Korean alcohol 101: A beginner’s guide to the most popular drinks

Are you a fan of Korean alcohol or want to Find your new favorite Korean drink?

After all, Drinking is a significant part of Korean culture.

When you talk about Korean Alcohol beverages, the first thing that comes to mind of foreigners is “soju”.

But in reality, Korea has a good variety of alcoholic beverages.

From the smooth and beautiful flavors of soju to the bold and delicious tastes of makgeolli and beyond, these popular Korean alcohols are sure to offer a memorable and enjoyable drinking experience.

Whether you are a seasoned drinker or a newcomer to Korean alcohol, these 20 popular options are a great place to start your exploration.

Here’s a beginner’s guide to the15 most common Korean alcohols, their rich history, health benefits and cultural significance with examples 

So, let’s jump in, and don’t forget to say cheers!

Here are some of the 13 most famous Korean alcohol for beginners to start with

  • Soju
  • Makgeolli
  • Gukhwaju
  • Baekseju
  • Korean Beer
  • Bokbunja-ju
  • Maesil-ju
  • Dansul
  • Munbaeju
  • Dongdongju
  • Sansachun
  • Flower wine
  • Cocktail

Let’s learn in detail

Korean soju: More than just a drink, it’s a cultural phenomenon

 Soju is a clear, colorless spirit that is made from grains, such as rice, wheat, and barley. 

It is the most popular alcoholic drink in Korea and is typically consumed neat or mixed with water or other beverages.

Soju is traditionally made by fermenting the grains and then distilling the resulting liquid to increase the alcohol content. 

The alcohol content of soju can vary, but it is typically around 20-25% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Soju is often consumed with Korean food, such as Korean BBQ or Korean fried chicken. 

It is also often consumed with soju cocktails, which are mixed with various fruit juices or other flavored beverages.

Soju has a relatively mild flavor, and many people compare it to vodka. 

It is often served in small glasses, and it is common for people to drink it in a social setting, such as with friends at a bar or restaurant.

Soju has a long history in Korea and has been produced in the country for over 700 years. 

It is often associated with Korean culture and is often consumed in social settings, such as during meals or at parties.

Soju can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other ingredients to make cocktails. 

Some popular soju cocktails include the “soju bomb,” which is made by dropping a shot of soju into a glass of beer, and the “yak-soju,” which is made by mixing soju with yogurt and fruit juice.

And it is really amazing to taste

Here are some sentences in Korean that include the word “soju”:

I like soju.

저는 소주를 좋아합니다. (Jeoneun sojureul johahamnida) 

One glass of soju, please.

소주 한 잔 주세요. (Soju han jan juseyo) 

Soju is a traditional Korean alcohol.

소주는 한국의 전통적인 술이에요. (Sojuneun hangugui jeontongjeonin surieyo) 

It’s not good to drink soju too often.

소주를 자주 마시면 안 좋아요. (Sojureul jaju masimyeon an johayo) 

Soju and fried shrimp are a traditional Korean snack.

소주와 새우깡은 한국의 전통적인 안주예요. (Sojuwa saewookkangeun hangugui jeontongjeonin anjuyeyo) 

Makgeolli|A Traditional Korean Rice Wine”

Makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine that is made from a mixture of rice, wheat, and water. It is milky, sweet, and slightly carbonated and is often served in a traditional Korean pottery bowl, called a “dokbae.”

Makgeolli has a long history in Korea and has been enjoyed for centuries. 

It is made by fermenting a mixture of steamed rice, water, and nuruk, a type of Korean fermented grain starter. 

The mixture is allowed to ferment for several days or weeks, until it becomes a cloudy, slightly sweet and slightly carbonated drink.

Makgeolli has a relatively low alcohol content, typically around 6-8% ABV, and is often enjoyed as a refreshing and easy-to-drink beverage. 

It is often served chilled or over ice and is often paired with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy dishes.

Makgeolli has a relatively low alcohol content, typically around 6-8% ABV, and is often enjoyed as a refreshing and lightly alcoholic beverage. 

It is often consumed with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy stews, and is considered a good way to soothe the palate after eating spicy dishes.

Makgeolli is made by mixing rice and water and allowing the mixture to ferment. 

The resulting liquid is then filtered and pasteurized to stop the fermentation process. 

The finished product has a sweet, slightly sour taste and a thick, milky consistency.

