For good or bad, alcohol’s fame burns bright in Korea. The trifecta of iterations includes beer (맥주; maekju), soju (소주), and makgeolli (막걸리).
The early 20th century west introduced beer to Korea. It dug deep fast. The tallboy (500 ml), lager form is the most popular.
Though foreign brands take up more cooler space these days, Cass (OB) and Hite dominate the market. Notorious for their “lighter taste,” price and national pride help push tankers full of brew into thirty stomachs.
Judged by cultural identification, though, Soju reigns supreme. The Korean peninsula birthed this form of rice liquor. In return, this little spirit anoints Korea “one of the most hard liquor consuming country on earth.”
The alcohol content in soju varies. Old school conconctions hovered around 30% ABV. Today, companies make 15-18% ABV spirits. Though that’s the same as an average wine, most Korea’s take shots soju.
Don’t be like less initiated foreigners. Soju will sneak up on you like a Tesla. You won’t hear the thing until you’re face down in a storm drain.
Makgeolli holds a special place in the alcohol pantheon. The cloudy rice wine is the oldest alcohol beverage in Korea.
In convenience stores, they come in opaque, 750 ml bottles near the soju. Somewhat sour, somewhat sweet, makgeolli’s ABV hovers somewhere between 6-9%.
You can also find makgeolli restaurants that serve a chilled, fresh brew in an open pot. Use a ladle to fill your cup and chow down on buchimgae (부침개), a fried, savory pancake.