We often focus on the food side of the Korean table, but the culture has a strong drinking tradition as well. From bokbunja ju (a wine made from native blackberries) to rice liquors like makgeolli and soju, there are as many options to pour into your glass as there are free banchan to fill your plate. —INGRAIN, Summer 2019
Soju is a clear “spirit” from Korea and the top-selling liquor by volume in the world. When rice was banned as an alcohol grain source due to a shortage during the Korean War, distillers began using other grains and starches (sweet potatoes, tapioca, and wheat) to make soju. It has a mostly neutral yet slightly sweet flavor; the distillate is often compared to vodka, however it typically has a much lower ABV (around 20%) and is more vinous. And. like wine, soju is excellent paired with food and fantastic in cocktails.
Why choose just soju or beer? Drink them together! Koreans often drop soju into their maekju (beer); the cocktail is called so-maek.
One Korean cultural tradition is to always eat bar snacks, or anju, when imbibing (it is considered courteous). Anju can consist of many things, but it usually includes several kinds of cured and dried fish, Korean mart snacks (like shrimp and cuttlefish chips), and various banchan.
1. Myulchi bokkeum (dried anchovies & peanuts)
2. Mallin ojingeo (dried whole squid)
3. Kkotgae snack (crab chips)
4. Juipo (seasoned dried filefish)
5. Ojingeo snack (cuttlefish chips)
6. Saewookkang (shrimp-flavored crackers)
7. Ojingeochae (shredded dried cuttlefish)
Thinking of visiting South Korea? Check out our feature travel piece on Seoul.