Nobody seems to know the actual story, but rumour has it that a Taiwanese bartender kicked off an unprecedented rise in whisky consumption on the mainland. With a simple combination of liquor and mixer - as if by magic - sales of Chivas Regal in China surpassed those in the United States for the first time. The surge is not about a new drinking elite: it's about a new elite drink. One paper called the mixture of Chivas and green tea 'taking the sting out of whisky by adding something Chinese'. Chivas with green tea has now become as much of a part of the Beijing club scene as DJs and dancing girls. It has not attracted this frenzied following based on its taste. People seem to be drinking it because, well, it is what's done now. Chivas and green tea has achieved superstar status, but remarkably, no bar in town has come up with a name for it. That does not trouble the whisky company, which is the biggest winner of all in this new fad. The drink comes in glasses slightly smaller than the East China Sea. Clubs vie to find ever-larger ways of serving the potion, culminating, most recently, in four-foot tall test tube dispensers into which a random mixture of spirit and mixer is poured. It has become the drink of Beijing's new generation of party people - whether they are banging their heads against a techno-thumping speaker, waving their arms along with the latest hip-hop hit or lazing on a leather couch in a VIP booth, taking in the dance floor action. Nouveau hip party girls, youths straight out of gangsta-rap videos, and the multitude of managers that populate the capital's clubs are all sipping this unlikely success story. Not since baijiu - a cheap distillate made from sorghum, wheat and rice - has one drink united so many different components of Beijing society. The locals' loyalty to their home-grown tipple will keep sales of any yangjiu (foreign alcohol) well below the baijiu level. But for those of us who have ever been subject to the paint-stripping, fire-breathing 'acquired taste' praised by cabbies, cops, factory workers and businesspeople, the news that whisky consumption is on the rise comes as something of a relief. Baijiu never penetrated the local bar scene: for one, bartenders could not get the spirit to mix well, in order to come up with a local martini. But is whisky headed for success outside the clubs and bars of the capital? Might it only be a matter of time before drinkers at banquets and working lunches will move away from baijiu? We can only hope.