Soju is not wine. But – hey – that’s okay.
Los Angeles (our hometown) enjoys a very large Korean population and many fine Korean dining options. Soju is often on the menu as a drink choice and I would order and I would drink and I would enjoy, but I never really bothered to find out what it was or ask any questions.
Basically all I knew about Soju until recently is that it is a Korean alcohol, that it tended to be low in alcohol (although it isn’t always!) and that it was sometimes used in making cocktails.
Soju was historically a liquor made from fermented rice. During wartime in Korea, Soju producers couldn’t (were told not to) make Soju from rice so they switched to other kinds of starches and grains.
You can find Soju made from sweet potato, from other potato, from tapioca (which is rice-like), from rice (which is tapioca-like) and I’m sure many other things.
This variety gives a certain diversity to the taste of Soju.
So Soju isn’t a wine?
No, Soju isn’t a wine.
But Soju is often drunk straight like wine. Like I already said and will now repeat, it can also be used in cocktails, which also makes it like hard liquor. I appreciate this versatility; it’s a great quality that we can all hope to incorporate in our lives.
Soju doesn’t have a particularly strong taste (as opposed to, for example, a smoky mezcal which always tastes to me like bacon in the best possible way) and so it’s a great base for other flavours. Versatile, customizable, variable alcohol strengths. What is not to love!
It’s basically really great and very underrated in the two countries I’ve lived in and in many of the other Western countries I’ve visited.
However, don’t feel bad for Soju. Like many things that we are ignorant of in the West, it is really, really popular elsewhere.
Yes, Soju is actually very popular!
Soju is – brace yourself – one of the best selling liquors IN THE WORLD.
So see what everyone else has already been experiencing for a very long time (apparently since the Mongol empire which is, IDK, like over 1,000 years ago) and get yourself some Soju. Not sure where even to start? Consider the refreshing Jinro tiktok peach Soju, which comes in convenient CANS!