Korea has a wide variety of traditional alcoholic drinks, known as Sul (술). Most of these drinks end with the Sino-Korean word Ju (주). Traditional Korean liquor is usually made by fermenting various grains. The fermentation is an important part of the entire liquor making process for it decides the scent and taste of the final product. Depending on the weather and the region it is produced, traditional liquors vary greatly. Fruits and herbs can also be added in order to enhance the taste. Want to know more? Check some of the beverages below!
- MAKGEOLLI (막걸리)
Makgeolli is Korea’s most representative traditional liquor. Often referred to as “the liquor of the common people.” This milk-colored sweet beverage has recently become widely-popular among young people and foreign tourists. The alcohol content is low (about 6%) and it is rich in amino acids, Vitamin B, and organic acids. The typical makgeolli is made from rice, but there are many variations such as those made from black beans, millets, corn, or sweet potato. Makgeolli is commonly consumed with bindatteok, Korean pancakes made of ground mung beans, and various other pan-fried jeon.
- SOJU (소주)
Soju is Korea’s most well-known distilled liquor. Although it has a rather high alcohol content, people enjoy keeping and making new friendships over a shot of soju. Instead of cheering, it is customary to shout “One shot!” and empty the glass. Soju goes well with all kinds of accompaniments and appetizers. Soji is usually enjoyed with maeuntang (spicy fish stew), basam (steamed pork) or samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly).
- GAHYANGJU (가향주) and GWASILJU (과실주)
Wine made from flowers or spices is called gahyangju and wine made from fruits is called gwasilju. Gahyangju is usually made from azaleas, chrysanthemums, and lotuses; and gwasilju is typically made from bokbunja (Korean black raspberry), maesil (Asian apricot) and various other fruits. Many regions in Korea are famous for their own unique brands of wine. One popular flower wine is dugyeonju (azalea wine) from Myeoncheon and yeonyeopju (lotus Wine) from Asan, and the most popular fruit wines are bokbunjaju (black raspberry wine) from Gochang, munbaeju (wild pear wine) from Seoul and igangju (pear and ginger wine) from Jeonju.
- YAGYONGJU (약용주)
Made by brewing various medicinal herbs, yagyongju has a unique taste and scent, and it also has various health benefits when consumed moderately. Famous yagyongju include insamju (ginseng wine) from Geumsan, solgsunju (pine needle wine) from Gimjae, and baegilju (100-day wine) from Gyeryong.
- BAEKSEJU (백세주)
Baekseju (sold by the brand name Bek Se Ju) is traditional Korean rice and herbal wine brewed with various herbs. Ginseng is its most distinct herb and golden in color. “Bek Se Ju” means 100-years-old or The 100-year drink (“baek se” = one hundred years, “ju” = alcoholic drink) Like most Korean drinks, it is well served alongside spicy dishes, especially kimchi.
Korea is home to a wide variety of delicious alcoholic concoctions that make enjoying a night out drinking with friends interesting but remember not to drink too much! One shot!
Written by Shreeya Saldanha