Soju is a clear, colourless alcoholic drink from South Korea. It varies in alcoholic strength from about 17% to 45% but is usually about 20%. While it is not too well known in the Western world it is extremely common in the East and is easily one of the world’s largest selling alcoholic beverages.

The distillation method used for Soju varies. Historically it was first produced with rice, but shortages of rice lead to its production with sweet potatoes, Tapioca and grains. Some of these methods proved to be cheaper that previous methods and continued even when the rice shortage ended; by contrast grain based Soju was more expensive and continued as a high end gourmet product.

Because the alcohol content is usually lower than most spirits (less than 25% when sold in the west) Soju does not require an expensive distilled liquor licence when sold in the west. This mean restaurants and bars can serve it using only the type of licence need for wine. Some retailers use this loophole to produce Soju equivalents of cocktails that are traditionally made with stronger spirits. These cocktail are lower priced than their hard liquor equivalents and can be sold by retailers not usually known for mixed drinks.

Some popular Soju drinks are:

  • Bomb drink (Poktanju): a shot-glass of Soju in a pint of beer.
  • Suso Poktanju: A shot glass or beer in a pint of Soju (the opposite of the above).
  • Fallen Angel: 45mls Soju, 15mls green Crème de Menthe, 30 mls lemon juice, a dash of bitters and a cherry. Shake ingredients together and strain over ice.
  • Soju with Yogurt: Equal parts Soju, Yogurt and soda. Shake with ice and serve. Asian yogurt drinks tend to be thinner than western types, much like Yakult or “healthy bacteria” drinks.
  • Soju with grapefruit juice: 1 part Soju to 3 or 4 parts grapefruit juice. Add club soda or seltzer water and fine sugar to taste. Serve chilled.
  • Anything that traditionally used Vodka can be varied to use Soju. The results are different but comparable to the vodka original, and lower in alcohol.

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