Before I first visited North Korea, I am not sure I had even heard of soju, and if I had I assumed it would be as bad as Chinese BaiJiu. I like a drink, but BaiJiu is frankly putrid.
How strong is Soju?
The first Soju I tried was Pyongyang Soju, which is probably my favourite. What is the Soju percentage? It genuinely depends but the Soju Ginro from the South is about 17%, whilst North Korean Soju, or rather Pyongyang Soju is about 23%.
That being said, in both North and South Korea these percentages can vary extremely greatly, with there being liquor versions of Soju going up to even 60%.
In many respects the Soju liquor family forms different branch to what is drank daily and with most meals.
My favourite of the liquor varieties would be Ginseng Soju, a product that really could not be more North Korean. It is about 40% and has a very string Ginseng infusion.
To read more about North Korean Ginseng click here
Does Soju get you drunk?
The main soju’s such as Jinro are what I call creepers though. The percentage of Soju is more than wine but less than liquor, such the drunkenness seems to come from nowhere.
Jinro, and a number of South Korean firms have started doing flavoured soju. Stay away from that hipster shit, ok kids. Soju was made to be drunk pure, it does not need a mixer, and is perfect as it is.
Are there any Soju cocktails?
But, that being said there is one Soju cocktail that is vaguely acceptable and that is SoMeag. A mixture of Soju and maegjiu 맥주, which means beer. You literally drop a shot of soju into beer. There is no way of avoiding getting hammered if you do this, and chances of a “kimchi flower” making session are increased.
Where can I get soju?
A few years ago Soju was almost impossible to get, but now at least I can lay my hands on it in Shenzhen, Manila, and Hong Kong in most stores. In the Philippines, they even serve it in a lot of bars, and at $4 rather than $1 for a really bad beer represents excellent value, or at least more chance of getting drunk. I can confirm that soju is a bog deal in Cambodia too, where I am now based.
What is the best selling brand if I want to drink soju?
Update; Well we already feel that we have the best guide to soju going, but felt we should share some rather exciting news.
We recently found that Jinro Soju is the best selling liquor brand in the world! In fact it sells a whopping 74 million cases. What makes this most amazing is that most of the Soju Jinro sell is in South Korea. Should Korea even achieve reunification it would make one great soju drinking superpower!
What is a kimchi flower?
If you have not heard of kimchi it is the national dish of both Koreas. It is served with absolutely every meal. It is basically a bit similar to sauerkraut. When Koreans get drunk they sometimes vomit in the street. The creation is thus referred to as a Kimchi flower. These can be seen across Seoul on most weekend mornings.
Conclusion on this wonderful drink
Since discovering soju it has by far been my go to drink. As stated it is much weaker than a vodka, but still strong enough to give you a quick kick. It is also easy to “gambei”. This makes it the perfect drink for socializing.
The Street Food Guy recommends drinking soju responsibly. Only kidding, we really don’t care…5