Food & Beverage

Everything you need to know about Soju – Korea’s national drink

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Most of us wouldn’t even know there is something called soju but this is one of the world’s most popular liquors. In volume, it is the number one selling liquor with ever-increasing sales all over the world. It is the fastest-growing liquor product in the worldwide market.

What is Soju?

Soju is the South Korean national drink just like Spain is famous for its Sangria and US for its Bourbon. In Korea, drinking soju is just like drinking water. It comes in distinct and signature bright green bottles made from glass that can be found in any Korean convenience store at a very affordable price.

It is a clear and distilled spirit with low alcohol content, about 20-24 percent alcohol by volume. In taste, it is like vodka, sort of neutral tasting without the harsh burn of alcohol. It is stronger than beer and wine but weaker than vodka because of its low alcohol content. It is more viscous than vodka and a bit sweeter too.

How is it prepared?

Conventionally, it was made from distilling rice. During the Korean War and after (from the 1960s), it was banned to use rice for distillation. So, people came up with alternative sources of starch such as wheat, tapioca, and sweet potatoes. Even though the ban was lifted in the 1990s, most companies still use alternative sources. One important thing about soju is there is a lot of variation in the taste because there is no fixed ingredient; different ingredients are used to make it, which affects the taste.

How is Soju consumed traditionally?

Just like wine, it is traditionally consumed with food. It is a typical companion of any type of Korean food. You can have it at room temperature, but it is best when served warm in winter and chilled in summer. As it is taken like a shot, there is no need for ice cubes.

Even the serving traditions are important here. The people consuming do not serve themselves. The whole process is interactive as it is like ‘you pour for me and I pour for you, then we toast and drink, and then do it all over again’. And if you are out with someone who is elder, then they pour the shot and as a sign of respect, you must drink it without placing it on the table.

More popular ways of Soju consumption

Even though it is the fastest-selling liquor, it is not widely popular. Although with the rising popularity of Korean food, more people are learning of it.

  • It is taken directly with food or it can also be mixed to make cocktails.
  • It can also be consumed as Somaek’, here a shot of soju is dropped in a glass of beer making it a delicious tasty combo.
  • There are some fruit-flavoured soju available in the market – grapefruit-flavoured, strawberry-flavoured, green grape-flavoured, peach-flavoured, and even yogurt-flavoured soju.
  • Watermelon soju is another well-known, refreshing way of drinking soju. Here, soju is poured in a bowl made from watermelon. This masks the taste of alcohol and adds a sweet flavour to the drink.
Some crazy statistics

According to IWSR (International Wine and Spirits Research group) rankings, Jinro Soju is the highest-selling liquor brand in the world with 80.9 million cases sold last year. From the previous years, it has grown 6.4% and in sales, it sells 47 million more cases than the next largest brand in the world, which was Imperial Blue Whiskey. The gap against the competitors has widened as Jinro added the largest volume to the total liquor sale worldwide.

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