two hands clinking shot glasses of soju over dinner table

What Is Soju? Explore This Korean Liquor

Soju is a popular distilled grain alcohol that has its origins in Korea. The drink is typically consumed neat, as a shot, and it is commonplace over meals and in the culture of South Korea. With alcoholic volumes varying and plenty of different soju flavors, including the original flavor, Soju is incredibly popular both in South Korea and around the world for its versatile nature. 

Our article gives you more details on what exactly soju is and how to drink this popular spirit.

Soju: The Main Facts

Soju dates back to the 13th century when distilling techniques were introduced to the Korean peninsula as part of the Mongol invasions of Korea. Subsequently, distilleries were set up throughout Korea, and soju began being created from fermented rice grains. 

The majority of soju was made in home distilleries, and modern soju was directly created from spirits distilled in the city of Andong.

Culturally, soju is known as the national drink of South Korea, and it is incredibly popular for individuals from all walks of life. Soju is consumed as part of work outings, as a way to bond with friends, family, or romantic partners, and as a part of many dinners, including the ever-popular Korean barbeque.

In Korea, there is a specific set of etiquette rules to follow when it comes to drinking soju. For example, both hands should be used to pour a glass of soju for someone, and younger individuals are expected to pour drinks for their elders. This also applies to workplace relationships, where newer employees should be pouring glasses of soju for the more experienced employees. When receiving a glass of soju, both hands should be used to hold the glass as the other individual pours.

Outside of Korea, and often within close family and friend relationships, these etiquette standards aren’t followed as strictly. You shouldn’t worry about following soju-drinking etiquette outside of Korea. If you are drinking with a Korean friend or loved one, you may want to ask them how they would prefer you drink soju together.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Soju?

The alcohol by volume (ABV) of soju ranges from 12.9 percent to around 53 percent, and the specific ABV depends on the brand. In general, more fruit-flavored and sipping sojus have a lower ABV, while traditionally created and natural-flavored sojus have a higher ABV.

What Is Soju Made From?

Soju is traditionally made from fermented rice grains, though distilleries have started using fermented sweet potatoes, tapioca, and cassava as part of their soju blends. The flavor of traditional soju can be described as light, crispy, and clean, and it has a cool finish. 

Fruit flavors are some of the most popular varieties of soju around today. They will have a unique crisp and clean taste combined with the refreshing flavor of peach, pomegranate, pineapple, grapefruit, or grape. For this reason, many people compare it to other clean liquors like gin.You can find both fruit-flavored and the classic traditional flavor of soju within certain liquor stores in the United States.

What Is the Primary Ingredient of Soju?

The primary ingredient in soju is fermented grains, traditionally rice. Modern soju distillers utilize a variety of grains to create this spirit, including sweet potatoes, tapioca, and cassava.

How Is Soju Made?

Soju is made by distilling fermented grains. Soju manufacturers will first ferment their ingredients, such as rice, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and cassava. During the distilling process, these ingredients are boiled and filtered through a soju-gori, which is a two-story distilling appliance.

After the soju has been created, flavors are added into it before it is bottled, and prepared for sale or shipment. Today, there are a variety of soju distilleries throughout South Korea producing all the flavors and strengths of soju.

How Is Soju Distilled or Filtered?

Soju is both distilled and filtered. The fermented ingredients used in soju are boiled before being filtered through the soju-gori. The resulting product that drips out of the soju-gori is a product that is then flavored and bottled for production.

Can You Make Soju Yourself?

hands holding full shot glass with soju being poured from green bottle

While soju was traditionally a homemade liquor around the Korean peninsula, it might be difficult to make at home. To properly create soju, you will need a soju-gori and a place to ferment your grains for at least fifteen days. You will also need a way to bottle and flavor the soju after it drips out of the soju-gori. 

It may be possible to create a setup at home, though it can take lots of effort, care, and research to ensure you are safely completing this process.

Sipping on Soju

Soju is one of Korea’s most popular alcoholic drinks, and this spirit has a growing presence outside of the Korean peninsula. Many individuals today love the flavor of both classic, traditionally flavored soju and the popular fruit flavors of soju, choosing to consume it over dinner or as part of a unique cocktail creation

No matter how you choose to consume soju, rest assured that you will be sipping the night away happily now that you know exactly what this popular, refreshing spirit is.

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