Here are some sentences in Korean that include the word “makgeolli”:

I like makgeolli.

저는 막걸리를 좋아합니다. (Jeoneun makgeollireul johahamnida) 

One glass of makgeolli, please.

막걸리 한 잔 주세요. (Makgeolli han jan juseyo) 

Makgeolli is a traditional Korean alcohol.

막걸리는 한국의 전통적인 술이에요. (Makgeollineun hangugui jeontongjeonin surieyo) 

Makgeolli goes well with fresh fruit.

막걸리는 생과자와 함께 잘 어울리죠. (Makgeollineun saenggwajawa hamkke jal eoulirijyo) 

The recipe for makgeolli has been passed down through the generations.

막걸리 제조법은 옛날부터 전해져 왔어요. (Makgeollijejobeop-eun yeolnalbuteo jeonhaejyeo wasseoyo) 

Gukhwaju: A floral liquor with a delicate and refined taste”

Gukhwaju, also known as “gukhwa-ju,” is a traditional Korean liquor that is made from the flowers of the Korean azalea plant, also known as the “gukhwa” plant. 

The gukhwa plant is native to Korea and is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the daisy family.

It is a sweet and aromatic liquor that is often enjoyed as a digestif after a meal or as a medicinal tonic.

Gukhwaju is made by soaking the dried flowers of the gukhwa plant in alcohol, usually soju or rice wine, for several months to extract the flavor and aroma of the flowers. 

The resulting liquid is then filtered and bottled.

Gukhwaju has a delicate, floral aroma and a sweet, slightly tart taste. 

It is typically served neat or over ice, and is often enjoyed in small glasses as an after-dinner drink.

It is often consumed as a refreshing and soothing beverage, and is believed to have a number of health benefits, such as helping to reduce stress and improve sleep.

It is often served hot, but can also be enjoyed chilled on a hot day.

Baekseju| the flavors of Korea’s beloved rice wine

Baekseju, also known as “white snake liquor,” is a type of Korean rice wine that is made from a blend of rice, wheat, and barley. 

It is high-end alcohol in Korea and is often considered a luxurious gift or consumed during special occasions.

Baekseju is named after the white snake, or “baek,” which is a symbol of longevity and good fortune in Korean culture. 

The white snake is believed to have the ability to grant eternal youth and longevity to those who drink from its fountain.

Baekseju is made by fermenting a mixture of rice, wheat, and barley for several years. 

It is often considered high-end alcohol in Korea and is often served during special occasions or as a gift.

The resulting wine is aged in clay pots, which helps to give it a rich and complex flavor. 

Baekseju has a smooth and mellow taste, with notes of honey and herbs. It is often served neat or mixed with water.

Baekseju is known for its smooth, mellow flavor and is often enjoyed as a sipping wine. 

It is typically served chilled or at room temperature and is often consumed with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy stews.

Korean Beer Styles and flavors to try 

Korean beer is a popular alcoholic beverage in Korea and is often consumed with Korean food. 

Some popular Korean beer brands include Hite, Cass, and OB.

Korean beer is typically made with a combination of grains, such as barley, rice, and wheat, and is brewed using the same process as other beers. 

Korean beers are generally light and crisp, with a refreshing flavor and a moderate alcohol content, typically around 4-6% ABV. 

Korean beer is often served cold and is a popular choice for refreshment on a hot day. 

It is also often consumed with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy stews, as it is believed to help balance out the flavors of the food.

Korean beer is a popular alcoholic beverage in Korea and is often consumed with Korean food. 

There are several well-known Korean beer brands, including:

Hite: 

Hite is a popular Korean beer brand that is known for its crisp, clean flavor. 

It is made with a blend of barley, rice, and hops and is light in color and body.

Cass: 

Cass is another popular Korean beer brand that is known for its smooth, easy-drinking flavor. 

It is made with a blend of barley and hops and has a light golden color.

OB: 

OB is a Korean beer brand that is known for its rich, full-bodied flavor. 

It is made with a blend of barley, rice, and hops and has a deep golden color.

Kloud: 

Kloud is a Korean beer brand that is known for its clean, crisp flavor. 

It is made with a blend of barley, rice, and hops and has a light golden color.

In addition to these well-known brands, there are also several craft breweries in Korea that produce a variety of unique and interesting beers.

