Illegal Rice Wine Sounds Sort of Awesome

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Is rice wine New York City's version of moonshine? Photo: iStockphoto

Today, the Times tracks the proliferation and widespread sale of an illegal, pink-tinged fermented rice wine that has become freely available in predominantly Fujianese neighborhoods across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Apparently you can get it by the quart at stores, where it's stacked alongside Coca-Cola, for $3 to $5, or if you prefer, from street vendors who hang out under the East Broadway overpass to the Manhattan Bridge. With an alcohol content landing between 10 and 18 percent, the homemade rice wine comes with the usual curative claims ("If you drink this, you’ll stay young") but also in a widely varying range of qualities (tastes range from vinegar to fine sake, notes the Times).

The paper interviewed dozens of shopkeepers and representatives from restaurants, most of whom seemingly would not sell them any rice wine, both out of fear and fear of competition. “Not for sale!” said one. Another: “It’s only for the Fujianese!”

The article quotes a New York State Liquor Authority representative who said there had been complaints about the brew, but there were "no further details." Also, the NYPD told the Times that they had not investigated the sale of the rice wine, but does that mean they also know about it? In terms of low-end, bootleg beverages, is the impending rice-wine crackdown the new nutcracker crackdown?

Illegal Sale of Rice Wine Thrives in Chinese Enclaves [NYT]
Earlier: The Nutcracker Crackdown Just Got Real