There are many kinds of soju in a Korean pub with a pretty neon sign.
Now, all you need is Soju!

Soju 101: Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Soju

All you need is Soju, some friends and good times are sure to follow. But what is Soju? How do you drink it? And where does it come from? Join us on a journey to discover everything there is to know about this Korean staple.

But no need to worry if you're not familiar with soju – after reading this post, you'll be an expert!

If you're looking for the current top-rated soju in Korea, the home of soju, read our other article.

What is Soju?

Soju is a Korean distilled rice wine that has been around for centuries. It was originally made by fermentation, but nowadays it is distilled. It has a clear appearance and is usually around 20% alcohol.

Soju is usually made from rice, but nowadays there are many different kinds of soju on the market made from sweet potatoes, wheat, and even tapioca.

How do you drink it?

Soju can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, but the most traditional way to drink it is neat. Pour a small amount into your glass and drink it in one go. If you are drinking it with friends, it is common to pour for each other.

Another popular way to drink soju is with beer or other fruit juices. This is a great way to mix things up and enjoy soju in a new way.

A woman holds a Korean soju glass in both hands for keeping the etiquette of receiving soju from the other person.

Etiquettes when drinking soju you need to know

There are a few things to keep in mind when drinking soju. When someone older than you or someone you respect pours soju, you must hold the soju glass with both hands to receive the drink.

When drinking soju with friends, hold a glass in one hand and when drinking with someone older or more respectable than you, hold a glass with both hands.

In South Korea, soju drinking etiquette is to drink without looking at the face of the individual you respect with your head turned when drinking soju.

How to say "Cheers" in Korean?

When drinking soju with friends, it is common to pour for each other. It is common to pour a small amount into a small soju glass and drink it all at once. Koreans say 'Geonbae' or 'Jjan,' clink their soju glasses together, and drink up!

Jjan, one-shot! (Cheers, bottom up! in Korean)

Two people clink soju glasses and do the korean style cheers toast geonbae jjan.

What kind of alcohol is soju?

Soju is basically a kind of distilled spirit made from grains like whiskey. Traditionally original Korean distilled spirits have a strong alcoholic flavor and high ABV such as gin.

So purified water pour and mix in it to create a soft and light dilution alcohol drinking like cocktails. This kind of alcohol is called diluting liquor type Soju.

It is a Korean liquor that is loved by many. It is no exaggeration to say that it's Korea's national drink. Soju is a friend that accompanies you to both common and special events in Korea, much like vodka does for Russians.

Koreans have been drinking it for centuries. It has become one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Korea.

Is Soju a popular alcoholic drink?

Yes! it is so popular in Korea that it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t like it. It comes in many different flavors, and cocktails recipes and there are many soju brands.

It is Korea's representative alcohol drink that Koreans are enthusiastically loved and can be found in almost every convenience store or supermarket.

A Korean soju bar with a variety of soju on display

At what age can you drink soju in Korea? 

If you are an adult aged 19 or over, you can order this liquor at most Korean food restaurants. And in Korea, many restaurants sell soju because Koreans enjoy having it with their meals, just like wine.

How does soju taste?

It is usually made from rice, but sometimes also from wheat, barley, or sweet potatoes. Traditional soju is pure, fresh, and has a very smooth taste.

Distilled spirits from rice are considered the best because rice farming was valued in ancient times in Korea.

Back in the day, there was a boom in Soju production as sweet potatoes. A lot of distilled spirit made from sweet potatoes was produced because it yielded a unique sweet taste compared to other starches.

These days, there are many sojus with various flavors added. Take a look at Jinro Chamisul's Instagram account, which is run by a Korean soju company and features strawberry, plum, green grape, lemon, and other fruit flavors.

Original Soju VS Flavored Soju

The original type of this spirit is strong alcohol like gin or whiskey. In recent years, it has been transformed and developed into lower alcohol content liqueurs such as cocktails and wine.

These days the demand for soju of various flavors and low alcohol spirits is increasing, and various fruit flavors are coming out. Even the mint chocolate flavored soju! 

What is the best way to drink soju?