Bokbunja-ju| All about Korea’s beloved raspberry wine”

Bokbunja-ju is a type of Korean wine that is made from bokbunja berries, which are a type of native Korean fruit.

Bokbunja berries are known for their sweet, slightly tart flavor and are often used to make a variety of products, including wine, jam, and tea.

Bokbunja-ju is known for its rich, fruity flavor and is often enjoyed as a dessert wine.

Bokbunja-ju is made by fermenting bokbunja berries with water and sugar. 

The resulting wine has a deep purple color and a sweet, fruity flavor with notes of raspberry and blackberry. 

It is typically served chilled or at room temperature and is often paired with cheese or desserts.

Bokbunja-ju is believed to have a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving heart health. 

It is also said to be a natural remedy for colds and flu.

It is also rich in antioxidants and is considered a good source of vitamin C.

Maesil-ju| All about Korea’s beloved apricot wine

Maesil-ju is a type of Korean rice wine that is made from maesil, or Korean green plums. 

It is known for its sweet, slightly sour flavor and is often enjoyed as a dessert wine.

To make maesil-ju, the ripe fruit of the maesil tree is harvested and then soaked in water or rice wine to extract the juice. 

The juice is then mixed with sugar and yeast and allowed to ferment for several weeks to several months. 

The finished wine has a deep, reddish color and a fruity, slightly sweet flavor. 

It is often enjoyed as a dessert wine and is often served chilled.

Maesil-ju is often consumed chilled and is a popular choice for refreshment on a hot day.

 It is also believed to have a number of health benefits, including helping to improve digestion and reduce stress.

Maesil-ju is believed to have a number of health benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol and improve digestion. 

It is also said to be a natural remedy for colds and flu.

Dansul|flavors of Korea’s sweet potato liquor

Dansul is a type of Korean brandy that is made from a variety of grains, including rice, wheat, and barley. 

Dansul is known for its smooth, mellow flavor and is often consumed with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy stews.

It is made by fermenting a mixture of grains and water and then distilling the resulting liquid. 

The finished product has a high alcohol content, typically around 40% ABV, and a smooth, rich flavor.

Dansul is often served chilled or at room temperature and is often consumed with Korean food, such as grilled meats or spicy stews. 

It is also sometimes mixed with other drinks, such as soda or fruit juice, to make cocktails and served as a traditional gift during special occasions, such as weddings or holidays.

It is usually served chilled or at room temperature and is often enjoyed with a variety of traditional Korean snacks, such as nuts or dried fruits.

Munbaeju| Look into Korea’s pear liquor

Munbaeju is a type of Korean rice wine made with rice and other grains, such as barley and wheat. 

It is made by fermenting the grains and then distilling the fermented liquid to create the finished product. 

Munbaeju is traditionally made in the fall when the weather is cool and the rice harvest is in.

 It is a strong and potent beverage, with a high alcohol content.

Munbaeju is known for its smooth, mellow flavor and is often served as an after-dinner drink or as a way to celebrate special occasions.

In Korea, munbaeju is often served with food and is also used in cooking.

It is also sometimes used in traditional Korean medicine to treat a variety of ailments. 

In addition to its use as a beverage, munbaeju is also sometimes used in cooking, particularly in marinades and sauces.

Dongdongju|Exploring the flavors Korea’s rice wine

Dongdongju (동동주) is a traditional Korean liquor made from rice. 

It is typically made by fermenting a mixture of rice, wheat, and other grains, and is often aged for several years to develop its flavor. 

Dongdongju is known for its smooth, mellow flavor and is often served as an after-dinner drink or as a way to celebrate special occasions.

 It is also sometimes used in traditional Korean medicine to treat a variety of ailments. 

In addition to its use as a beverage, dongdongju is also sometimes used in cooking, particularly in marinades and sauces.

Sansachu|Korea’s beloved mountain cherry liquor

Sansachun (산사춘) is a type of Korean liquor made from rice and other grains, similar to munbaeju. 

It is typically made by fermenting a mixture of rice, wheat, barley, and other grains, and is aged for several years to develop its flavor. 

Sansachun is known for its smooth, mellow flavor and is often served as an after-dinner drink or as a way to celebrate special occasions. 

It is also sometimes used in traditional Korean medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

 In addition to its use as a beverage, sansachun is also sometimes used in cooking, particularly in marinades and sauces.

Flower wine|From rose to lavender and beyond”

In Korea, there are several types of flower wine that are made using a variety of flowers and ingredients. 

