Korean Spirits: So Much More Than Just Soju
By: May S. Young
Ok, I have a confession to make: I am not a boozer.
My family’s lineage does not allow me to enjoy a tipple like most people. I am so sensitive to the taste of alcohol and its effects, I usually opt out for an ice tea. But let me tell you something about Korean spirits and cocktails, they are very tasty, you have to be very careful with your intake.
That is not to say it’s a bad thing. For most Americans when it comes to Korean spirits, they only know of Soju. Sammy Lee, the General Manager of Public Relations at the Korean Food Foundation, wanted to introduce other forms of Korean spirits such as Makgeolli. What makes Makgeolli stand out from other spirits is has a pro-biotic agent which aids digestion during or after a meal. At a recent tasting event located at New York City’s Soju Haus, there were recipe demonstrations of how to make a very tasty cocktail with Makgeolli.
Makgeolli is a wine made from fermented rice or wheat. It looks like milk, but it packs a very smooth taste and it has 6%-8% alcohol by volume. Mixologist, Juno Moon, was on hand to demonstrate how easy it is to create your very own Makgeolli cocktail. New York Times food writer, Melissa Clark, joined in making and tasting this unique cocktail. She and a fellow guest took turns in making a Ginger Makgeolli Cocktail. The end result of this cocktail was a smooth, milky taste with the freshness of the ginger. Local television host, Michelle Park was also present to give everyone a cultural perspective of the importance of the pairing of cocktails and a variety of dishes being presented.
Executive Chef, Sunchul Shim from Neta Restaurant, curated and prepared dishes that paired with Makgeolli. The dishes served were Kimchi-jeon, Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancake),Dotorimuk (acorn jelly salad) and Bossam (braised pork belly). The Bossam was the clear winner of the evening. The preparation of the pork belly made it so tender to the point it literally melts in your mouth.
When you put food and drink together with a group of people, interesting conversations abound. Musician and media host, Grace Subervi, explained how she fell in love with Korean cuisine by the way of watching Korean dramas on television. Although she is of Latino descent, that didn’t stop her from learning the Korean customs, language and culture. Matt Bruck, founder ofJoios, shared his upbringing experiences in Tenafly, New Jersey. He remembered there were a lot of Korean students at the school he attended. It is not uncommon for Matt to be invited by Korean families to enjoy plates of Japchae. Another guest stated she was a Korean adoptee to an American family. Sadly, her adopted family never gave her an exposure to her own culture when she was just a child. Exploring Korean cuisine was one way for her to reconnect with her roots.
You can experience the Korean cultural connection with this easy recipe for a Ginger Makgeolli Cocktail that you can make at home.
- 5oz of Makgeolli
- 1.5 oz of Club Soda
- 1.3 oz of Fresh or Preserved Ginger
- 1oz of Citron Liquor of Simple Syrup
- Pour the Makgeolli into a glass
- Add the Fresh or Preserved Ginger
- Add the Citron Liquor or Simple Syrup
- Stir with a spoon
- Add the Club Soda just upon serving
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