptions are thought to be much older.

We recently tried 4 tonic recipes, concentrated so that they came out more like a tincture (less fun than a true wine, but more practical!). All you need are the herbs, Baijiu or Huangjiu (available at any well-stocked Chinese grocery store), and a large glass jar.

Take 1 small shot or 1 ounce/2 tablespoons in evenings. Not advised during the early stages of acute infection or illness, such as cold or flu.

Goji Ginseng Wine
Restores the Yuan Qi, Tonifies Spleen, Generates Fluids and Astringes Leakages, Calms the Shen and Benefits the Mind. Brightens the Eyes.
 * 20 g Ren shen
* 100 g Gou qi zi
* 25 g Shu di huang
* 100 g rock sugar
* 750 ml baijiu or vodka

Four Gentlemen/Si Jun Zi Wine
Tonifies the Qi, Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.
* 50 g Dang shen
* 50 g Chao Bai zhu (stir fried Bai zhu)
* 50 g Fu ling
* 20 g Zhi Gan cao (honey fried Gan cao)
* 750 ml baijiu, huang jiu (yellow wine) or vodka

Four Substances/Si Wu Tang Wine
Tonifies and Regulates the Blood, Regulates the Liver.
* 50 g Dang gui
* 50g Shu di huang
* 50 g Chuan xiong
* 50 g Bai shao
* 750 ml baijiu, huang jiu (yellow wine) or vodka

For the above 3 recipes, the instructions are the same:
Place herbs and wine in a clean jar, making sure herbs are completely submerged. Seal tightly and steep for 1 month, away from sunlight, occasionally gently shaking contents. Strain and decant to clean jar or bottle.

Five Seed Wine
Tonifies Liver and Kidney, Benefits the Essence, Solidifies the Jing, Brightens the Eyes.
* 50 g Fu pen zi
* 50 g Tu si zi
* 50 g Zhu shi zi
* 50 g Jin ying zi
* 50 g Gou qi zi
* 50 g Sang piao xiao
* 750 ml baijiu or vodka

Instructions for Five Seed Wine:
Crush herbs and put into unbleached bag. Place in clean jar and add baijiu, making sure herbs are completely submerged. Seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place. Gently shake contents a few times every day. After 14 days, filter the herbs out of the wine before putting in a clean jar or bottle. Cap tightly when not in use.

Further reading:

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