Soju is the number one selling alcoholic beverage in the world, followed by Smirnoff vodka. But what is Soju?
Soju is A Korean spirit that deserves a front-row seat in any bar!
‘So’ means burnt, ‘Ju’ means liquor, SOJU means “burned liquor” referring to how alcohol is distilled at high temperature.
Soju is a clear, colorless distilled traditional Korean alcoholic beverage, which has been around since the 13th century. Traditionally it was made using rice, but during the Korean war, the government banned distilling rice, because of a nationwide shortage. As people still needed a drink, they started using alternative sources like wheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and tapioca.
Whether made of starch or grain, Soju is the go-to booze for Korean celebrations even today. It’s a social thing… a little green bottle & some traditional shot glasses around. It is served to each other, the first shot of soju is usually downed in one go, but it’s acceptable to sip afterward and next thing you know, the bottle is gone.
Soju has an alcohol content that varies from about 16.8% to 45%. It is mostly consumed neat along with food and enjoyed chilled. On average Soju has around 20% alcohol, so it nicely falls between beer/ wine and most hard alcohol.
Fruit-flavored soju tends to be lower in alcoholic content but higher in sugar usually meant for the younger crowd. It comes in flavors like apple, blueberry, citrus, grape, grapefruit, peach, pineapple, and pomegranate.
The premium quality soju is made using the traditional methods, has much higher alcohol content, sometimes reaching up to 45% and is considerably smoother. Different brands offer distinctive tastes and fragrances, ranging from floral to fruity. These higher proof Soju’s tend to hold up better in cocktails and can be used in place of vodka, gin, and whiskey.
Whatever the taste notes & alcohol content be but give Soju in the hands of creative bartenders, and there is are infinite possibilities to pair it with other spirits creating some unique cocktails.
Many cocktails and mixed drinks use Soju as a base spirit. Beer and Soju can be mixed to create Somaek, a bomb drink called made with a shot glass of soju dropped into a pint of beer, similar to the Japanese Sake Bomb.
Soju is one of the world’s most popular liquor yet it’s been largely ignored in the Indian market.
Jinro is the largest manufacturer of soju with global sales in 2013 were 750 million bottles due to the large per capita consumption in South Korea. Followed by Smirnoff, sold less than half that, and at number three is another soju made by Korea’s Lotte Liquor.
So if you’re looking for a neutral spirit, try Soju: one of these bottles can be a great substitute for your old standby in cocktails. “Gunbae!” (“Cheers!”)

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