Soju Think You Know Korean Spirits?
The best-selling alcoholic spirit in the world isn't whisky, or vodka. In fact, the most popular is Jinro, a brand of the Korean spirit known as soju. But what is soju, and why is it so popular? To answer this, we need to go back to the 13th Century, in Persia...
The Persians had learned how to distil alcohol to make a drink known as arak. But when the Yuan Mongols invaded, they learned distillation too. Then they invaded Korea too, passing the knowledge on to the Korean people.
Soju (소주; 燒酒) was traditionally brewed using rice. Then, the new distillation process turned the wine-like alcohol into a clear spirit. It has a clean taste similar to vodka, but modern soju often contains added fruit flavours. Its alcohol content can be anywhere between 10 and 25%, depending on how it is made. The characters in 'soju' literally translate to 'burned' and 'alcohol', relating to the distillation process.
However, during the Vietnam War, rice was in short supply, so it became illegal to use it for soju. Instead, people used potatoes, wheat, and other grains. Many manufacturers still use these alternatives today, even though it is legal to use rice again.
So, now you know what soju is, how do you drink it? Traditionally, soju is paired with food, and a bottle is shared among everyone at the table. It is served in small glasses, and drunk as shots. Typically, people do not pour their own soju: instead, you fill someone else's glass, and they'll fill yours. When pouring or receiving alcohol, use both hands.
As with other traditions in Asian culture, people respect their elders: the younger person usually fills the older person's glass. This respect can relate to hierarchy in a company too.
Here at Hotpot Spot, we think soju makes the perfect accompaniment to hotpot. In fact, we love soju so much that we have four different flavours on the menu. So if you're curious about what it tastes like, why not make a reservation?