As frequent visitors to Korea, both North and South and while our opinion might be a bit skewed, we genuinely feel everyone should drink soju. Here is our introduction to this drink!
What is soju?
The drink is a clear white distilled liquor usually made from barley, rice, or wheat. Nowadays, rice is often replaced by potatoes or even sweet potatoes.
Where is soju from?
Well, this really is stating the obvious probably if you’ve reached this page but it is of Korean origin and by far out dates the whole north and south division nonsense.
Its roots can be traced back the 13th century when the Mongol invaders taught the Koreans how to make alcohol. This makes makgeolli (which is whole other story, detailed here) the oldest “Korean” alcoholic beverage.
How strong is soju?
Technically, it is anything from 12-60%, although I’m going to throw in some personal prejudice here!
Soju can be separated into two distinct forms, the ones in wine style and of those of a liquor style. In my humble opinion, the cut off is at 26%, so the one produced by Jinro and found in most convenience stores just about qualifies as liquor.
So is it stronger than vodka? Generally speaking, it is much weaker than vodka, but some brands are stronger than your average vodka.
How do you drink soju?
Traditionally you drink soju neat, usually by sipping it. I personally prefer to neck it in one go.
Nowadays there are a ton of hipster soju cocktails but the best is still So-maek, a porte-manteau of maekju and soju – beer with the nectar of the gods poured in. This is a very dangerous drink!
Which is better North Korean or South Korean soju?
The country that consumes the most of it in the world is, as expected, South Korea. In the last five years, however, the liquor has become a world phenomenon and can found in many more place than it was back in the day. This is particularly the case in Hong Kong and South-East Asia where it can be found even in corner stores. I drink a lot of it in Cambodia.
But, whilst south Korean big brands like Jinro, also known as Chamisul, are extremely good, they are also mass-produced. North Korean brands, on the other hand, taste much more homemade and thus in my mind it tastes better. I have even had my southern Korean friends confirm that the northern one is generally of a better standard.
What about flavored soju?
Soju has become such a sensation that it has led to new fads and changes, one of which being fruit flavored versions. In my mind, this is a bit of an abomination! Good for girls maybe, but not suitable for my fine palate.
Can soju make you drunk?
Yes it can, but it is a mischievous drink that I like to call “the creeper”. When you drink, say, whisky, it tastes strong and when you drink wine, you sip it. But when it comes to the star of this article, you shoot it and when it hits, it hits like a ton of bricks!
I really want to try Soju!
The closest we would offer to a “soju drink tour” would be our All Koreas Tour, which will let you drink soju throughout the Korean peninsula..