While soju may be the most popular drink in Korean cuisine today, makgeolli was the first. This rice wine dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (고려) around the year 900 to 1300, although some historians claim it may have even originated in ancient times. Milky in colour, fizzy in texture, and both sweet and sour in taste, this aromatic liquor has always been popular with farmers, manual labourers, and the hardest working of Korea’s workforce. There’s no surprise why-it’s hearty, the alcohol content is low enough to drink without getting drunk, and it goes perfectly with a homemade lunch or dinner.
A rare healthy alcohol
One thing that may surprise you about makgeolli is that, unlike most alcohols, it actually has some health benefits. It’s very rich in live cultures when unpasteurised. Just 1 millilitre of the drink contains tens of millions of probiotics, which are great for boosting the digestive system and even the immune system. What’s more, it’s packed with nutrients like vitamin B and C, high in fibre, and low in cholesterol. Of course, these health benefits only apply if you drink makgeolli in moderation, as you should with all alcoholic drinks.
Quick and easy to brew
Part of makgeolli’s historical popularity comes from how quick and easy it is to make. While some liquors can take months or even years to reach their final form, this one is ready in just over a week. This quick production is mostly down to the drink’s single step fermentation process. To make it, all brewers need to do is steam the rice, mix it with equal parts water, then add a fermentation starter called nuruk (누룩). In Korea, this process is called danyangju (단양주). After leaving it to brew for seven to 10 days, the makgeolli is ready to drink. Some brewers add other ingredients like corn syrup, sugar-free sweeteners, yeast, and citric acid to change the drink’s flavour, mouthfeel, calorie count, or shelf life.
Serve it cold with Korean food
If you’ve never drank makgeolli before, don’t worry-there aren’t many rules to this earthy liquor. First, it should be served as cold as white wine, no more than around 10 degrees Celsius. Typically, it’s served in a small, shallow bowl made specially for rice wine, but you can also drink it from a cup. Other than that, the rest is up to you. You can gently shake the bottle a few times to mix the sediment into the drink, or you can drink the clearer layer of liquid off the top for a lower calorie beverage. When it comes to pairing with food, almost anything goes-bulgogi, kimchi, bibimbap and more.
Get it delivered
If you want to keep a few bottles of makgeolli at home to enjoy whenever you like, order a Sejong Makgeolli Set delivery from Korean alcohol shop Geonbae. If you’d prefer a drink to complement your meal, you can get it with your bulgogi at Daessiksin.