Culture

Makgeolli the Korean Rice Wine

Korean drinking culture shows much about its social norm and lifestyle. They see drinking is a way of bonding and one of the fast ways to break the ice that helps to get to know one another. Sometimes, drinking translates differently; When someone says “Let’s have a drink” to their friends, meaning that they have things to discuss.

Then, what types of alcohol do Korean enjoy? There are largely two types of alcohol: fermented alcohol and distilled alcohol. The fermented one such as Beer, Wine, and Makgeolli of Korea, is brewed with fermented grains, fruits or other sources of sugar. The other one is a distilled version of this fermented alcohol: Whiskey, Vodka, and Korean Soju.

Among these alcoholic beverages, let’s look into the Korean traditional liquor, Makgeolli the Rice Wine. It is one of the oldest liquors in thousands of years of history. Main ingredients are quite simple: Rice, Water, and Nuruk. It is more of fizzy drinks with a bit of sweetness and savour of rice.


DongDongju, a cousin of Makgeolli is also beloved by Korean. It is tricky to differentiate them, but I will let you know how to tell Makgeolli from Dongdongju.

First of all, the recipes and its ingredients are almost the same except for the last step of its making process. Please see below the brewing process:
1) Steam the grains of rice.
2) Put the steamed grains of rice in the prepared bottle.
3) Add water and Nuruk(yeast for alcohol) on it.
4) Ferment it for 7 to10 days.

After the fermentation, clear liquor with rice grains are floating on the top. The drink scooped up from the top is Dongdongju. ‘Dongdong’ is a mimetic word in Korean when something is floating on the water. That’s why people call this liquor with rice grains a Dongdongju; the grains are floating like ‘Dongdong’. Makgeolli, on the other hand, needs to be filtered out the bottom part of the fermented liquor. Since the first filtered Makgeolli is strong, you should mix with water to dilute it.

The Nuruk is an essential ingredient for both beverages, and the tastes might be changed depending on how different Nuruk is put in the process. This yeast helps the grains ferment, turning liquor into various tastes.

Unfortunately, there are few Nuruk recipes remaining to date but effortful tryouts have continued to find the authentic Nuruk recipe and develop the savory Makgeolli. These tryouts resulted in the Makgeolli as local specialties with its enthusiastic fans; 'Gongju city' Chestnut flavoured Makgeolli, 'Jeju Udo Island' Peanut flavoured Makgeolli. There are also Makgeolli with quite experimental flavours such as chocolate and coffee.

Special flavoured Makgeolli- yuza, chestnut, cheeze, peach, and banana (Image source: https://korean.visitseoul.net)

Some restaurants serve unusual Makgeolli such as Cream Makgeolli and Fresh Fruits Makgeolli. The former tastes softer and sweeter than the general one, and the latter is like a fruit-smoothie or cocktail. I would like to recommend a fresh fruit Makgeolli to someone who may not prefer the alcoholic taste.


You could buy these Makgeolli at the convenience store(drugstore) other than restaurants. You could also brew your own homemade Makgeolli .

To brew the Makgeolli, you should buy a DIY kit or take a one-day class or just prepare the ingredients following the recipe and brew it from the scratch. The first two are faster and easier ways to make Makgeolli and will guarantee a certain level of its taste. The third way requires more time and its taste will be different depending on how much effort you put but it’s worthwhile. In case you would like to try the third one, I’ll leave here a quick recipe for you with fingers crossed! Click ❕here to see the recipe. 

Now Makgeolli is served, then what is missing on the table? Pajeon, the Korean green onion pancake, is a perfect match. When raining, Korean used to go for this combo; People say that the Pajeon’s sizzling sound(frying sound) is similar to that of the raindrops on the ground. Other than Pajeon, Makgeolli goes well with Dubu with Stir-fried Kimchi and Bossam(Pork wraps). These are regarded as combos, so you should try them.?

Makgeolli with Dubu with Stir-fried Kimchi & Pajeon (Image Source: PhD.GO)

I hope you enjoy the article about Makgeolli, Korean traditional alcohol. Other than my recommendation, how about trying to find your own Makgeolli and food pairing or a perfect combination?

In the continued article, I will elaborate more of Korean alcohol: the famous Soju and other beverages like Beer and homemade Wine. Please look forward to it! :D

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This article is write from dragonEditor(Lovefield) & License

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