Soju is traditionally drunk neat. It can also be mixed with beer (called the Somaek! oh my god~ it's really good👍), fruit juice, soda water, ice, or coffee.

Most Koreans have their own way of enjoying soju. Everyone likes to be a cocktail master or beverage director, respectively, and create their own recipes. They seem to know 101 ways to nicely pour soju into beer for making their own the Somaek. Also, there are hundreds of ways to make cocktails with soju and makgeolli, Korean rice wine.

It is a scene of making 'Somaek' from a K-drama that is becoming a hot topic these days. When you see this scene, you will feel the excitement of wanting to participate in that soju party.

 

What food goes well with soju?

Soju goes well with any food, but it is especially good to drink when enjoying Korean food based on rice and banchan. It is also a common ingredient in Korean cooking, often used in marinades or as a dipping sauce.

Hope you enjoy having a soju and Korean BBQ Samgyeopsal party with Korean soju lover friends. They will definitely perform in front of you on wonderful ways to drink soju and fancy ways to pour and mix soju into various glasses. It's going to be super fun.

It is full of Korean style side dishes, banchan and anju, a Korean food that is very good with soju.

What's Korean vodka?

Soju is nicknamed Korean vodka, but it's not hard liquor. It is more appropriate to compare the alcohol strength to wine than to vodka, gin, or whiskey. Its average alcohol content is slightly higher than wine.

Is Soju Stronger than Vodka?

Soju widely ranges from about 12% to 53% alcohol content, but most are about 18% ABV. Before the 2000s, its average ABV was about 23%, but as people's preferences change, the alcohol content rate of soju is gradually decreasing.

When did Koreans start loving soju? History of Soju

The answer may surprise you. It turns out that soju has been around for centuries, and its popularity has fluctuated quite a bit over time. For example, it was once banned by the Joseon Dynasty because it was seen as a tool of debauchery. However, it eventually made its way back into favor and has remained popular ever since.

The Joseon Dynasty will be easy to understand if you consider the background of the Netflix Korean drama 'Kingdom'. This is an ancient kingdom that existed in Korea from 1392 to 1910.

Soju was first distilled and enjoyed during the Goryeo Dynasty. It became widely popular during the Joseon Dynasty when it was used as medicinal alcohol. In the early 20th century, soju production was modernized and its popularity increased even more. Today, it is made by several different companies in Korea and is exported to many countries around the world.

The Goryeo Dynasty is an ancient kingdom that existed in Korea from 936 to 1392. Put simply, Korean history: 👩🏻‍🏫 Goryeo Dynasty -> Joseon Dynasty -> Korea

 A folk painting depicted people drinking soju at a pub in the Joseon Dynasty, the ancient nation of Korea.

Hyewon Shin Yunbok(1758–1813), Jusageobae, Jomak-do, Joseon(ancient Korea) pub painting, National Museum of Korea 

These days, it is enjoyed by people of all ages(Adults only, of course) and is a staple at Korean parties and gatherings. Scenes of actors drinking this unique green bottle appear in many K-dramas and Korean films. Gradually it became familiar as the Korean alcohol spirit in the world. 

So next time you're enjoying a glass of soju, raise a toast to its rich history! 

Having read this far, NOW You are Dr. Soju.

We've now looked for Soju-related knowledge, history, and culture in Korea.

Congratulations, you've been studying hard! Fantastic. I appoint you as Dr. Soju. Now you may know more about soju than most Koreans since you've been reading up. If you have Korean friends or soju lovers around you, you can show off your knowledge of soju.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and get some soju to try for yourself! And if you want to learn even more about this Korean staple Soju, be sure to check out our other blog post all about soju. 

So now that you know a little bit more about soju, it's time to go out and enjoy.

 

JJAN! 🥂(Cheers! in Korean) 

 

Yang Junghwa

I love Korea, kittens, kindness, kimchi, and knowledge. I am the Earth and life wanderer who was born in Seoul, South Korea. I wanted to be the Wonder Woman, but now be a quite similar Wander Woman, anyway :) There is a birth myth about me. I was the wonder baby, surprised the whole maternity hospital by drinking up a full big bottle of milk within hours of being born. King Kool!

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