Soju is considered to be Korea’s national drink, and for good reasons too.
The drink is enjoyed by nearly the entire population of Korea, as well as abroad where it is largely enjoyed by people of all nationalities, especially paired with Korean food at Korean restaurants. Its growth has been exponential in the past couple of years, with many picking up the drink after watching expanding Korean media such as dramas, television shows, music and movies. With the increase in popularity of all things Korea, Soju has also increased in its popularity accordingly.
So what is it?
Soju is a clear spirit drink which has an alcohol percentage of around 20-24%, and it is mainly popular and consumed in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China and others. It is very popular due to the fact that although it is a spirit, it does not have a harsh ‘burn’ taste or aftertaste to it like many other spirits do. It also has a lot of variety as it comes in numerous different flavours such as peach, grape, lychee and more. It is normally consumed alongside Korean food, and is drank straight in shots (despite its lower alcohol percentage than other spirits which are consumed in shots such as Vodka), and can also be mixed into cocktails.
Soju is made from a variety of different starches. Originally, soju was made from rice, however during the Korean war the distilling of rice was banned, and as a result alternative starches were used to produce it. The ban was lifted in the 90s, however despite this, many big name companies still use alternative starches to produce it. The rice wine is fermented for approximately 15 days, where it is then distilled through the use of boiling water and distilling pipes.
The popularity of soju has been prominent throughout Asia, however it is definitely seeing much more prominence now in western countries such as America and Australia. This is likely due to the high immigration from Korea to these countries, where restaurants and the like are set up and enjoyed by locals. This is the perfect introduction to Soju, and the rise in popularity in Korean barbecue by westerners directly correlates to the rise in popularity of Soju. Furthermore, businesses do not have to apply for expensive liquor and gaming licenses to sell Soju, and this makes it much more appealing for the establishments to offer the drink.
Soju also is a good way to get a party started, or to have a good time with people during a drunken dinner. Because of its alcohol percentage, it is considered harder than beer or wine but much less than harder liquor which can get people drunk fast. As a result, it is perfect for people looking to pace themselves without having to drink beer or wine and go to the bathroom a hundred times in one night. The tradition of pouring the drink for people around the table makes it very interactive and fun, as you pour each other shots you can pace yourselves and set the drinking rate, and being able to knock down plenty of shots without getting blackout drunk is always good.Its moderate alcohol percentage makes it perfect for dinners, as you can start the night out with a few shots and still enjoy your meal (whether that be Korean BBQ or something else) without being exceptionally drunk. You will be able to enjoy the shots with your friends in between eating and then finish the night and the bottle off with a last couple shots after dinner. This makes it the perfect dinner drink, and is especially well enjoyed with Korean food, to keep with tradition of course.
Soju is also a relatively cheap drink, and can usually be bought in a package with a meal or Korean BBQ food package. This makes it much more accessible for those who would not normally buy it on their own, and adds to its increasing popularity. This also means that it is a good way to get drunk for a relatively low amount, and can make it ideal for those looking to have a good night but are on a budget. Moreover, Soju is available at the majority of bottle shops across western countries, which means it can be accessed for use at home and not just at restaurants. This also means that if you wish to have your own Korean night, you can have that magical Soju with you at home for you and your guests with ease.
There are some different popular ways to consume Soju, and they are enjoyed by many different people across the world.
The primary one is to shot it with your friends, and usually the drink is poured into each of the friend’s cups by other friends, and then they cheers and drink together. It is usually enjoyed alongside food, however it can be enjoyed straight just for a drinking session. Another popular way to consume Soju is ‘Somaek’, where it is dropped into a beer then consumed. This is almost like the Korean version of a Jager bomb. In many restaurants and convenience stores Soju is sold in a variety of different flavours such as peach, lychee, grape, neutral and so on. Another popular way of drinking it is to make a bowl out of a watermelon, then pouring the Soju into it. This adds a watermelon sweet flavour into the drink, making it even more enjoyable, and creates a fun way to enjoy Soju with friends.
It is obvious to see that Soju is traditionally made as a drink that is enjoyed just as alcohol, but more so as a social event enjoyed with friends. A drinking session is treated as something that is enjoyed by all people to catch up with each other after work and just have a good conversation and a good time.
Its moderate alcohol percentage means that it can be drank for a continuous time without things getting sloppy, which makes it a perfect drink for a social event rather than a full on messy night out. In Korea, it is enjoyed as a social event which is interactive and allows people to connect with each other and make conversation while progressively getting drunker. For this reason, Soju is a very important part of Korean culture, as South Koreans love to have a good drink with their friends and family.
With the increasing popularity of Soju, it is definitely a good idea to take the plunge if you haven’t done so already. A night out at a Korean BBQ restaurant with friends is the best way to take the first step into the world of Korea and Soju drinking culture. If you are in a western country, it should be easy to find your local Korean restaurant to enjoy this drink alongside some amazing Korean food for which it pairs so well with.
So what are you waiting for?
Gather your friends, text, message or call them, setup and book a dinner at a Korean restaurant near you and make sure you order some Soju to go with the food!
We are sure you will enjoy your first experience and many others from that night on.