What is soju?
According to reports, South Koreans rank very high in alcohol consumption. But what is the staple alcoholic drink that Koreans adore? Encapsulated in a green bottle is a mysterious liquid called soju that captures a facet of Korean culture and customs. While traditional soju is made from rice, many brands of soju utilize alternative starches, such as potatoes and tapioca, for the base of this Korean alcohol. The alcohol content of this beverage can range from 13% to 24%, with its tastes resembling the likes of vodka, but with a smooth and crisp finish. You may be wondering how to drink soju? Soju pairs well with other alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, as well as a variety of dishes and drinking snacks . With numerous variations of soju on the rise, here are some Korean essentials of how to consume soju in interesting ways at your next social outing!
Soju drink combinations
Somaek is the combination of soju and beer (maek-ju) both literally and physically. Light and crisp with a little bit of complexity, this is the perfect pairing for those who either find the taste of Korean beer to be plain or the taste of soju to be harsh. As the best ratio for Somaek is lively debated, local Korean barbeque restaurants often offer beer glasses with measurements to take away the mystery and confusion of drinking this smooth and crisp drink! The beauty of this concoction is that it can be crafted to your personal taste.
Soju + Yakult (Yogurt Soju):
Are you looking for a sweeter taste to your alcoholic beverage? Who knew that a milky-yogurt drink could be combined with alcohol? Yakult is unlike the average yogurt you eat with a spoon. This yogurt-based drink is less viscous and comes in a variety of deliciously sweet and fruity flavors. If you find the taste of the combination of soju and yogurt to be mild, you can add some Sprite or 7-Up for an additional fizz!
This unique combination of beer, soju, and coke creates a perfect layering of flavors for your drink. Cojinganmak translates to “first bad things come, then good things” - which depicts the initial sharp taste of soju and beer, that is complemented by the sweet aftertaste of soda. Make no mistake: this drink is not to be mixed! Each individual beverage is layered onto each other to ensure that you taste the unique flavors of each beverage.
Anju: The Perfect Pairing of Alcohol and Food
It's no question that Koreans love to drink, but they also love to have something to snack on with their drinks. Koreans denote “anju” to describe specific foods and snacks that pair well with alcohol, which consists of a variety of main dishes and side dishes. You could say that the food culture of anju is the equivalence of munchies (or “drunchies”). Here are some of our recommendations of foods you absolutely need to try with soju!
The definitive experience of drinking soju is with Korean barbeque. Sizzling on top of the smoldering hot coals of every Korean BBQ grill is perfectly marinated meat - filled with a delectable balance of soy, garlic, and umami that is complemented by the earthy essence that is barbeque. The drinking culture of soju is embodied in every hole-in-the-wall restaurant where Koreans exchange not only a meal, but also laughter and fond memories. The true epitome of Korean drinking culture can be experienced in this very setting, where unsuspecting friendships and memorable conversations are born.
If you’re curious to recreate the Korean Barbeque experience in your very home, check out this Korean Galbi (marinated ribs) recipe.
Spicy Korean foods gochujang sauce:
Koreans love spicy foods with robust flavors as their go-to Anju. You may wonder what is the base for all these spicy foods? The bold flavors of spicy Korean food can be attributed to a Korean pepper paste called gochujang. This gochujang sauce is a traditional Korean condiment that consists of Korean chili powder, rice powder, and fermented soybean. An iconic Korean food that uses gochujang is tteokbokki - made of rice cakes that are smothered in a viscous spicy sauce - which pairs perfectly with a glass of soju on a cold rainy day. If you’re curious about learning more about Korean foods with gochujang, click here!
Fried Chicken and Beer:
Before the 1970s, Koreans primarily consumed chicken in soups and stews. With American influences from military bases, Koreans were soon introduced to a new means of eating chicken: Korean fried chicken. Korean fried chicken differs from traditional fried chicken as the chicken is fried twice. This frying process allows the chicken to have a crispier and crunchier texture than that of American fried chicken. Chimaek is a facet of Anju that pairs Korean fried chicken with beer, and has served as a significant impact on Korean drinking culture. With a combination of Korean and American influences, Korean fried chicken is served with a variety of sweet, savory, and spicy sauces! If you are a daring individual and want to eat some Extremely spicy wings with your soju and beer, here’s our recipe to our Korean Honey Glaze Gochujang wings and our Korean hot wings!
American Finger Foods:
Why limit your Anju experience to just Korean food? Transcend cultural barriers by pairing your soju with some American finger foods. Whether it’s fries dipped in milkshake or a cheesy 50 layered burrito, we believe that amazing food experiences shouldn’t be limited. So go ahead! Take a shot of soju and eat some fried oreos and cheeto-crusted mac n’ cheese as you exercise your American rights to live free and create the wildest food experiences your minds can imagine.