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The Scoop on Soju

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

We get in new products all the time, but sometimes it’s not just the typical wine, beer and spirits that people are most familiar with. In this blog, we’ll get to know one of our latest new products — Soju from Korea! Though you may not have heard of it here in Edmonton, Soju is the most popular drink in South Korea. In fact — Soju is the best-selling liquor in the world! Like many aspects of Korean culture, it’s making its way over here to North America.

History of Soju

Soju got its start in the 13th century, when invading Mongols brought over distillation techniques from the Middle East (similar to those still used today to make single-malt whisky). "Soju" actually means "burnt liquor," which references how it’s made. Int hese early years, Soju was made only from rice wine, and averaged about 40% to 50% alcohol. Eventually, many towns had their own local Soju distiller; those distillers sold to their neighbours with a typical family recipe.

In 1965, amid shortages of rice which is a Korean diet staple, the South Korean government passed a law that forbade rice in the making of Soju, so Soju makers used substitutes like barley, sweet potatoes, wheat and tapioca. To increase profits, they began diluting Soju, as well as adding sweeteners and other flavours to make their product more palatable — a trend that is still continuing today.

What is Soju?

Soju is a clear, colourless and starch-based alcohol made from rice distillation with other grains mixed in, such as wheat and barley. It’s made with alkaline water — 80% of Soju is water in fact— and the minerals in the alkaline water play an important part in the drink's flavour.

Usually, Soju is low in alcohol (around 15% ABV), with more traditional Soju coming in at a higher proof. The lower alcohol, fruitier variations are rising in popularity among young people due to their playful, fruit-forward nature and ability to pair well with food.

Soju flavours vary depending on the brand, but general notes include sweetness accented with plum, malt, and a light hint of buttery richness, not unlike Japanese sake.

New Soju Arrivals

New to City Cellars (one which is our featured product of the week) are two Soju from Chum Churum — the Original Soju and Yogurt Soju. Chum Churum is one of the trendiest and popular brands of Soju in South Korea and we’re so excited to have it in Edmonton!

The Original Flavour is slightly sweet, crisp and clean tasting with a smooth finish. Then there’s the Yogurt flavour, which has seen unmatched popularity in overseas markets outside South Korea ever since its debut. The “yogurt” replicated in this Soju is a fermented, probiotic beverage that uses a different strain of bacteria and is lighter in texture and sweeter.

Serve Soju chilled and neat as a sipping beverage to pair with food, such as typical Korean dishes with intense flavours like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) or Korean BBQ. You can also use Soju as an ingredient in cocktails, or simply mix with soda water for an even more refreshing beverage.

Geonbae! — that’s Korean for “cheers”, or “dry your glass”!

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