Here's The Proper Way To Drink Soju

soju pouring from bottle glass
soju pouring from bottle glass - successo images/Shutterstock

Are you planning to take a trip to Korea or visit a local Korean barbecue spot soon? Well, it's time to get acquainted with soju! This rice liquor is often thought of as Korean vodka but is far milder, containing roughly 12-20% alcohol by volume (ABV). The flavor is somewhat neutral with a slight sweetness, making it much more sippable than most countries' national liquors.

Shot glasses are the vessel of choice for soju. The booze is typically served chilled, and with meals it's common to order a beer back to wash it down. Nowadays, these cocktails are becoming increasingly trendy among younger generations. That said, old traditions die hard in Korea, so stick to shots if you want to keep it classic. And if you're headed to a party, chances are there will be plenty.

Soju is synonymous with Korean celebrations, and you'd be hard-pressed to eat at a Korean restaurant without seeing its iconic green bottles dotting the tables. But if you find yourself in one of these settings, whatever you do, don't plop down and pour yourself a drink. Within groups, soju is meant to be shared. And in a country steeped in etiquette and hierarchy, its drinking culture is no different — there are unspoken rules you must follow. So to attain soju (and ultimately social) success, keep reading for the lowdown on this liquor.

Read more: 26 Popular Vodka Brands, Ranked By Their Versatility

Traditional Soju Etiquette Explained

hand pouring raised soju glass
hand pouring raised soju glass - journey601/Shutterstock

Koreans have a strong reverence for elders and work superiors. As such, the youngest or lowest-ranking member is expected to pour drinks. Once done, another guest returns the favor and offers to fill their glass. When pouring, never fill a glass that's merely sitting on the table. Shot glasses should be raised while filled, and how they're held isn't taken lightly. Either hold the glass with both hands or with your right hand while supporting your right arm with your left. Obviously, this two-hand hold isn't about carrying a heavy load but is a sign of respect in Korean culture.

The idea of "topping off" isn't a thing in the soju world. Instead, glasses should be completely empty before they're refilled, which will work in your favor. Leave some soju in your glass if you want to take it easy. But if you want to go to town, nobody will judge. According to Quartz, Euromonitor data shows that Koreans drink more shots per capita than any other nation, and their liquor of choice is undoubtedly soju. So if you're diving in for another round, go bottoms up before grabbing that refill. And if you notice an empty glass, show some initiative by picking up the bottle and offering them more.

Whether it's a casual colleagues' night out or a special occasion, cheers are inevitably in order. However, contrary to Western etiquette, making eye contact with superiors is disrespectful in Korea. So turn your head, clink those glasses, and give it a good "Geonbae!"

What To Mix With The Alcoholic Beverage

three glasses of somaek
three glasses of somaek - Yeongsik Im/Shutterstock

If shots aren't your style, we've got your back — you can still enjoy the spirit's sweet, smooth flavor in a mixed beverage. The most popular cocktail is a simple someak, blending soju and maekju (beer) at roughly a 1:3 ratio. Light lagers are preferable, like Korean brands Hite or Cass. For a tangy twist, you can also try the Korean favorite yoju (yogurt and soju). Recipes typically include plain or flavored yogurt, soju, and a fizzy soda like Sprite. Although soju sounds unusual, don't knock it till you try it — you just might be knocking them back by the end of the night!

If you prefer classic drinks, you can substitute soju in almost any cocktail, from screwdrivers to sidecars. And for something more refreshing, pair this spirit with fruit juices. Koreans often serve soju smoothies by the pitcher, and you can easily make them at home. Just grab a jug of your favorite fresh-squeezed juice and stir in a bottle or two of soju. Kiwi, watermelon, and pineapple are popular choices, but truthfully, this cocktail is hard to mess up — and the beauty is that you can make it as strong or as smooth as you like.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.