Have A Cuppa
Soju is a distilled beverage native to Korea and traditionally made from rice. Most brands of modern soju are now made in South Korea, supplementing or even replacing the rice with other starches such as potato, wheat, barley, sweet potato, or tapioca (called dangmil in Korean).
Soju is clear in colour and typically varies in alcohol content from about 20% to about 45% alcohol by volume (ABV), with 20% ABV being most common. Its taste is comparable to vodka, though often slightly sweeter due to the addition of sugar in the manufacturing process.
Etiquette - Respect your elders…
- Soju is usually drunk in group gatherings, unmixed and portioned into individual shot glasses.
- It is against traditional custom in Korea to fill your own glass. Instead, it must be filled by someone else at the table. This promotes a group spirit of jocular reciprocity.
- To pour a drink, it is a tradition to hold the bottle in the right hand with the left hand touching the right forearm or elbow; this peculiar arm position originated from the practice of holding back the sleeve of the hanbok so that it wouldn't touch the table or the food. When receiving a drink, rest the glass in the left palm and hold it with the right hand, perhaps bowing the head slightly to show additional respect.
- Koreans say "one shot", a challenge to down your glass in one gulp.
- A glass should not be refilled unless completely empty.
- When drinking in front of elders you should always turn away from the elder first. Drinking the shot while directly facing the elder is disrespectful.
- If an elder gives an empty soju shotglass (usually his/hers) to you, it means that the person is going to fill the glass and wants you to drink it. You do not have to drink it bottoms up, but at least you have to act as if you are drinking it (sipping is okay). If you do drink the entire glass, then return the empty glass back to the senior who gave it to you. You are not supposed to return it immediately, but holding it for a long time is considered rude.
Try it yourself on one of our trips: