Soju is a social drink. Originally from Korea, this beverage has seen an exponential growth in popularity, especially in the international market. Today, it is the most sold spirit in the world, beating vodka and whisky by miles! Its fruity, milky flavor has made it extremely popular among younger drinkers, one of the reasons for its growth in popularity. Let’s take a look at everything soju, so that you can catch on to the trend!
Soju has grown in popularity in the past 20 years, becoming the most popular spirit in the world. Here’s a few reasons why:
- It is cheap! Averaging at around US$3 around the world, and less than US$1 in Korea!
- It gets you drunk fast, without being high in ABV.
- It comes in a very large variety of flavors. Anything from plum to grapefruit to mango. These fruity flavors make it very popular among young drinkers.
In Korea, there is a lot of culture and tradition around drinking. Soju is the most popular alcohol in Korea, and is consumed by old and young alike. Iconically sold in an iconic green bottle, soju is one of the most sold alcohols in the world. Korea has very specific rules of etiquette when it comes to drinking. One of the most important rules is that the youngest person in a group must pour drinks for the elders, as a sign of respect. It is also important to use both hands when receiving and pouring alcohol. Remember this next time you crack open a bottle!
Soju originates in the 13th century, when the Mongolian empire invaded Korea, and introduced a form of distilled arak, something they learnt from the Persians. Distilleries were quick to be established, and noblemen and aristocrats were frequent buyers. Soju made in the city of Andong, is the root of most modern soju, and started as a home-brewed spirit. In the Second World War, the Government banned breweries from using rice to make soju, resulting in the use of tapioca, barley, or cheap, diluted alcohol. During the industrialization of Korea, soju was a symbol of solidarity for tired laborers, bringing them together after a long day. This is something that is still seen today, with many Koreans enjoying drinking parties after a long day of work.
Today, Soju is sold in over 80 countries, and is the largest selling spirit in the world. It is unlikely you won't find a bottle of soju at your local grocery store, making it a deliciously cheap alcohol to drink with friends.
How is soju actually made? Traditionally, soju is made by distilling fermented grains into alcohol. Sweet potato, tapioca and barley are all ingredients that are traditionally used to make soju. Rice wine is fermented for more than two weeks before being transferred to a pot to distill, using an appliance called a soju gori. Soju, meaning “burned liquor”, is actually named after the distilling process, in which the alcohol is brought up to an almost boiling temperature! Flavorings such as grape, peach, and grapefruit are then added. Nowadays, over 50 different flavors of soju exist in addition to the regular, unflavored version.
Soju is usually consumed straight, however Koreans are known to get creative when it comes to drinking soju. A process called somaek, many Korean youngsters combine soju with mixers such as beer, juice or fruit punch in order to customize their drinking experience. As well as this many restaurants now offer soju cocktails. A popular way to drink soju is by dropping a shot of soju into a pint of beer, and downing it fast! This is called a “poktan-ju”, or a “bomb drink”. Due to its low alcohol content, soju can be drunk in large amounts, making it incredibly deceiving! It is known to get the drinker intoxicated very quickly, so be cautious!
In recent years
With the rise in popularity of K-pop and Korean culture, soju has become a very trendy drink - not just in Korea, but worldwide. Many breweries have been popping up around the world in recent years, particularly in the US. Due to its neutral flavour, soju has become a known substitute for vodka, for those who prefer a cocktail with less alcohol, or a shot with not so harsh of an alcohol burn. In fact, the average Korean drinks around 14 shots of soju a week!