KDrama Culture: Alcohol Part 1 - Types

This is my first guest post on Kakashi’s wonderful blog. I hail from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the United States.  As the other people on this blog have focused (correctly!) on the individuals and shows that make our lives brighter, I thought I would look at common themes in almost every drama, no matter what country creates them.
One of them is alcohol.  It can make you confess, spill secrets, have accidents and mad bawling sprees, seal a deal, or give you something to do with your hands when showing disdain.

According to the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Alcohol (2004 - 2005), South Korea is 13th for all alcohol consumption at 14.80 liters per capita per year, and first for distilled spirits!

“Alcohol may be your worst enemy, but the Bible says ‘Love your enemy’.” – Frank Sinatra


In South Korean dramas, the primary drink of choice is soju.  The Lonely Planet Guide to Korea describes it as: “a robust drink distilled from rice, yams or tapioca, and potent as toilet bowl cleanser.”  It is normally a clear, colorless liquid sold in green glass bottles of 375ml, or larger plastic bottles. In South Korea, proofs of up to 80 (40%) are not uncommon, but in the States, it averages 40 proof (20%).

It has greased many a romantic wheel, caused drunken fights, and given an excuse to throw something or play spin the bottle.
My personal favorite is Jinro Orginal, made mostly with sweet potato and tapioca flour.  And, yes, I do make the hissing noise afterwards.  Both of their varieties have happy drunk people on the label. Come to think of it, soju makes me smile, too!


Another type of alcohol recently spotted in FLOWER BOY NEXT DOOR (2013) is makgeolli.  It’s a sweetened, carbonated rice wine sold in 1L bottles, and is usually milky white in color, The alcohol content of my cherished bottle is 12 to 16 proof (6 to 8 %).  I like the bubbly feel, but you have to be careful because it needs to be gently shaken before opening, to mix the rice sediments. (And thanks to CherKell for introducing me to it at the Big Bang concert in Newark in November 2012!). For some reason, it isn't sold in Virginia - boo you state liquor meanies!!

Makkgeolli was first created during the Goryeo Kingdom, making it about a thousand years older than soju. This is what you see being imbibed while surrounded by gisaengs in saeguks.

I found one website that said Korean Nutella jars are the new vessel for drinking makgeolli.
The manufacture and distribution of makkgeolli was a central point to CINDERELLA'S SISTER (2010), so if you want to see greed, tears, whining, and one or two great ab shots, along with urns of the stuff, that would be your best bet. 


In 2011, California and Napa Valley vineyards exported 280 million dollars (American) worth of wines to South Korea.  That trend increases as we see more and more drama scenes involving the fruity substance.

Almost the only wine that appears in KDramas is red.  Maybe it’s the dark color that darkens the mood. I don’t know, but I love the way they drink it, holding the stem like they are afraid to put fingerprints on the bowl.  In truth, red wines are mostly served at room temperature and the heat of the hand cupping the glass helps release the bouquet that tickles our nose before we sip.  Or so I was told by my Italian mother.

"Red, red wine, stay close to me. Don't let me be alone; It's tearing apart. My blue, blue heart.
"Red, red wine, go to my head. Make me forget that I still need you so."                    - UB40

For Min Tae-yeon, he may cradle the glass to warm it closer to body temperature...

Red wine is also great for splashing on someone to make them leave for a bathroom (and maybe overhear something salacious in the stall next door?), or for dramatic shattering against a wall or carpeted floor.

Or to glower at while your main squeeze flirts with your cousin...


And by whiskey, I mean anything brownish in an opaque container or solid square bottle.  This only appears to show up as a male bonding moment.  I included it because it can be used to clinch a manly deal, or possibly a more ahjusshi outlook on life.  The scenes tend to be dark, smokey bars, what most people would  look at as pickup places or lounges.  It also is included in the vast collection of alcohols found at fancier noraebangs and private clubs.

On some KDramas, they show people drinking out of teapots.  I've never understood that; I mean, isn't a teapot for, yunno, teas?  So if there is anyone in KDramaland that can shed light on what they are sucking out of that spout instead of downing in single glass shots, let me know!!