Some common types of flower wine include:

  1. Chamisul (참이슬): This is a type of flower wine made from the petals of the chrysanthemum flower.

 It is known for its sweet, floral flavor and is often served as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.

  1. Baekseju (백세주): This is a type of flower wine made from the petals of the Korean angelica tree. 

It is known for its sweet, slightly bitter flavor and is often served as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.

  1. Osulloc (오설록): This is a brand of flower tea and flower wine made from a variety of flowers, including camellia, rose, and jasmine. 

The tea is known for its delicate, floral flavor, while the wine is slightly sweeter and more full-bodied.

  1. Juyondang (주용당): This is a type of flower wine made from the petals of the magnolia flower. 

It is known for its sweet, floral flavor and is often served as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.

  1. Daejihaeju (대지해주): This is a type of flower wine made from the petals of the daisy flower. 

It is known for its sweet, floral flavor and is often served as after-dinner drink.

Cocktail

Cocktails are popular in Korea, and there are many different types of cocktails that are enjoyed in the country.

 Some popular Korean cocktails include:

  1. Soju cocktails: Soju is a popular Korean liquor that is made from rice or sweet potatoes. 

It is often mixed with fruit juices, carbonated drinks, or other ingredients to make a variety of cocktails, such as the “somaek” (a combination of soju and beer) and the “yusang” (a combination of soju, lemon juice, and honey).

  1. Makgeolli cocktails: Makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine that is made by fermenting a mixture of rice, wheat, and water.

It is often mixed with fruit juices or other ingredients to make a variety of cocktails.

  1. Korean whiskey cocktails: Korean whiskey, such as Jinro or HiteJinro, is often used to make cocktails in Korea. 

Some popular Korean whiskey cocktails include the “jinro ginger” (Jinro whiskey mixed with ginger ale) and the “jinro mule” (Jinro whiskey mixed with ginger beer and lime juice).

  1. Korean beer cocktails: Korean beer, such as Hite or Cass, is often mixed with other ingredients to make a variety of cocktails, such as the “hite punch” (Hite beer mixed with fruit juice and soda) and the “cass light” (Cass beer mixed with lemonade).
  2. Korean fruit cocktails: A variety of fruits, such as pineapples, melons, and strawberries, are often used to make cocktails in Korea.

 These cocktails are often made with a combination of fruit juices, syrups, and other ingredients.

In South Korea, you can buy alcohol at a variety of places, including:

  1. Convenience stores: Many convenience stores in South Korea sell a variety of alcoholic beverages, including beer, soju, and other spirits.
  1. Supermarkets: Supermarkets in South Korea often have a section dedicated to alcoholic beverages, where you can buy a variety of beers, wines, and spirits.
  1. Bars and pubs: Bars and pubs in South Korea typically have a wide selection of alcoholic beverages, including beer, soju, and other spirits.
  1. Liquor stores: South Korea has specialized liquor stores, called “suljip,” where you can buy a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, including high-end spirits and imported brands.
  1. Online retailers: You can also buy alcohol online from a variety of retailers in South Korea, including online marketplaces and specialty online stores.

In North Korea, it is not publicly known where alcohol can be purchased, as information about the country’s laws and regulations is not widely available.

The legal age to purchase and consume alcohol in South Korea is 19 years old. 

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 19 to purchase or consume alcohol, and it is also illegal for anyone to sell alcohol to minors.

The legal drinking age in North Korea is not publicly known, as information about the country’s laws and regulations is not widely available.

A soju bomb is a popular cocktail in Korea that is made by dropping a shot of soju into a glass of beer. 

The soju is usually placed in a small shot glass, and the beer is poured into a larger glass. 

The shot glass is then placed on top of the beer glass, and the two are consumed together.

To make a soju bomb, you will need:

  • A shot of soju
  • A glass of beer

To assemble the soju bomb, simply place the shot of soju into the glass of beer.

The soju will sink to the bottom of the glass, and the two liquids will mix together as you drink.

They are known for their strong, punchy flavor and are often consumed quickly in a single gulp.

Soju bombs are often served at Korean bars and restaurants, and are a popular choice for socializing and celebrating with friends. 

Some popular brands of soju to use in a soju bomb include Jinro and Chumchurum.

What is drunk in Korean language?

