I first drank baijiu when I was 12, at a banquet in Beijing during a family trip to China. I took a small sip and felt the liquor flame down my throat, setting my nasal passages and eyes on fire. The aftertaste was of hot trash. My body involuntarily tensed as if I'd just drank poison. How was it that this drink, so deeply woven into my parent's warmest memories and the Chinese collective unconscious, tasted foremost of kerosene and rot?