If someone mentions “Korean liquor,” chances are you immediately think of soju. And you’d be correct to do so — it’s the world’s most consumed liquor and is literally cheaper than water in its home country. But there’s another liquor brewed in Korea, and many of those lucky enough to have sampled it at restaurants or in breweries across the U.S. have fallen in love (as I have). It’s called makgeolli, and it’s a slightly sweet alcoholic beverage made from rice or wheat mixed with nuruk, a Korean fermentation starter. Most variations are milky white in appearance, somewhat resembling an unfiltered sake.
A bit more alcoholic than your typical beer, makgeolli has a distinct, slightly sweet grainy flavor and refreshing, barely fizzy aftertaste that encourages continued consumption. As we learn from Kim Taek-Sang via Great Big Story, there’s also a long history behind makgeolli. The brewing process is labor intensive, and the liquor is becoming part of a growing trend of reintroducing traditional Korean alcohols into the mainstream (to younger drinkers, in particular). Kim runs his family’s small, fifth-generation brewery, Hankok House, in Seoul and explains the arduous methods behind its production as he brings a 300-year-old recipe back to life. Take a look at the video below.