Thursday, October 21, 2021

Soju - distilled alcoholic drink of Korea

Like many other distilled alcoholic drinks appearing at the time, soju was often called arakhi/araq by the Koreans, who adopted the ‘Arabic’ word for brandy popularized by the Mongols. Originally, araq was an alcoholic drink (liquor) widely known in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. It reached China through the Mongols in the fourteenth century, as the word araki is first mentioned in the Yinshan Zhengyao in 1330.

Later, it was brought in by Mongol to Korea in the early 13th century during the Goryeo Dynasty. As a luxury beverage with medicinal effects, soju was originally produced exclusively at the places Mongol armies resided on the peninsula and available only for particular members of Goryeo society.

In Korea 2000 years ago, there was Yangban (the ruling class) and Sangmin (the lower class of servants and commoners). When rice was brewed to make alcoholic drinks or named Sul, different parts of the sul was consumed by different classes.

The top golden clear liquor is called Cheongju and Cheongju was usually enjoyed by Yangban class. The thicker, hazier sediments that were filtered out to make Cheongju were left to be thrown away but the servants or farmers took them, added water, and strained it – which was called Makgeolli.

Cheongju is a sake-like beverage unto itself, and it’s also sometimes distilled to make soju. While soju, as a foreign drink, stood out among traditional alcoholic drinks and was quickly popularized beginning in the late Goryeo period (918–1392).

While araq was originally made by distilling wine or other fruit-based alcoholic drinks, traditional soju is a spirit extracted from grain-based alcohol. The method of distillation, not the liquor itself, was brought to Goryeo from the western part of the Mongol Empire during the period of their intervention.
Soju - distilled alcoholic drink of Korea

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