Curious about Korean alcohol?

If so, we’ve everything you need to know below. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite drink, and read on!



Soju is the most popular liquor in South Korea and one of the best-selling spirits in the world. Traditionally, soju is made from rice, but many mass-produced brands now use ethanol derived from sweet potatoes.

It tastes like the offspring of vodka and sake, with an alcohol content of about 19%. You’re missing out if you have not tried soju before — it’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world!


Makgeolli is Korea’s oldest alcoholic drink. It’s been brewed for nearly 2,000 years, and it’s easily quaffable thanks to its low alcohol percentage (normally around six to nine percent). It is an unfiltered beverage, so in contrast to soju, it has an opaque, milky appearance and contains sediment. It’s sweet in flavor, with a mild tangy kick and a lightly carbonated fizz, and pairs perfectly with spicy Korean foods.


Traditionally, cheongju was consumed by the Korean royal court. It is made using the same rice fermentation process as makgeolli, but whereas makgeolli uses the bottom layers of the fermented liquor, cheongju uses just the clear liquid that rises to the top. Cheongju is important in Korean tradition; as it’s seen as a ‘good’ (well-made) liquor, it’s used in rituals and offerings.

Fruit wines

South Korea has a wide variety of fruit wines. One of the most popular is bokbunjaju, which is made from Korean black raspberries (bokbunja). It’s dark red, tart and sweet, and believed to have health benefits including increased male stamina.

Maesilju, or plum wine, is also popular. Plum wine is based on soju, it’s moderately sweet and normally matured for at least three to six months, which gives the wine a more complex, mellow flavor.

When it comes to drinking in Korea, you only need to learn two words: “Gunbae!” and “Jjan!”. “Gunbae” is the equivalent of shouting “Cheers!” with a group of friends, and “jjan” is said when toasting with each other.