What Is Korean Rice Wine Makkoli?

Makgeolli is a Korean alcoholic beverage. The milky, off-white and lightly sparkling rice wine has a slight viscosity that tastes slightly sweet, tangy, bitter, and astringent. Chalky sediment gives it a cloudy appearance. As a low proof drink of six to nine percent alcohol by volume, it is often considered a happy, communal beverage. It is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in Korea, long considered a farmer’s drink, and is typically very affordable. In Korea, makgeolli is often unpasteurized, and the wine continues to mature in the bottle. Because of its natural probiotics, makkoli has a limited shelf life. 

Makgeolli is usually served chilled, in a bottle or in a pottery bowl with a ladle.  Prior to drinking, it is stirred with the ladle, or the bottle is gently flipped upside down several times with the cap on, in order to mix in the settled sediment. It is then ladled or poured into individual small bowls, rather than cups, for drinking. This is because of the tendency of makgeolli to split into a cloudy white fraction that settles to the bottom and a clear, pale yellow liquid that rises to the top.

Makgeolli is often served with fried buchimgae, Korean pancakes, such as pajeon (made with scallions), haemul-panjeon (made with scallions and seafood), and bindae-tteok (made with mung beans and pork). Consuming Makgeolli with these pancakes is a custom often associated with rainy days.

Makgeolli may also be mixed with ice and fruits such as mango and pineapple to make fruit cocktails, or with saida (lemon-lime drink) to make a simple cocktail named maksa. Makgeolli mixed with kkul (honey) is called kkul-makgeolli.