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In South Korea, the two most popular alcoholic drinks are undoubtedly soju and beer. While some people choose to drink copious bottles of beer or shots of soju, others mix the two into a smooth cocktail known as ‘somaek.’
To many, this may come as a bit of a shock. After all, in the west, people actively warn you to never mix your alcoholic beverages. Haven’t you heard of the saying ‘Beer before liquor, never been sicker?’
Well, that saying holds no clout in Korean drinking culture. ‘Somaek’ has become one of the most popular drinks in South Korea with an entire drinking culture built around it. Here, we will take a deep dive into how to make good somaek. Then, we will learn about some somaek food pairings, as well as Korean drinking culture tips.
What Is Somaek?
In South Korea, Somaek (소맥) refers to a cocktail made by mixing soju and beer. The word is a syllabic abbreviation of the words ‘soju’ (소주) and ‘maekju’ (맥주).
For those newer to Korean food and drink culture, soju is a traditional type of Korean liquor often made with rice, tapioca, or sweet potato. Then, ‘maekju’ is the Korean word for beer.
While the different rations between these two alcohols drastically vary depending on preference, most people agree that the golden ratio is 3:7. In other words, you should combine 30% soju with 70% beer.
What Type of Beer Should I Use?
Not all beers are created equal. For an authentic Korean somaek, you should avoid any strong, deep-flavored beers. You want to use a light beer or lager.
The two most popular types of beer in South Korea are Hite and Cass. If you can find Cass beer, I highly recommend using this!
Can I Use Gluten-Free Beer for Somaek?
As someone who has Celiac Disease, I must be gluten-free. As a result, I have tried making this with gluten-free beer. While it doesn’t taste completely authentic, it does taste delicious! I recommend using a sorghum-based beer because it has a similar light and refreshing taste with a good amount of fizz.
If you cannot find gluten-free beer, try making this with a dry alcoholic cider! If you do use a cider, look for a fizzy one instead of a flat version.
I cannot give my opinion about gluten-removed beers for those who are curious. There is a lot of contradicting information regarding the safety of these for those with Celiac disease, so I just avoid them.
What Should I Eat With This Korean Soju and Beer Cocktail?
In Korea, people almost always eat when drinking. Bars and other types of establishments often serve ‘anju’ (안주) with alcohol. ‘Anju’ is the Korean word used for food served with alcohol.
Some common somaek anju include:
- Dried Squid
- Seasoned Nuts
- Fried Chicken
- Korean Barbecue
The list of different types of Korean drinking snacks can go on, and on, and on. Often, people in Korea eat spicy and greasy foods with this alcohol mixture.
How Should I Mix the Somaek? Ways to Enjoy Korean Soju and Beer:
Like we stated above, there is an entire culture surrounding the consumption of somaek. Below, we listed some ways you can enjoy this Korean soju and beer cocktail!
To mix a hurricane somaek, you fill a glass with your preferred soju and beer ration. Then, you cover the top of the glass with a tissue. Once covered, grab the top of the glass so that your palm covers the top and swish your wrist sharply. This motion mixes the contents and creates a swirling tornado-like ‘hurricane’ in the glass. Then, you drink!
Hurricane Drinking Game: This drinking game is a bit old-fashioned and out of style. During the hurricane-making process, the tissue typically gets soaked. People would often try to throw the wet tissue vertically in the air to make it stick to the ceiling. If you fail, you have to finish your drink in ‘one shot.’
This style of mixing is a variation on the old-fashioned ‘hurricane.’ Instead of mixing with your hands, you use a chopstick or spoon. You can either lightly tap the outside of the glass, or place the spoon in the drink and hit the bottom of the glass hard. This causes the drink to bubble up and fizz.
Nowadays, young people use the tsunami method–it is a lot less messy.
Titanic Drinking Game:
To play this game, you fill your glass with approximately ⅔ full of beer. Then, place an empty soju shot glass into the beer-filled glass. To play the game, you take turns gently pouring a bit of soju into the glass. Whoever causes the soju glass to sink into the beer like the titanic ship has to drink.
To drink a hole-in-one, you must fill your glass with beer and soju. Then, if you can finish the whole glass in one gulp it is a hole-in-one. In two gulps, it is an eagle. In three gulps, you achieve a birdie. Finally, four gulps is a par.
Being able to drink a hole-in-one is incredibly hard. People actually spend time practicing this before heading off to college! To judge properly, watch people’s necks to see when they gulp. Often, people bet with one another to see who can complete this challenge. So, when drinking with your buddies in Korea, don’t bet money unless you are confident!
I could go on and on about other parts of Korean drinking culture when it comes to somaek. Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you get a chance to go to South Korea with friends, try to meet someone who can show you all the different ways they enjoy drinking soju and beer together! It will be a fun night out!
We Hope You Try Somaek When Eating Korean Food!
In the end, we hope you try making this soju and beer Korean cocktail. If so, let us know in the comment section below. Also, we would love to hear about your favorite Korean drinking snacks!
If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by our blended Korean and Southern heritage.
Carving A Journey Soju Cocktail Recipes:
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