Soju is one of the best-selling liquors in the world, with sales only continuing to grow. As the national drink of Korea, soju is becoming more popular in Western countries, with people enjoying it wherever they are.
However, if you’ve never drank soju, there are a few things you need to know before you do.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the proper way to drink soju, including how to open the bottle and traditional soju etiquette in Korea.
What Is Soju?
Soju is a clear spirit with a varying alcohol percentage from 20% to 24%. It is mostly drunk in Korea, Japan, and China, and Jinro is the most popular brand of soju.
It has a neutral taste, much like vodka but without the harsh burn due to its lower alcohol percentage, and tasting slightly sweeter and has a thicker consistency.
Traditionally it is served cold and neat with food, but can also be used in cocktails.
Opening The Bottle
You should begin by chilling your bottle of soju in the fridge for a few hours if you’re drinking it at home. Serving your soju cold, but without ice, will give you the best flavour.
Next, you should swirl the bottle around to create a whirlpool inside. To do this, hold the soju near the base of the bottle in one hand and quickly swirl it in a circular motion.
This should only take 2 to 3 seconds of swirling before a whirlpool starts to appear.
This is a traditional practice, dating back to when sediment was put into the bottles during the production of soju. It is meant to bring the sediment to the top of the bottle.
After swirling, slap the bottom of the bottle with the palm of your hand before taking off the cap.
You should hold the bottle at the bottom of the neck in one hand, and then use your other hand to firmly slap the base.
Do this a few times before twisting the cap. Like swirling the bottle, this is done to break up the sentiment in the soju and bring it to the top.
Finally, once the cap is twisting off, spread your middle finger and index finger apart and jack the neck of the bottle.
The best way to do this is to grip the lower part of the bottle with one hand to keep it steady, and then use the webbed area between your middle and index finger to jab the neck of the bottle so a small amount of the soju splashes out.
This part of the opening ritual is meant to knock out the sediment so it isn’t consumed.
This ritual when opening soju is purely traditional.
Now that the modern production of soju filters the sediment out of the spirit, there isn’t any need to remove the sediment yourself. However, it is still common practice in East Asian countries to do so.
There is Korean etiquette that comes with drinking soju that shows politeness and respect to the people you’re drinking with.
When you drink soju, you should first have the oldest person in the group pour the first shot.
They should then pour a shot into each group member’s glass. Once they’ve done this, another of the group should use both hands to pour the server a shot as a symbol of respect.
As members of your group continue to drink, they should take turns pouring rounds of shots for one another, holding the bottle with both hands.
This is another way of showing respect, especially to the older people among you.
If you are pouring the shot, remember not to fill your own glass, and definitely don’t fill your own first. Once you’ve poured everyone in the group a shot, set the bottle down so someone else can serve you.
You should also hold the shot glass with both hands when receiving soju as another symbol of respect. Raise your cup in the air and hold it towards the server so they can pour the soju easily.
The elders among the group may use one hand when receiving more servings after the first round of soju has been poured.
When drinking your first shot, turn your head to avoid eye contact with others.
You should hold the glass with both hands when you take your first drink, be sure to take it as a shot, as it is not meant to be sipped in the first round.
Turning your head is to avoid flashing your teeth to your peers, which can be seen as a sign of disrespect in Korean culture.
Finally, Korean tradition dictates that no one should drink alone.
Show solidarity with your group members when drinking, and offer to pour shots for those with empty glasses.
Remember that if you pour a shot for someone, they should also pour one for you as well. After the first round of shots, you are welcome to shoot or sip your soju, as long as you’re doing so together.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Soju Stronger Than Vodka?
Soju is not as strong as vodka, packing a weaker punch than the 40% spirit. Soju usually has an alcohol content of between 20% and 24% (You might also be interested in checking out Does Ginger Beer Have Alcohol?).
What Type of Alcohol Is Soju?
Soju is a distilled spirit. It is made from wheat, rice, sweet potatoes, and tapioca, and is usually drunk cold and neat in one shot.
Does Soju Expire?
Soju has no expiration date before opening, as it is a distilled spirit. If left unopened, it will keep for years.
In Korea, soju is seen as more than just a drink. It is a way to show respect and establish connections with friends, family, or even strangers.
It is a way to communicate regardless of cultural differences and represents community above all. It’s a great tradition that can be enjoyed by anyone wherever they are in the world.