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Seeking High-Quality Soju

  • d

A friend is having a Korean food dinner party in a couple weeks and is asking about where he might be able to find some superior soju. I did a search and found a post from a few years ago, but would appreciate some current info. I know nothing about the varieties of soju, and I'm not sure he does either, though I think he has had some good soju in the past, maybe with his Korean-American fiancee and her family.

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  1. No such thing. My wife and in-laws are Korean and they are the first to tell you that their is no such thing. Soju is not very refined alcohol.

    If you want to impress, try a high quality Saki or a high quality Scotch.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tbone

      I gathered that it's not super-refined (and my very limited experience supports this), but are there no quality differences? I'd gotten the impression, again from this friend, that he'd had some at some point that was better than usual. Maybe that's not right, though.

      Thank you for the suggestion of sake and scotch, but soju is required for this.

      1. re: Denis

        There definitely are different qualities of soju. I can't tell you the names but I do remember drinking them in Korea.

        Actually you can try Bek Seh Ju. Which is quite similar and very tasty.

      2. re: tbone

        as far as i know, this is right... soju by nature is ghetto alcohol.

        but as others below have said, i think saan soju is the most 'upscale.'

        bek seh ju which is mentioned below is actually very different from regular soju... its sweet w/ a ginseng flavor. its also somewhat of a 'no-no' to drink it w/ korean bbq.

        1. re: mr_fro2000

          sorry i didn't mean similar in flavor. i meant similar in when you drink it. i don't think it is a 'no-no' to drink it with bbq. i've lived in korea for over a decade and we definitely did it.

      3. Try to find Saan, which is made with green tea, or Andong, which is mild for 90 proof. It also generally comes in a much nicer bottle than typical sojus (though for some purposes a two-liter plastic carton is all you really want).

        4 Replies
        1. re: lambretta76

          Any thoughts about where I might be able to locate these? And do you agree that there is no such thing as higher quality soju?

          I recognize that trying to find a fancier version of soju may be anathema to the aesthetic of this particular spirit. If the plastic carton is the way to go to be true to the soju school, perhaps I can propose that. But my mission at present is to find the better stuff, if any is to be found. Maybe it's not a question of gradation but of personal preference--your response suggests that may be the case.

          In any event, thank you very much for your suggestions.

          1. re: Denis

            I know very little about Korean soju, but a lot about Japanese shochu- which is nowadays a very refined and well-made alcohol. I've got to believe there are good soju brands as well. Anyhow, Broadway Liquor Warehouse, near K-Mart at Astor Place, has a decent selection of shochu at adequete prices- best in the city actually. They may have soju as well or if not, you can bring a fine bottle of the Japanese stuff.

            1. re: Denis

              Well - Andong soju will probably run you $25 for a bottle, so it's somewhat fancier just by price and packaging. (Also alcohol content.) Do I think that there are different qualities of soju - absolutely! There's lighter fuel (the base Jinro, for starters), then it definitely goes up from there. (My standard drink is Green Soju, as it's cheap and fairly innocuous.) I remember the liquor store in the Fashion District - it may have been 6th between 32nd and 33rd or 33rd and 34th - maybe even further south a block or two - had a large selection of sojus. Also, there's a liquor store in Flushing on Northen Blvd. a number of blocks East of Main Street that had a large selection.

            2. re: lambretta76

              If you're trying to do it up - you may want to make some homemade sujongwwa - it's a yummy cinnnamon punch that's very easy to make, though you should make it overnight (I like adding some soju for cocktails, but it's very good as is):

              http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/cultu...

            3. I know nothing about them, but I've seen 2-3 brands at Astor.

              1. Not the premium quality, but the best all around soju is Jinro. They also have a higher line, 3-times filtered kind Jinro Chamjinisulro. My liquor store is run by Koreans, and I remember one time they recommended me some Korean vodka made either from potatoes or sweet potatoes, something highly praised by them. You may want to get that if you want to impress someone. I don't remember the name of the liquor though.

                1. Korean soju, Chinese chiew, and Japanese shochu are very similar with Chiew being a bit rougher and Soju a bit sweeter with Shochu being a bit more refined and complex. Also similar to soju and also from Korea you have loju, gangju, paegilju, etc.

                  There are a few midrange and premium soju's, although most are in the low to mid range such as the Jinro products. Many premiums soju's are currently being produced and the number is growing rapidly. But very few are available in the US. If you do a web search under "premium soju" you will get a few links on places to order online. Even premium soju is relatively inexpensive so far, give it a few years and the price will skyrocket like shochu has.

                  A decent mid range soju is Jinro Chamjinisulro

                  Some premium ones are:
                  Seol Joong Mae Special Reserve Soju
                  Tori Kai Premium Soju
                  Andong Soju
                  Jinro Chamnamoo Soju (aged in oak barrels for one year)
                  Kyeryoung Paegilju (aka) Kyeryoung Soju (has pine needles and flowers added before distilling)

                  In my fridge I have an interesting soju called Lee Gang Ju, it's pear, ginger, cinnamon, and honey flavored soju.