China's Luckin Coffee Can't Make Its Moutai Liquor Lattes Fast Enough

We've all seen what happens when Starbucks begins adding a few pumps of pumpkin sauce and some whipped cream to its lattes: the country goes into a pumpkin spice-fueled frenzy. Meanwhile, in China, fans of Luckin Coffee shops are running, not walking, to their closest retail locations to get their hands on what is being called "sauce-flavored lattes," or lattes spiked with booze. The coffeehouse chain launched its newest, liquor-kissed latte on September 4 to the delight of coffee aficionados who also appreciate a tipple.

Luckin announced that it had sold an astounding 5.42 million cups of the new drink on the day it was released, far outnumbering a previously released and very popular drink called a cheese latte, which sold 1.31 million cups on its launch day. It didn't hurt that Luckin was selling the boozy latte at half price upon its release and that the social media attention the drink has received has been massive. Normally priced at 38 yuan (the equivalent of $5.23), the lattes are made with Kweichow Moutai, a powerful spirit that is considered the national liquor of China, and topped with a cloud of whipped cream. Luckin locations in Beijing and China reported that they sold out of the hot new drink within hours of its launch.

A different kind of shot for your coffee

The collaboration between Luckin coffee and Kweichow Moutai is a marketing strategy to attract younger customers to the coffee chain and the liquor brand. Kweichow Moutai is described as having attractive aromas of flowers, dried dates, and toasted rice with a flavor that can be described as similar to soy sauce (hence, the "sauce-flavored latte" name), but silky and a bit spicy. It contains about 53% alcohol, but Luckin claims that the amount added to each of its lattes gives the coffee an alcohol content of about 0.5%. Still, it discourages drivers, teenagers, and pregnant women from drinking the popular item.

It's not like the concept of adding alcohol to coffee is a new one. The Italians practice this regularly in the form of caffè corretto, or espresso spiked with spirits like grappa, brandy, or sambuca. And many Americans won't say "no" to a generous pour of whiskey-based Bailey's Irish Cream in their evening (or morning) cups of joe. But you probably won't find such an offering in your neighborhood Starbucks unless you're at a Starbucks Reserve where the baristas/mixologists will be happy to sling you a coffee-flavored cocktail.