In Korea, soju has become synonymous with celebration. It’s a spirit best enjoyed in a cheerful environment, shared among a big group of your friends. If there is a decadent, five-course meal on the table, all the better. That’s probably why soju is just about as central to the meal at Korean barbecue restaurants as the meat itself.
WHAT IS SOJU ?
Soju is a clear spirit that was originally distilled primarily from rice. During the Korean War, the government banned distilling rice, but soju didn’t disappear. Instead, distillers produced soju with grains like wheat and barley, as well as starches like potato and tapioca. When the ban ended in 1999, these grains remained popular in the production of soju.
Soju is sometimes compared to vodka, but it has a lower alcohol content (usually hovering in the 12.5 to 24 percent ABV range). This makes it far more drinkable over an extended period of time, such as a dinner party or gathering. However, mass-produced soju can be harsh, slightly bitter, and have an almost tangy aftertaste. Often, a sweetener is added in an attempt to cover up that rubbing alcohol quality.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOJU, SOCHU & SAKE.
Soju should not be confused with two other types of rice-based spirits, sake and shochu.
Sake is brewed, not distilled. Shochu is similar to soju, but like sake, it originated in Japan. James, Carolyn’s husband, thinks of shochu as a “sibling, or a cousin” to soju. Both have a low ABV, but shochu is typically distilled with sweet potato, and sometimes barley or rice. Perhaps one of the most standout differences is that shochu is enjoyed on the rocks, or mixed with fruit juice or water, whereas soju is most often consumed neat, in a shot glass.