In his role as somm, Burns has become well acquainted with boozy beverages. And when he returned to the States, he began to experiment with making makgeolli himself. It was his first stab at home-brewing anything, but he luckily had an excellent resource: a brewing college in Korea, which has garnered support from the Korean government in an attempt to revitalize the traditional drink. Burns describes his batches as having a wild flavor spectrum, focusing on a yogurt-like tartness and tanginess, with the sweetness of white grape or stone fruit from the yeast. The drink's grainy texture gets complemented by the naturally occurring carbonation, and the high acidity has a palate-cleansing effect -- a perfect accompaniment for the rich meats and sauces of Korean cuisine.
At Girin, as downstairs diners sip makgeolli out of flat, golden bowls whilst feasting on ssamjang-marinated steaks, they likely have no idea what's bubbling upstairs. That’s where Burns goes to work, in a tiny closet of a room. There, he soaks and steams the rice and hydrates his nuruk -- a yeast and enzyme compound that creates the fermentation -- before mixing them together in giant Korean clay vats. For the first two days, Burns will stir it every eight hours, then let it sit for three to five more days. If you put an ear to the vat, you can actually hear the fermentation happening as the mixture transitions to alcohol. According to Burns, studies have found it’s the same frequency as that of rainwater.