If you’re planning some festive parties this month, or just want to be the talking point at a BYOB bash, best get some soju in!
Soju is one of Korea’s oldest, cheapest and strongest liquors, at around 20% proof but some varieties can reach 45% ABV. It has seen a major revival this year in a range of lighter, fruit-flavoured versions.
If you like strong on-the-rocks spirits in the style of vodka and gin, you’ll definitely enjoy soju in its original form. Introduced to Korea by invading Mongols in the 13th Century, it’s traditionally made by distilling rice, wheat, barley or potatoes. It’s a staple of social gatherings, and has a few unique etiquette rules – you never fill your own glass, and if you’re drinking with someone older than you, you should turn slightly away from them to drink it.
The biggest selling brands are Chamisul by Jinro, Chum Churum by Lotte BG, and Choeunday by Muhak. Earlier this year, Lotte Chilsung sparked a new soju trend by releasing a lower-alcohol citron flavoured soju drink, Soonhari (soft). The 14% ABV drink won a young female following fast, selling 40 million bottles in the first 100 days and becoming the ‘honey butter chips’ of the drinks world. Other companies soon leapt on the bandwagon, with their own ranges of fruit flavoured sojus.
Drinks companies are now experimenting with other soju mixes, including a sparkling soda-flavoured version called Brother Soda by Bohae Brewery. At only 3% ABV, it brings an even milder and weaker soju onto the market, and it taste like cream soda according to this pintrest post. Yum.
If you’re in Korea, trying soju at bars, or buying it at convenience stores and supermarkets is simple (as long as you’re the legal age of 19 and over) and pretty low-cost.
Getting it in the UK isn’t too pricey either. Seoul Plaza is a Korean food business with branches all over the UK and they stock various brands of soju. Here’s some 360ml bottles of Chamisul and Chum Churum available online too. Ebay also has some 500ml Chamisul bottles though with a hefty delivery fee.
Bonus: A tiny cute soju mobile phone strap. Cheers!