In Korean, the word for “drunk” is 취한 (chwihan). 

This word can be used to describe someone who is intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol.

Example

I am drunk because I drank too much alcohol.

저는 술을 너무 많이 마셔서 취해요. (Jeoneun suleul neomu mani masyeoseo chwihaeyo.), 

That person is drunk and feeling tired.

그 사람은 술을 취해서 졸리고 있어요. (Geu sarameun suleul chwihaeseo jolligo isseoyo.)

That person looks drunk.

그 사람은 취한 것 같아요 (geu sarameun chwihaen geot gatayo)

17 ultimate Korean alcohol vocabulary list for for alcohol lovers

Here are a few words related to alcohol in Korean.

  • 술 (sul): alcohol in Korean.
  • 소주 (soju): This is the word for soju,
  • 막걸리 (makgeolli): a traditional Korean rice wine.
  • 백세주 (baekseju): a high-end Korean rice wine that is aged for several years.
  • 맥주 (maekju): beer in Korean.
  • 위스키 (wiseuki):  whiskey in Korean.
  • 술잔 (suljan): a glass of alcohol 
  • 술자리 (suljari): drinking session or gathering
  • 술취하다 (sulchwihada): to get drunk 
  • 술을 마시다 (suleul masida): to drink alcohol
  • 술을 계속해서 마시다 (suleul gyesokhaeseo masida): to keep drinking 
  • 술을 적당히 마시다 (suleul jeokdanghi masida): to drink alcohol in moderation
  • 술 마시다 (sul machida):to drink alcohol.
  • 술을 마시고 싶다 (suleul machigo sipta): to want to drink alcohol.
  • 술을 즐기다 (suleul jeulgida): to enjoy drinking alcohol
  • 술을 취하다 (suleul chwihada): to get drunk.
  • 술이 너무 마시고 싶다: to really want to drink alcohol.

Drinking culture in Korea

Drinking is an integral part of Korean culture and is often considered a social activity. 

Alcohol is consumed in a variety of settings, including at home, at restaurants and bars, and at work events and social gatherings.

it is common to drink alcohol with food, and many Korean dishes are served with alcohol as a complement. 

Korean alcohol, such as soju, makgeolli, and beer, is often served with Korean barbecue, grilled meats, and spicy stews.

people also drink alcohol as a way to relax after a long day of work or as a way to celebrate special occasions. 

Drinking with colleagues or friends is seen as a way to bond and build relationships.

 it is not uncommon for people to spend long evenings drinking and eating together.

it is also important to be mindful of responsible drinking and to avoid getting excessively drunk.

In recent years, there has been a push to educate people about the dangers of alcohol abuse and to promote responsible drinking in Korea.

Korean Drinking etiquette|Tips and customs for enjoying alcohol in Korea”

Drinking alcohol is an important part of social and business interactions in Korean culture.

However, there are certain etiquette guidelines that are followed when drinking. 

  • It is considered polite to pour drinks for others and to refill their glasses when they are empty. 
  • In Korean culture, it is often customary to toast before drinking. To make a toast, you can say “건배” (geonbae), which means “cheers.”
  • When pouring a drink for someone, it is considered polite to hold the bottle with two hands.
  • It is considered impolite to refuse a drink when offered, especially if you are drinking with someone who is older or more senior than you. 
  • If you do not want to drink alcohol, it is considered acceptable to say that you are “allergic” to it or to ask for a non-alcoholic beverage instead.
  • If you do not want to drink alcohol, you can politely decline by saying “안 좋아요” (an johayo), which means “I don’t feel well.”
  • It is considered polite to make eye contact with the person you are drinking with and to raise your glass slightly when clinking it with theirs.
  • It is considered impolite to drink alcohol quickly or to drink to the point of getting drunk. 
  • It is considered more polite to sip your drink slowly and to enjoy it in moderation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Korean alcohol is a diverse and fascinating world of flavors, traditions, and customs. 

From the crisp and refreshing taste of soju, to the complex and nuanced flavors of traditional rice wines like baekseju, there is something for everyone

Whether you are a seasoned connoisseur or a beginner looking to explore the world of Korean alcohol, the 20 most popular Korean alcohols listed in this article are a great place to start. 

So why not grab a group of friends, raise a glass, and discover the delicious world of Korean alcohol for yourself? Cheers!

Thank you for reading this.

i hope to see you again on our next Korean lesson 

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