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The Korea Files: On the Topic of Drinking

I’m currently in Seoul, visiting my mother’s home country for the first time while working on a story for our November issue.

Koreans are social eaters and fantastic drinkers, and I’ve done my best to keep up with them this week. Case in point—the Dos-a-Rita. Behold its unsubtle greatness. This drink, a mash up of Mexican beer and margarita, comes from a hip Korean-Mexican place called Vatos Urban Tacos. It’s wonderfully frosty and quite refreshing on a hot day, though not in the least bit Korean (but a fun detour nonetheless). If you’re looking for a special Cinco de Mayo idea, here you go!

On the subject of beer, this beer-coffee cocktail from a restaurant called Song’s Kitchen lifted me out of my early evening slump. I actually clapped when it came to the table because it looked just like an ice cream float. It tasted a wee bit more grown-up, though, and better than I thought it would—very cold, a bit creamy on the palate, with a nice bitter finish. Again, nice on a warm day.

Soju is everywhere here. It’s a distilled spirit made from rice, sweet potatoes, barley, or wheat, and it hails from Korea. People often compare it to vodka, though it’s sweeter and thicker. It’s becoming more popular in the U.S., so you may find it in your area. Be careful, though: It packs a high-octane wallop, and the cheaper brands can leave you with a wicked headache. This photo shows us enjoying it at a Seoul fish market with sashimi—a perfect pairing.

Finally, there’s makgeolli—a revelation. I have fallen in love with this drink, also native to Korea. It’s made from fermented wheat and rice and has an opaque, milky color and just the slightest chalky texture when you get to the bottom. It comes to the table in a ceramic tureen and is often served in bowls. The flavor is like a light, spritzy, slightly tangy, faintly sweet rice wine. It is wildly delicious and mild (only about 6 to 8% alcohol) and goes great with Korean food. I’m dying to find out if it’s sold in the U.S. I don’t recall ever seeing it, so please let me know if you have it in your area. I want to start a makgeolli revolution… Let’s get all the hipster distillers and brewers to dabble in makgeolli!