Mulled wine has long been Brits’ festive drink of choice, but there’s a new kind on the drinks list. High-proof Chinese spirit baijiu—which has become more and more popular—has been tipped to take the UK by storm according to industry experts. The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) has announced the key drinks trends of the year, and baijiu is near the top of the list. Baijiu is sorghum-based, though it also can contain wheat, rice and corn, and is dry fermented inside in-ground pits. It then is steam distilled several times, aged in large terra cotta vessels for many years, then finally blended in a complex and labour-intensive process. Brits may be surprised to hear that baijiu, a strong spirit made from fermented sorghum grain, is in fact the world’s biggest-selling alcoholic drink. Making up 99.6 per cent of the Chinese spirits market, the high-alcohol white spirit has been rocketing in quality in recent years and the IWSC’s research has shown a corresponding rise. Now it seems the Western world is finally coming round to the ‘polarising’ flavour of baijiu—which is often described as unique savoury. Waiters in both the UK and the US are beginning to put it into cocktails, with London’s Baijiu Cocktail Week still going strong for the fifth year running, IWSC said. The experts in drinks came together for the IWSC Annual Awards Banquet at London’s Guildhall on Wednesday night. With people from over 90 countries, including all categories of wines and spirits, the IWSC got the data from hundreds of participants and winners to tell the key players to watch for the year ahead.