Japan, 15-20% abv
Sake has become a household name in recent years with so many Japanese restaurants in the United States. This Japanese rice wine tastes best when fresh, unlike something like a red wine. Sake production includes premium rice, water, yeast, and koji (enzyme-producing mold for sake fermentation).
Sake is classified by how much of the rice grain is milled away, removing undesirable fats and leaving only pure starch center remains. Futsu is the lowest grade (no rice polishing), followed by Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, and Junmai Daiginjo (ultra premium!).
Got a sake that is a little harder to drink? Try heating it! Though premium sake tastes great chilled, warm sake can mask the taste of impurities. However, premium sake should always be served chilled, as heating it will destroy the aroma and flavor.
Grade: Junmai, Tokubetsu Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo
Food Pairings: Sushi (duh!), raw oysters, paella, seafood dishes, etc. Can be overpowered by very spicy foods.
Additional Notes: Sake contain NO SULFITES and is GLUTEN-FREE.
Nigori means "cloudy", and nigori sake refers to a creamy, milky white, and sweeter type of sake. This white color and cloudy consistency come from the rice sediment that is left in sake. In other words, it is unfiltered or roughly filtered sake. It is a great option for a sake beginner or with dessert!
Click here For more information on sake.
South Korea, 16.7-24% abv (also available up to 45% but not as common; 20% is most common)
Similar to vodka but with a slightly sweeter taste, Soju has taken the world by storm. In fact, you can even find a Soju bar inside the Los Angeles Dodgers stadium (crazy, right?)! Packaged in its characteristic green bottle, soju is the most popular alcohol in the world and comes in many different flavors. It definitely sneaks up on you, especially if accompanied by all the Korean drinking games and your friends. Soju is definitely a social liquor with its own set of etiquette. For example, you would never pour your own drink (someone else should pour it for you).
You may be familiar with the sake bomb, but have you heard of the Somaek or a Poktanju? It's as simple as replacing the sake with soju (and still quite a zinger like the sake bomb); when mixed in, it is called a Somaek (shortened version of soju + beer), and when the soju is dropped in, it becomes a Poktanju (literallly means "bomb drink").
Food Pairings: Korean BBQ (of course!), spicy foods, anything you might enjoy vodka with
Favorite Soju: Chamiseul, Chum Chureum
Additional Notes: Try some soju cocktails! Check out our Recipes section for some ideas.