Co-author vineyards, part II: Jing Jo

A beautiful box and a promising amber color of the beverage.

A beautiful box and a promising amber color of the beverage.

By Jonas Waldenström

Some time ago, I started a curiosity-driven beverage voyage. But instead of sampling all the fine wines of a particular district in France, I am on the lookout for drinks with co-author names. The first item on the list was indeed a French wine, but in this second episode it is time to look to the east, rather than south. Today it is Jing Jo – a strong spirit from China that share part of its name with my fantastic postdoc Jo Chapman!

Everyone agrees that Jo is a gem; a smart, witty and hard-working evolutionary ecologist, born in Kiwi land and schooled in Oxford. In her project she is exploring the secret world of the innate immune system in ducks! A true scientific journey full of what’s, how’s and why’s. Given Jo’s qualities, I hoped that the spirit Jing Jo would be an equally nice beverage. And it started promising! The cardboard box that held the bottle was deep red, decorated with golden Chinese letters, and perfected with a profound slogan:

Coloured by the admired wolfberries, brewed with fresh spring water from Mufu mountain in the region of Huang Shi. Bringing the sweet and the bitter into the essence of traditional healing herbs and spices. Offering the one taste of earth meeting the sky – the Yin and Yang with every sip.

Seriously: the Yin and Yang with every sip! That has to be greatness in a soluble form! And look how happy they are in the commercial – just like us in our journal clubs!

There is just one problem. Actually a big problem. It tasted foul! Like a cross between Jägermeister, Brandy and Fernet Branca. The ‘Yin and Yang with every sip’ turned out to be a schizophrenic blend of semi-bitter and semi-sweet that made my tongue hurt.

In order to get a second opinion I brought the bottle to a lab meeting. And here are the reactions. I quote:



“mmm, tastes like cognac”


Of those that survived the testing, four (including the real Jo) answered that the taste was bad/foul/revolting; three said it was OK (but declined the offer of a refill), and one person said it was pretty good (actually the best Chinese strong spirit he had ever had).

With time even surströmming tastes good

With time even surströmming tastes good

I tried it myself again, and have to admit it was slightly better the second time around (now just mildly revolting and yet strangely appealing). Perhaps with enough time and practice an acquired taste would evolve? After all, a lot of things – cigarettes, surströmming, snus and coffee, for example – are rough at start, but great with time.

Anyway, the drink and the postdoc did not match at all in spirits. But, rumor tells me there is a Chapman wine in Australia, so hopefully we could return with a more suitable beverage in a future edition of co-author vineyards.


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