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South Korean Spirit


Soju is undoubtedly the most famous Korean alcoholic spirit, typically made from rice, barley, or sweet potatoes. Clear and colourless, its alcohol content usually ranges from 20% to 24%. Originally, soju was distilled at a higher proof, but in recent decades, manufacturers have lowered the alcohol content to make it more accessible and drinkable. Soju is traditionally consumed neat, with friends or family, and is an integral part of Korean drinking culture. The ritual of pouring and receiving a shot of soju with both hands shows respect, especially towards elders.


Makgeolli is a milky, sweet, and tangy rice wine with an alcohol content between 6% and 8%. It is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in Korea, dating back over a thousand years. The drink is made by fermenting a mixture of boiled rice, wheat, and water. Makgeolli is typically enjoyed in a communal bowl or served in individual bowls, and it pairs well with traditional Korean dishes, particularly those with strong flavours like kimchi and pajeon (green onion pancake). The recent surge in popularity among the younger generation has led to the creation of flavoured makgeolli and its availability in more modern settings.


Cheongju is a refined rice wine similar to Japanese sake. It has an alcohol content ranging from 15% to 20% and is known for its clarity and smooth taste. The production process involves fermenting rice with the addition of nuruk (a traditional Korean fermentation starter) and water. The mixture is then strained to separate the liquid from the rice solids. Cheongju is often used in ancestral rites, and it is also enjoyed as a drinking beverage. It can be served warm or cold and is appreciated for its clean and elegant flavour profile.


Bokbunja-ju is a fruit wine made from Korean black raspberries known as bokbunja. The berries are fermented with water and sometimes rice, resulting in a sweet, tart, and slightly earthy drink with an alcohol content of around 15% to 19%. Bokbunja-ju is believed to have health benefits, including improved circulation and vitality. The wine’s deep red colour and unique flavour profile make it a popular choice for special occasions and as a gift.

Andong Soju

Andong Soju represents the traditional, higher-proof version of soju, originating from the Andong region. With an alcohol content ranging from 40% to 45%, this spirit is made using a distillation process and is known for its strong and bold flavours. Andong Soju is often made from sweet potatoes or rice and is typically enjoyed neat, with drinkers savouring its complex flavour profile.


Munbae-ju is a traditional distilled spirit with a history dating back over a thousand years. It is made from malted millet, sorghum, wheat, or rice and is famous for its unique aroma, which is said to resemble that of the munbae (wild pear) tree, from which the spirit gets its name. With an alcohol content of around 40%, Munbae-ju is enjoyed neat and is often accompanied by traditional Korean side dishes.


Sansachun is a traditional Korean fruit wine made from fermented sansa, a type of wild pear native to Korea. The wine has a sweet and tart flavour profile, with an alcohol content of around 14%. Sansachun is often consumed during celebrations and festive occasions, and it is believed to have medicinal properties, including aiding digestion and promoting skin health.

South Korea's alcoholic spirits are a vibrant and integral part of the country's cultural heritage. From the ubiquitous soju to the traditional and refined cheongju, these beverages offer a glimpse into Korea’s history, traditions, and social customs. As interest in Korean culture continues to grow globally, so does the international appreciation and demand for these unique and flavorful spirits.

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