|For Koreans, alcohol has been a lifelong companion in times of sorrow and joy. Korean people have been brewing their own liquor since ancient times when they first began to practice agriculture. Since then, liquor has been enjoyed at every festival and event. Historical records show that Korean people began brewing a clear grain-based liquor before the 4th century. Since that time, Koreans have performed ceremonies when they make a ritual offering of the alcohol to their ancestors in appreciation for the bountiful annual harvest and to pray for future happiness. After making the ritual offerings, Koreans traditionally enjoy drinking the liquor while singing and dancing.|
Korea’s traditional liquors are takju (탁주), cheongju 청주 (or yakju 약주), and soju (소주). The oldest is takju, which is made by fermenting grains like rice or wheat. When takju is strained to a refined clear liquor, it becomes cheongju (yakju), and when cheongju is distilled, it becomes soju. Today, takju is more commonly known asmakgeolli, and it is enjoyed by the majority of Koreans as well as many visitors.
| Makgeolli (Takju) – 막걸리 (탁주)|
Makgeolli is unique to Korea. It is made by mixing steamed glutinous rice, barley, or wheat with nuruk, a fermentation starter culture, and water, and then leaving the mixture to ferment. It has a milky, opaque color and a low alcohol content of 6%-7%. It is also called takju(tak meaning opaque) or nongju (nong means farming) because it is traditionally enjoyed by farmers after a day of hard labor.
In Korea, the most popular types of makgeolli are ssal makgeolli (쌀막걸리) made of rice (ssal means ‘rice’) anddongdongju (동동주) in which unstrained rice floats on the surface (dongdong means ‘floating’). When drinking makgeolli, make sure to shake or stir it well before drinking. The best makgeolli is an intriguing blend of sweet, sour, bitter, and astringent tastes. You can try makgeolli almost anywhere in Seoul, particularly recommended are the traditional Korean taverns in the downtown Insa-dong or Myeong-dong areas. Outside of Seoul, there are also many establishments that sell makgeolli. You will also find a wide range of makgeolli or dongdongju at grocery stores, convenience stores, and department stores. Unpasteurized makgeolli will last for only 10 to 30 days, so make sure to check the expiry date.
|Chamsari Takju (참살이탁주)|
|Chamsari Takju is a brand of makgeolli with a 6% alcohol content. It is made from environmentally friendly, pesticide-free rice, which was developed by a master of alcohol brewing and Hankyong National University. Much research was done into minimizing the ingredients that cause hangovers, while nutrients like Vitamin B1 and B2 were preserved. Therefore, it is thought to be good for the skin. Chamsari Takju was designated as the official drink for the International Symposium on Korean Cuisine to the World, which was held at the Lotte Hotel in April 2009. |
| Price: Supermarkets 1,500~2,500 won, taverns/bars 3,000~6,000 won|
Where to buy it: Hyundai Department Store, Hanaro Mart, and traditional taverns
Chamsari Official Site: www.chamsary.co.kr (Korean)
|Kooksoondang Ssal Makgeolli (국순당 쌀막걸리)|
|Kooksoondang Ssal Makgeolli is quality makgeolli made with special nuruk starter culture and uncooked rice. It is known for its fresh flavors and excellent taste. Through low-temperature pasteurization, nutritional loss was minimized. This brand of makgeolli has high levels of amino-acid, which helps maintain its fresh taste for a long time. After the low-temperature pasteurization process, the liquor is packaged in a hygienic can, so it can be stored for a year and can be easily carried to outings or picnics. Also available is saeng makgeolli (생막걸리), which comes in a plastic bottle. |
| Price: Supermarkets 600~1,500 won, taverns/bars 3,000~5000 won|
Where to buy it: Grocery stores, supermarkets, taverns
Kooksoondang Official Site: www.ksdb.co.kr (Korean, English, Japanese)
|Seoul Takju’s Jangsoo Saeng Makgeolli (서울탁주 장수 생막걸리)|
|Jangsoo Saeng Makgeolli has an alcohol content of 6%. It is made from white rice and goes through a long low-temperature fermentation process that gives it a unique, mild taste. The live yeast balances the carbon dioxide generated during the natural fermentation process and enhances the nutrition levels and unique flavor of this traditional Korean takju.|
| Price: Supermarkets 1,000~1,500 won, taverns/bars 3,000~4,000 won|
Where to buy it: Convenience stores, grocery stores, supermarkets, taverns/bars
Seoul Takju Official Site: www.koreawine.co.kr (Korean, English, Japanese)