Updated at: 25-07-2023 - By: John Lau

Ever wondered what the clear, potent liquor in Korean dramas is called and made of?

Well, that’s Soju – a traditional Korean alcohol primarily distilled from an array of starchy crops like rice, wheat or even sweet potatoes.

Our blog post today unravels the legacy behind this deceptively simple drink – its distinctive ingredients, intriguing production process and tantalizing flavor profiles.

Let’s dive into the vibrant world of Korea’s national drink!

The Ingredients Used in Soju Production

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Rice serves as a critical ingredient in traditional soju production, lending it a slightly sweet taste and clear appearance.

This fermented grain undergoes meticulous processing to ensure the finished spirit contains an optimal balance of flavor and alcohol content.

Banned from the 1960s until the 1990s due to rice shortages, this vital staple has made its triumphant return to premium soju recipes.

Its robust versatility is greatly appreciated among soju enthusiasts and contributes significantly to making soju Korea’s national drink – a subtly complex beverage with characteristics resembling vodka yet distinctly unique in essence.


Soju, Korea’s national drink, is a popular alcoholic beverage that is known for its versatility and unique characteristics.

One of the key ingredients used in soju production is wheat. The use of wheat gives soju a distinct flavor profile and adds depth to this traditional Korean liquor.

Wheat-based soju has a smooth and mellow taste, making it enjoyable for sipping or mixing into cocktails.

The addition of wheat to the fermentation process creates a rich and aromatic base, resulting in a high-quality spirit that is loved by many.

Whether you’re looking to explore Korean culture or simply enjoy an exquisite drink, trying wheat-based soju is definitely worth considering.


Barley is one of the key ingredients used in the production of soju, Korea’s national drink.

This versatile grain adds a unique flavor profile to the spirit, giving it a slightly nutty and earthy taste.

Barley-based soju has gained popularity for its smoothness and rich aroma. Distilled from fermented barley, this variety of soju offers a distinct experience for those looking to explore different flavors.

Whether enjoyed neat or mixed into classic cocktails, barley-based soju showcases the craftsmanship and complexity that can be achieved with this traditional Korean liquor.


Tapioca is one of the key ingredients used in the production of soju, Korea’s national drink. This starchy crop adds a unique flavor and texture to the spirit, contributing to its smoothness and versatility.

Tapioca is known for its ability to create a rich mouthfeel and add depth to the overall taste profile of soju.

Whether enjoyed neat or mixed into a cocktail, tapioca-infused soju offers an interesting twist that appeals to both traditionalists and those looking for something new and exciting in their drinking experience.

Other starchy crops

Soju, Korea’s beloved national drink, is not just limited to being made from rice and grains. It can also be produced using other starchy crops such as sweet potatoes and tapioca.

These alternative ingredients add a unique twist to the traditional soju recipe, resulting in different flavors and characteristics that appeal to a wide range of taste preferences.

The use of these starchy crops enhances the versatility of soju, making it an incredibly adaptable spirit for mixing in cocktails or enjoying on its own.

With its clear and neutral flavor profile, soju made from other starchy crops offers alcoholism enthusiasts a delightful alternative to explore while experiencing the rich drinking culture of Korea.

The Distillation Process of Soju

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Here’s an overview of how soju is distilled:

  • Soju production begins with the fermentation of starchy crops such as rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, barley, or tapioca. These ingredients are first cooked and mixed with water to form a mash.
  • The mash is then left to ferment for several days or weeks. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugars in the mash into alcohol.
  • After fermentation, the liquid undergoes distillation. Traditional soju is typically distilled using pot stills or column stills.
  • Distillation involves heating the fermented liquid to separate alcohol from other impurities. This process helps remove unwanted flavors and create a clear and neutral spirit.
  • In some cases, modern distillation methods may involve multiple distillation rounds or charcoal filtration to refine the flavor even further.
  • Once distilled, soju usually has an alcohol content ranging from 16% to 45% by volume. However, it’s important to note that there are also low-alcohol versions available on the market.

The Flavor and Characteristics of Soju

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Neutral flavor

Soju, a popular Korean alcohol, is known for its neutral flavor that is similar to vodka. It offers a smooth and clean taste without any overpowering notes or aftertaste.

This makes it incredibly versatile when it comes to mixing with other beverages and creating delicious cocktails.

Unlike some other spirits that have distinct flavors, soju provides a blank canvas for mixologists and enthusiasts to experiment with different ingredients and flavors.

So whether you prefer fruity or savory drinks, the neutral flavor of soju allows you to create the perfect concoction tailored to your taste preferences.

Versatility in mixing

Soju is known for its incredible versatility in mixing, making it a favorite choice among cocktail enthusiasts.

With its clear and neutral flavor, soju can easily blend with various ingredients to create unique and delicious cocktails.

Whether you prefer fruity flavors or herbal blends, soju can be effortlessly incorporated into your favorite mixed drinks.

Its low alcohol content allows for more flexibility when experimenting with different flavors and textures.

So whether you’re looking to add a twist to classic cocktails or create your own signature drink, soju’s versatility makes it the perfect base spirit for any creative concoction.

Different varieties and flavors

Soju comes in a variety of flavors and varieties to suit different tastes. Here are some popular options:

  1. Fruit Flavored Soju: Many brands offer fruity variations of soju, such as grapefruit, peach, or apple. These flavored versions add a hint of sweetness and fruitiness to the neutral base.
  2. Honey Citron Soju: This unique flavor combines the natural sweetness of honey with the tangy citrus flavor of citron fruit. It provides a refreshing twist to traditional soju.
  3. Yogurt Soju: This innovative blend combines creamy yogurt with soju, creating a smooth and slightly tart taste. It is often enjoyed as a refreshing cocktail or mixed with fruit juices.
  4. Chrysanthemum Soju: Chrysanthemum-infused soju offers a delicate floral aroma and subtle herbal notes. It provides a lighter and more fragrant option for those who prefer milder flavors.
  5. Green Grape Soju: Made from green grapes, this variation has a sweeter profile compared to regular soju. It offers a burst of fruity flavor that pairs well with light snacks or desserts.
  6. Herbal Soju: Some brands infuse their soju with herbs like ginseng or bamboo leaves, adding complexity to the spirit’s taste profile and providing potential health benefits associated with these herbs.
  7. Premium Rice Soju: For those seeking a refined experience, premium rice soju is an excellent choice. Made from high-quality rice grains, it offers a smoother texture and more nuanced flavors.


In conclusion, soju is made from a variety of ingredients including rice, wheat, barley, tapioca, and other starchy crops.

These ingredients undergo a distillation process to create the clear and versatile spirit that is loved by many.

Whether enjoyed straight or mixed in cocktails, soju’s unique flavors and characteristics make it a popular choice among both Koreans and alcohol enthusiasts worldwide.