Baijiu bars | Hope & Sesame team opens Sanyou in Guangzhou

Note: Sanyou 三酉 is now open! San 三 means 3: this is the third bar by Hope & Sesame and is on the third floor.

You / 酉 means the “old way in China of counting time by groups of two hours”, explains Bastien Ciocca. “It’s the character for 5 PM to 7 PM, which is happy hour.”

And when you combine “you” with the liquid element? You get 酒 / jiu, the character for alcohol. How appropriate! Check out our Q&A below.

The team behind innovative speakeasy Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou will open baijiu joint Sanyou this weekend–and do some boozy fun for World Baijiu Day, too. I talked to Bastien Ciocca about this project.

Boyce: A baijiu bar in Guangzhou–exciting! What will it involve? Cocktails? Flights? Food pairings? Classes?

Ciocca: Sanyou is opening this weekend–big times ahead!–in Wenheyou Superb, a complex that captures the old city of Guangzhou from the 90s.

Sanyou is a modern baijiu cocktail bar that aims to transform the perception of baijiu, by introducing innovative and cutting-edge techniques to a spirit with a long history.

There will be two areas at Sanyou. One will have fast and casual offerings while the other aims to provide an immersive cocktail bar experience.

All the cocktails in Sanyou will be based on baijiu and there will be lots of tastings, with products ranging from classics to small baijiu distilleries, along with some hard-to find bottles and newer interpretations of baijiu.

You are also working on barrel-aged baijiu. Any special challenges?

It’s a learning process. We’ve had some really exciting results so far but it’s still early days to really draw conclusions on what aroma of baijiu works best with what type of cask and cask finish. Time will let us know!

Hope & Sesame has held baijiu classes for bartenders. What’s the general attitude to baijiu at the start? Any “aha” moments during training?

It is interesting to see that a lot of bartenders and cocktail lovers have this “stereotype” towards baijiu, perceiving it as an “old school” spirit that is mostly consumed by middle-aged Chinese.

But with more baijiu knowledge, and after a couple rounds of tasting, people start to realize there is so much more to be explored. Most were quiet amazed by the fragrance and complexity, especially from one of the main categories of baijiu, the “sesame fragrance.”  

You’ve mentioned that while doing bar pop ups around China, you see few established venues doing baijiu cocktails any more. What happened? A trend that lost momentum?

My guess is that a few years ago a lot of bars were doing baijiu cocktails, but without much understanding of the whole category. As the cocktail bar trend grew, interest in craft gins, whisky, rum and other spirits took the main stage.

Making “baijiu cocktails” sounds fairly simple until you start digging into the diverse flavors, aromas and overall styles. What would be three guiding principles?

First, understand the principle flavors that are shared among baijius of the same category. Second, try to combine flavors that are familiar for most of the crowd that has experienced baijiu. Third, come to Sanyou for a drink and then you will know!

Founded in 2015, World Baijiu Day is held each August 9, with events in over 60 cities so far. Follow WBD on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And get in touch via spirit (at)

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