It’s almost impossible to find a Korean drama in which SOJU has not appeared at least once. YES! I am talking about Korean drinking culture and soju.
Every K-Drama fan knows that Koreans did not lose the chance to have fun together and when I am talking about enjoying it together we have to talk about SOJU !!
So you all know that Koreans drink alcoholic beverages on every occasion and Here, friends drink beer and soju over fried chicken or a light meal, they drink over BBQ, they drink casually at bars.
South Korea's drinking culture gives us background information about its social structure , lifestyles and traditions . But do you know why they do that and what is the history of Korean drinking culture?
So, let's find out !!
HISTORY OF SOUTH KOREAN DRINKING CULTURE
South Korea has a tradition of consuming alcoholic beverages to celebrate holidays and traditional and seasonal events . On these days they honour their ancestors and exchange goodwill with neighbours and friends.
Some of these traditional events includes:
- Korean new year
- Thanksgiving day (Chuseok)
Korean new year
Korean new year 'SEOLLAL', which is also known as SEOLLAL (설날) or Korean lunar new year, is a traditional holiday. This day is celebrated as the first day of the Korean lunar calendar.
On this day Koreans worship their ancestors and drink soju , the word soju means a welcoming spring which is made of rice , wheat and barley.
There is another soju which is called DOSOJU, which is made from medicinal herbs and refined rice wine.
Korean thanksgiving day 'CHUSEOK'
Chuseok (추석), which means autumn evening and also known as Korean thanksgiving day, is a major mid-autumn harvest festival, in South Korea it is celebrates for three day.
A big and major event of this festival is alcoholic drinks which are called Baekse-ju. On this occasion, Koreans visit their hometowns and share a Korean traditional food feast in which rice wines are also included such as SINDOJU and DONGDONGJU.
Do you know about yin and yang? In Korean tradition yin and yang represents duality, or the idea that two opposite characteristics can actually exist in harmony and complement each other.
Yin represents dark and cold on the other hand yang represents bright and hot . Dano is related to that , it's an important holiday on which Koreans celebrate the transplanting of rice seedlings.
Dano is celebrated at the time of the year when yin energy is weakest and yang energy is strongest. On this festival Koreans toast the day with drinks, which are said to dispel evil spirits, provide escape from misfortune and promote health and longevity.
Daeboreum is a Korean traditional holiday, which is celebrated as the first full moon of the new year according to the lunar Korean calendar also known as the first full moon festival.
On this occasion Korean people drink ear-quickening wine or Gwibalgisul in the morning of the Daeboreum.
The reason behind this is because they hope to believe that drinking cold wine helps people to maintain a healthy ear condition and hear more happy news through the years.
WHAT IS SOJU ?
When we are talking about Korean drinking culture, every K-Ddrama fan recalls only one thing which is SOJU!!
Which is the national drink of South Korea . Soju is the best selling alcoholic drink in the world. It's a clear spirit and has a very light volume of alcohol compared to vodka.
The alcohol volume in soju is around 20% to 24%. On the other hand, vodka contains 40% above alcohol volume , which is quite high.
That's why those who don't want the extra liquor and do not want the harsh alcoholic burn they prefer to go for Soju.
What SOJU is made of~
Soju is traditionally made from grains such as rice , barley . But during the Korean war, distilling rice was banned because rice was short on supply.
Distillers started using the alternatives of rice by using sweet potatoes, wheat and tapioca .
Process of making traditional SOJU
Soju is traditionally made by distilling alcohol from fermented grains. While making the ingredients may differ but the process of making soju is generally similar.
The traditional method of making soju has been passed down through generations , in the old times generally the process of making soju has been by women. It's not like soju is made by only women, there are men also who take some extra care of soju from its initial stages until it’s ready to be bottled.
Let's learn the traditional soju making process by some short and simple points :
- The wheat is crushed or smashed into a fine powder form (Pulverise). 누룩, is a traditional Korean fermentation starter. Nuruk is basically used in making different Korean alcoholic beverages.
- Pulverised wheat based fermentation enzyme (NURUK) is mixed with water until the proper consistency is attained .
- Then the wheat based and water mixture is put into a mould and evenly spread .
- The mixture of these ingredients is gently pounded to become a thick disk .
- The cake-like wheat mixture is left to dry, age and ferment .
- After 3 weeks of ageing and fermenting the disk became as hard as rock after that the disk is pulverised in a mortar.
While this process is going on, a big batch of rice is steamed and after that the rice will cool at the right temperature ,here the right temperature is really important because if the rice is too warm , the taste of soju will become sour .
When the rice is ready , it is then combined with pulverised wheat and watered to produce a mash. The mixture is then left to ferment for 12 days.
Finally the mixture is then ready for distillation, placed in Soju-gori and let it boil, sealing the gaps with flour dough to prevent vapour from escaping, until the final product SOJU is produced.
THE TRADITIONAL WAY TO DRINK SOJU
Traditionally, when people do get-together , the older member of the group will pour the soju in a glass and give it to you. After they fulfilled your glass you have to take that by you both hands in a way of respect and then you turn your face to side in order to not make a eye contact with the older person in front of you and SHOOT IT!!
You can sip the soju also but as you see in Kdramas or in general shooting the soju drink is more common in one go !!
THE MODERNIZATION OF SOJU
Nowadays , in Korean modern society soju is established as the national drink of Korea. In the beginning era older men in their 40s or 50s were the primary consumers of soju but in recent times the number of female soju drinkers has increased.
During these times the alcoholic volume in soju is converting to less alcohol in soju because of the low amount of alcohol, the younger generation of south Koreans are also really attracted to soju and the number of young generation soju drinkers has increased .
THE NEW FLAVOURS OF SOJU
There are new flavours of soju which are really in trend among the younger generation and females of South Korea, which is called fruit flavour soju . And this new flavour of soju is made because of female drinkers.
Even though females enjoy going to drinking session but they are many times where they are reluctant to drink soju or beer because of its strong bitter flavour and alcoholic properties and due to the modernization in Korea, the female workers numbers increased and they prefer to go to the after-work get-togethers and there are time when they don't want to have the alcoholic beverages but still want to enjoy the drinks.
So the LOTTE GROUP OF COMPANIES in 2015 has introduced a fruit flavoured soju. Just in the first week after launch of new fruit flavoured soju, Lotte sold over 1.2 million bottles of its new product after seeing such massive success of new flavoured soju the other companies also started to launch their own citron-flavoured beverages and have since then the consumption of low alcohol drinks among the young generations has increases .
Check more at : A Definitive Ranking of all the Best Soju Flavors
WHY SOJU IS SO POPULAR ?
It's not like soju is just popular in South Korea. In fact soju is really popular in Asian countries and western countries.
One of the reasons behind this is the low volume of alcohol , soju can go really well with different drinks and can be mixed into almost any alcoholic drink . and it has little to no distinct flavour which goes well with a huge variety of flavours.
Another reason behind its popularity is the cheap price of soju. The price of soju bottles is cheaper than bottled water in South Korea and most of the western countries.
You can find soju bottles in almost every convenient store in South Korea .
SO NOW IF YOU COME TO KOREA DON'T BE SURPRISED BY THEIR DRINKING CULTURE.
Author : Anjali Barua