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The Secrets of Soju

Let’s clear up a big misconception right away: It’s not sake.

Soju, the national drink of Korea, is one of the best-selling spirits in the world. In 2020, big-name soju brand Jinro sold more than 95 million cases, according to Drinks International. So what should we know about soju? “It’s very dangerous,” laughs chief operating officer of Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken, Rose Lee. “It’s sweet and it will get you drunk quick.” Mono Mono doesn’t just sell soju, it also uses it behind the bar.

Most consumers will compare soju to sake. Similar to its Japanese counterpart, Lee says soju is a sipping alcohol typically served in a bottle with shot glasses so diners can imbibe alongside their meal. Like sake, soju was originally made by distilling rice. That practice was banned during the Korean War, and distillers began using sweet potatoes and tapioca as alternatives. Even though the rice ban was lifted in the 1990s, most sojus are still made with sweet potatoes. Generally, the spirit is tasteless with just a touch of sweetness, though flavored varieties have also become popular. Mono Mono carries flavors like strawberry, peach, grape, lychee, watermelon, and pomegranate, which allow bar manager Bronwyn Shaffer to have fun with a rotating soju cocktail on the menu. Try your hand at this sweet and simple Mono Mono fan favorite: 

Korean Sugar and Spice

In a shaker, combine 3 ounces plain soju, 1 ½ ounces Grey Goose vodka, 1 ounce ginger simple syrup, and ½ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice. Shake and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com


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