Illegal Rice Wine Is a Hot Commodity in Fujianese Neighborhoods


Everyone loves a good glass of moonshine. Why? Because it’s illegal for one, and anyone who has ever consumed anything illegal — be it a glass of hooch or a pot brownie — knows that it tastes damn well better than something made morally. While most people might think of the ‘shine as corn-based, illegally made rice wine is a booming business in the city’s Chinatown neighborhoods.

The New York Times has a rather entertaining article about the rise of the spirit, which is between 10 and 18 percent alcohol. Brought by Fujianese immigrants who have a long-standing tradition of making and selling rice wine, restaurateurs will brew the hooch right in their kitchens, selling it to customers. Outside of the restaurant industry, vendors will openly sell it on street corners, and you can spot quart containers of the reddish-hued liquid in grocery-store refrigerators, right next to the duck eggs. According to the paper, “The best versions recall sherry or Japanese sake. The worst, vinegar.” Yum. The homemade versions are supposedly more in-demand because they contain fewer additives than the commercial stuff. See, even the Fujianese are locavores! But buying the stuff can often be hard for non-Fujianese. Still, it’s an interesting glimpse into a different, urban side of moonshining.