Soju Guide: History, Varieties, and Ways to Enjoy It

Soju Guide: History, Varieties, and Ways to Enjoy It


Soju is a clear and colorless Korean distilled alcoholic beverage. Originating from Korea, Soju has become a beloved alcoholic beverage worldwide, appreciated for its smooth taste and versatility. This distilled spirit holds a rich history and offers a wide array of flavors and drinking experiences. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the origins of Soju, explore its various varieties, and provide tips on how to savor it to the fullest.


A Brief History of Soju

Soju's roots trace back to ancient Korea, where it was first distilled during the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Initially made from rice, this clear drink was created as a remedy for medicinal purposes. Over time, its popularity grew, and by the 20th century, Soju had become an integral part of Korean culture. During the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century, Soju production faced restrictions. To adapt, distillers began using alternative ingredients like sweet potatoes and grains, leading to a variety of flavor profiles. After Korea gained its independence, Soju experienced a resurgence and evolved into the iconic drink it is today.


Soju Drinking Etiquette

When drinking Soju, the youngest member of the group should serve drinks for the older members of the group. This is the most significant drinking etiquette rule in Korea. It applies not only to age but also to the hierarchy within a company. It is best to use both hands while pouring alcohol. Holding the glass with both hands is also recommended when receiving alcohol. It is considered rude to pour yourself a drink in a group setting.


Varieties of Soju

Traditional Soju is typically crafted using rice, resulting in a clean and crisp flavor profile. However, modern variations utilize a diverse range of ingredients, including barley, wheat, and tapioca. These variations offer unique tasting experiences, ranging from earthy and nutty to sweet and floral. One popular type of Soju is Chamisul, known for its smooth texture and subtle sweetness. Made from pure ingredients and distilled multiple times, Chamisul Soju has garnered a loyal following both in Korea and abroad. Other notable brands include Jinro, C1, Good Day and Chum Churum, each offering distinct flavors and characteristics.

Some popular flavored Soju types:

1. Jinro Strawberry Soju

Strawberry soju is a favorite for many because of its sweet taste that combines sublimely with the alcoholic twist. This flavor goes wonderfully well with spicy dishes like tteokbokki and stews, bringing a subtle berry sweetness to the experience. If you are a lover of strawberry flavored sweets and desserts, this one is certainly for you!

2. Jinro Green Grape Soju

Another iconic flavor is green grape soju. This option offers a refined and refreshing drink, perfectly striking a balance between not being too sweet or too bitter. If you enjoy wine, you will likely enjoy this flavor.

3. Chum Churum Peach Soju

Peach has always worked well as a flavor in drinks, and peach soju does not disappoint. Peach soju has a distinct, sweet aroma and taste without being too overwhelming. Because of the mellow, refreshing flavor, peach soju pairs really well with spicy foods.

4. Chum Churum Citron Soju

Citron soju provides a lovely tangy flavor with sour, zesty notes. Thanks to a social media trend, it became very popular, with mild citron flavors becoming more and more sought after by soju enthusiasts. You may also see citron flavored soju being referred to as yuja soju.

5. Jinro Grapefruit Soju

If you are not a big fan of super-sweet drinks, grapefruit soju might just be the flavor for you. Grapefruit combines wonderfully with the original soju flavor to create a fruity drink that leans more towards bitter than sweet, ideal for pairing with almost any dish you desire!

6. Chum Churum Apple Soju

Apple-inspired drinks often have a refreshing crispness combined with a signature sweet twist. Apple soju captures the taste of real apples, giving the alcohol an authentic fruity burst that will not disappoint your taste buds.

7. Chum Churum Blueberry Soju

Blueberry soju is a great option for when you feel like reaching for something slightly different. It is very fragrant and offers a unique yet versatile flavor, working well in soju cocktails.

8. Jinro Plum Soju

You do not often find plum flavored drinks in western supermarkets, so plum soju may be a completely new experience for you. The sweet yet slightly tart plum flavor combines deliciously with the clean soju taste for a fresh beverage bursting with delicious plum notes. 

9. Chum Churum Yogurt Soju

It may sound strange at first, but yoghurt soju cocktails that combine soju, Yakult and soft drinks are incredibly popular among Koreans. It became so popular that you can now also buy yoghurt flavored soju. This flavor is sweet and creamy, delicious on its own or mixed into your favorite soju cocktails.

10. Good Day Pomegranate Soju

If you have enjoyed grapefruit soju in the past, pomegranate soju might be the next flavor for you to try. It is sometimes compared to the grapefruit flavor with slightly more bitter notes, ideal for those of you who want a toned-down fruit-flavored drink.



Soju Cocktails and Mixers

Soju's versatility extends beyond sipping it neat or on the rocks. Its neutral flavor makes it an excellent base for cocktails, allowing for endless experimentation. Here are a few classic Soju cocktails and mixers you can try:


1. Soju Mojito: A refreshing twist on the classic mojito, this cocktail combines Soju with fresh mint, lime juice, and soda water.


2. Soju Martini: Swap vodka for Soju in a traditional martini for a lighter, smoother version of this iconic cocktail.


3. Soju Sour: Mix Soju with lemon juice, simple syrup, and a splash of soda water for a tangy and fizzy drink.


4. Soju Bomb: Drop a shot of Soju into a glass of beer for a fun and flavorful bomb shot experience, resulting in the famous combo ‘somaek’.


How to Enjoy Soju:

Whether sipping it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, there are a few key tips to enhance your Soju-drinking experience:


  1. Serve Chilled: Soju is best enjoyed when served chilled, either straight from the refrigerator or over ice. Chilling helps mellow out the alcohol and highlights its subtle flavors, making the drink tastier.
  2. Pair with Korean Cuisine: Soju pairs exceptionally well with Korean cuisine, particularly spicy and savory dishes like kimchi, grilled meats, and seafood pancakes.
  3. Embrace the Ritual: In Korean culture, Soju drinking often involves rituals such as pouring drinks for others and using two hands to receive a glass. Embrace these traditions to fully immerse yourself in the Soju-drinking experience.
  4. Experiment with Flavors: Do not be afraid to explore different Soju brands and flavors to find your favorites. Whether you prefer traditional rice Soju or a more adventurous fruit-infused variety, there is something for everyone to enjoy.



Soju offers a rich tapestry of flavors, history, and drinking experiences. From its humble beginnings in ancient Korea to its status as a beloved global spirit, Soju continues to captivate drinkers around the world. Whether enjoyed neat, in a cocktail, or paired with a delicious meal, Soju is sure to delight your taste buds and leave you craving more. Cheers to the ultimate guide to Soju – may your glass always be filled with good company and great spirits.


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Author: Tugba

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