Food & Drink

Top 7 Korean Sojus To Buy Right Now

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Have you ever wondered how a room full of straight-laced Korean men in suits can loosen up enough to jump on furniture and boisterously sing-scream karaoke? It’s all thanks to that rocket fuel known as soju.

Somewhere between half-proof vodka and diesel fuel (in a good way), soju is a low-ABV spirit once traditionally distilled from rice, but now primarily distilled from barley and sweet potatoes, much like Japanese shochu. Made in both South and North Korea, soju, believe it or not, is the number one most consumed spirit in the world. Annual soju sales nearly double the sales for top liquor brands like Smirnoff and Bacardi.

To the uninitiated, all sojus might appear to taste the same. But to soju aficionados, every brand is different—and everyone has their favorite brand. Well, almost everyone. We have a few favorites. Here, our top seven favorite sojus available in the U.S.

Buyers beware: Too much soju can also cause one of nastiest hangovers known to man—like, a sunglasses-inside-the-house kind of hangover. Drink with caution!

Jinro ($6 for 375 ml)

Immediately set apart by its golden label, this classic soju is ultra smooth. It has a clean vodka-esque flavor and a touch of heat on the finish. Jinro is best served with tropical fruit juices or soda pop, or dropped into a light Korean beer like Hite or OB lager. SeoulTrain, anyone?

Chamisul ($5 for 375 ml)

Quadruple-filtered through charcoal, this soju is so clean and smooth it’s almost non-existent on the palate. It’s best served ice cold, in ice cold shot glasses. To make sure it’s cold enough, place the glasses and the bottle in the freezer for at least a half an hour before drinking. But if you’re still not sure, just check the label, which features a frog that changes from white to blue to let the drinker know that the soju is cold enough.

Chumchurum ($4 for 375 ml)

The second leading soju producer in the world, Chumchurum’s bottling is distilled from rice.  Clean and crisp with a mildly bitter finish, it is best enjoyed as a quick shot or dropped into fresh watermelon juice. Chumchurum also has a line of semi-sweet fruit-flavored sojus (we love the peach flavor) that make excellent cocktail mixers.

Charm “Deep Ocean Water” Island Soju ($4 for 375 ml)

Distilled from a combination of fermented rice and asparagus, this soju is diluted with ocean water. It tastes like salted vegetables doused in vodka. The spirit’s brininess is a great accompaniment to spicy food, bar nuts, or myeolchi-bokkeum—those delicious stir-fried anchovies served as banchan at Korean restaurants.  

Tokki ($25 for 375 ml)

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, this is the first domestically made soju available on the market. Made from 100% organically grown California rice, it is a complete game changer. Shockingly smooth with a refined palate that opens up in the glass, it has serious panache. With flavors of pear, jasmine blossom and a touch of fermented rice funkiness, this soju doesn’t need a chaser.

Ty Ku Soju $22

Made from 100 percent barley, Ty Ku soju is cold filtered for clarity and smoothness. Free of additives, chemical preservatives (which are what give other sojus their migraine inducing hangover powers) or sweeteners, this soju is the most vodka-esque spirit on this list. With a clean, crisp minerality and dry finish, TY Ku soju is perfect soju to drink neat. An excellent accompaniment to food, this soju is best as a palate cleanser for gochujang-heavy Korean dishes like Tteokbokki (spicy, stir-fried rice cakes).

Tokki Soju Black $35

The second offering available from Tokki Soju is the Black label bottling—a soju created specifically for making cocktails. Higher proof than any other soju currently on the market, the Tokki Black is bottled at 80 proof (40 percent ABV)—the same proof as most vodkas. Dry, tannic and luxuriously smooth on the palate, this soju has flavors of wet stone, Japanese sticky rice, and lychee. While it’s one of the easiest sojus to drink straight, we like to mix this spirit with both seltzer and tonic water for a refreshing Soju Highball.