|Traditional Korean drinks are made chiefly from rice, sweet potatoes and other grains, usually along with kneaded wheat malt. They are classified according to purity, percentage of alcohol contained, whether or not distilled, and materials used. There are largely five types: yakju (refined pure liquor fermented from rice), soju (distilled liquor), takju (thick, unrefined liquor fermented from grains), fruit wines, and medicinal wines from various seeds and roots. Each type has dozens of varieties. The famous cheongju is a form of yakju and the popular makgeolli is considered takju. Acacia, maesil plums, Chinese quinces, cherries, pine fruits, and pomegranates are some popular ingredients in fruit wines. Insamju is a representative example of medicinal wine, made from ginseng.|
Well-known examples of cheongju are beopju, sogokju and baekaju.
막걸리 / 동동주 Makgeolli and Dongdongju
A milky liquor with low alcohol content, this traditional commoner’s beverage is enjoyed not only by farmers and laborers, but by business people as well. It is served at drinking houses around universities, at festivals, picnic areas, or anywhere people might enjoy a mild drink with a fermented flavor.
Comparable to vodka but less potent, soju is the most popular traditional Korean liquor among the general public. Soju was originally brewed from grains; today it is mass-produced mainly from sweet potatoes.
This distilled liquor is brewed from wheat, millet and Indian millet. It is given the scent and flavor of the crab apple, which is called munbae. Its brewing skill is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the Korean government along with that of dugyeonju (azalea wine) from Myeoncheon, Dangjin-gun, Chungcheongnam-do, and Gyodong Beopju from Gyeongju.
|Traditional Drinking Etiquette|
|• Koreans offer glasses of liquor to each other as a gesture of comaraderie. When someone offers you an empty liquor glass, you are expected to hold it out and receive a fill-up, drink it empty, and in likewise fashion return it to the person who offered it to you. This drinking tradition helps promote close ties around the drinking table.
• It is a rule of courtesy for juniors to pour liquor for their seniors. The juniors have to keep paying attention not to leave a senior’s glass empty. When a senior offers a junior a glass, the junior should receive it with two hands and drink with head turned aside, not facing the senior. It is also the custom to cup the right sleeve with the left hand when pouring a drink for a senior.
• In the past, Korean drinking houses used to prepare a special soup to cure the hangovers of customers who had drank the night before. This beef-bone broth fortified with dried outer cabbage leaves and clotted ox blood, called haejangguk, is still a morning-after favorite.