Soju, one of the highest-selling spirits in the world by volume is still something very unknown to us. It is a spirit history, a drink that traveled through continents with war and cultures. It is the unofficial national drink of South Korea and as per stats an average Korean over the age of 20 drinks around 87 bottles of the spirit in a year.
This popular Korean spirit is not indigenous to Korea. It was a primitive drink from Arabia known as “araq”, bought to Korea by Mongols via Kublai Khan’s invasions.
Traditionally made of rice or wheat; it was during the liberation period in Korea that the government banned the use of ice for making alcohol. Producers then started using other starches like sweet potatoes and tapioca in their production, opening new ways in alcohol production.
The spirit can be distributed into to types, Distilled and Diluted:
Originally the spirit was distilled and bottled without any dilution keeping the ABV around 25% which is a bit high with regards to the rapid consumption of the spirit. there are not many brands nowadays that produce these traditional types. Few traditional styles of Soju’s are-
Andong Soju– Comes from the Andong region of Northern part of South Korea.
Igangju Soju– It is made from mixing pear juice, ginger juice and honey to Soju.
Munbaeju– It is a wild pear scented liquor. the most surprising part is that there is no use of fruit in this spirit production; its just millet and sorghum. Yet the final spirit has a perfume of wild pears.
Jindo Hongju – A bright red colored liquor from the Jindo province of southwest Korea. it gets its color from jicho roots.
The process of production is the same, but the spirit is diluted to bring the ABV down. This is due to the market preference of a lower strength spirit making it easier to drink and in more quantity as well.
How is Soju made?
The word Soju means “burned liquor” as it is distilled at high temperatures. The grain starch liquid is fermented for around 15 days and then distilled in Soju Gori which is the traditional equipment for distillation in Korea. Nowadays Copper Pot and Continuous stills used as well.
Flavor Profile: A vodka like neutral spirit with lower alcohol, some sweetness, and a buttery, malty flavor.
Popular Soju brands: Jinro ( available in India), Chum Churum, Lee Gang Ju, etc
How to Drink?
There are ways to drink it:
- To be consumed chilled and neat in small quantities like a shot. Chill it for few hours in a fridge and enjoy it.
- The most senior person will pour the first shot.
- No one serves their own drink; always pour with two hands and hold the shot glass with two hands when receiving drinks.
- The first drink should be a shot. Turn sideways and shoot with both hands.when you turn sideways you don’t show your teeth to others and both hands always show respect to others on the table.
- This culturally creates better connections between people.
- Pairs well with vegetarian and non-vegetarian spicy dishes from any cuisine.
- It is a must-have if you are enjoying a barbecue, especially the Korean barbecue.
- It is a good pairing for dim sums as well.
- In the case of meat; it is an excellent pairing with seafood, pork, and beef.
Make a Cocktail: Soju Sangria
Ingredients ( 4 Glasses)
- 1 bottle Soju
- 2 Strawberry
- 1 Orange
- 1 Apple
- Berries ( Optional)
- Sparkling wine ( regular or rosé)
- Garnish: Mint sprig
- Glassware: Wine glass or a goblet
- Slice all the fruits other than the berries.
- Make sure that the wine and Soju are Super chilled.
- Distribute all the fruits in 4 glasses.
- Equally, pour the Soju in the glasses and top up with some sparkling wine.
- Tap a mint sprig and garnish the glass.
So next time when you are at a bar or a liquor store find out and have yourself a glass of Soju. Introduce this light flavorful drink with your friends at a beautiful pool party or brunch and I guarantee they will like it.
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