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K-SOOL refers to Korean Traditional Alcoholic Beverages. K stands for Korean, and SOOL (술) means alcoholic beverages in Korean language. It is said there are over 1,000 different kinds of alcoholic beverages in Korea. With the Yin Yang philosophy, each type of SOOL serves the occasions, such as marriage, harvest, longevity and so on. Most K-SOOL have been made from rice, of both glutinous and non-glutinous variety, which are fermented with the aid of yeast and nuruk (a wheat-based source of the enzyme amylase). In addition, fruits, flowers, herbs and other natural ingredients have been also used to craft traditional Korean alcoholic beverages. There are 6 distinguished flavors in K-SOOL; Sweet, Sour, Pungent, Roasted, Bitter and Spicy tastes, and when they are all harmonized in balance, SOOL is considered to be a quality liquor. K-SOOL is divided into three categories: Gwasilju (Fruit Liquor), Jeungryuju (Distilled Liquor), and Takju/Yakju (Rice Liquor). The first K-SOOL tasting event is scheduled to be held in New York City from June 5 to 7, 2012.
The history of SOOL goes back to as early as A.D. 430 in the 5,000 year-long history of Korea. The main ingredients then were ‘nuruk (fermentation mix)’ and malt, however, the methods used today were developed about 1,700 years ago as the record indicates. Variety of SOOL was widely enjoyed by many Korean people, in fact, approximately 1 in 7 homes in Korea used to produce SOOL until Korea got occupied by Japan in 1910. Under Japanese rule, home brewing got prohibited, and Korean alcoholic beverage brewing got industrialized. During the Japanese occupation and Korean War, many kinds of K-SOOL was lost. However, after the Korean government approved home brewing in 1995, Korean traditional alcoholic beverages are getting their tradition and reputation back.
First Tasting Tasting Event
The first K-SOOL tasting event is scheduled to be held in New York City from June 5 to 7, 2012. The organization touts K-SOOL will be "paired with K-FOOD and tuned with K-POP." As the event is scheduled to be held at KRISTALBELLI, an upscale Korean restaurant established by renowned K-POP star Park Jin-young, some K-POP performers are expected to attend the event.
Gwasilju (Fruit SOOL)
Gwasilju is usually made from fruits or grains. In Korea, people drink liquor and enjoy the arts and beautiful scenes andatmosphere of seasonal change. In spring, people brew alcoholic beverages using with azaleas, forsythias, and peach and pear blossoms. In summer, lotuses and roses are used. In fall, chrysanthemum, yuzu, Korean wild grapes and black raspberries, and apples are infused. In winter, Asian apricot is used. With those aromatic ingredients, people enjoy the classical grace and dignity and the arts of seasonal change through the flavor of liquor.
Jeungryuju (Distilled SOOL)
Yagyongjeungryuju, medicinal distilled liquor
Leegangju is an alcoholic beverage usually brewed in Jeolla Provinces and Hwanghae Province from the mid-Joseon Dynasty period. Curcuma tuber and cinnamon flavor and pear refreshment are well harmonized to give delicate scent. It has straw color.
Gamhongro is a traditional liquor in light pink and it is well known in Pyeongyang and Gwanseo Region in Korea. Various medicinal herbs are added and fermented. This liquor is distilled three times and aged for 120 years.
Sungokjeungryuju, distilled liquor made from rice wine
This is a danyangbeop (single brew) or leeyangbeop (second brew), a traditional grain wine brewing method. After manufacturing takju (turbid rice-wine) or cheongju, it is distilled to get soju.
Andong Soju is well known in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Its taste and flavor are distinctive so that many people love this liquor as a Korean traditional distilled spirits.
Okroju of Gyeonggi-do is originated from Hanyang of the late Joseon Dynasty era. Recently, The taste of this liquor brewed through Korean traditional brewing method of Gyeonggi-do is very attractive so that its value as a Korean traditional alcoholic beverage is appreciated.
Moonbaesool (or Moonbaeju) is a distilled liquor, brewed with wheat,
Yagyonggokryuju, medicinal grain wine
This liquor is brewed with medicinal herbs. Baekseju and Ogapiju are a yagyonggokryuju.
Gahyanggokju, flavored rice wine
This yakju (rice wine) is brewed with flowers and leaves to give distinctive flavor to this liquor. Kookhwaju (chrysanthemum wine), Omijaju (maximowiczia typica), Songjeolju, and Dugyeonju are a gahyanggokju.
This liquor is brewed with grain by adding soju. Kwahaju and Songsunju are a honju.
Takju/Yakju (Rice SOOL)
Yakju is brewed with hard boiled rice, yeast, and water, in the process, if chrysanthemum is used, it is called Gukhwaju, If azalea is added, it is called Dugyeonju. If Pine sprout is used, it is called Songsunju. If lotus leaves are added, it is called Ywonyeopju. If gingeng is used, it is called Insamju. In addition, takju or cheongju or yakju is distilled and various medicinal herbs are put into the distilled liquor. That is called mixed liquor, which is brewed to use the medicinal effects of the herbs. It is good for health and, sometimes, treats diseases. From the past, Korea has proudly boasted its excellent brewing technologies.
How to Distinguish Good K-SOOL
First, see liquor carefully. The color of Korean traditional spirits is usually golden ranging from light to dark grown. The lighter the color of the liquor is, the cleaner the taste is. The darker the color is, the richer the taste is. Good traditional liquor is clear and has golden color. According to the color of the ingredients of spirits, for example, if ingredients other than grains such as medicinal herbs are added, the color of the liquor is different.
Second, smell liquor. Korean traditional spirits are divided into two flavors. One is the flavor unique to yeast. It is delicate and it has fruit flavor. Even if fruit juice is not used, well fermented traditional liquor gives fruit flavor such as apple or watermelon flavor. This scent is created by fermenting the wheat bran of yeast. Yakju, rice wine, ripened at low temperature has this flavor.
Third, savor the flavor and taste, together. Korean traditional alcoholic beverages have six tastes; Sweet, bitter, sour, unpleasant, delicate, hot. Generally, good traditional liquor has six flavors well mixed.
Sweet taste: In case of grape wine, its fermentation relatively early ends. According to the sucres résiduels, the taste of grape wines range from sweet and dry. In case of yakju, dutsoolbeob (fermentation method) is used. Glucose created by yeast is broken down into alcohol by leaven so that sweetness decreases and that fermentation stops. At the time, rice is supplemented or rice and yeast are added for additional fermentation. That is called dutsoolbeob. The sweetness of yakju induced by natural dutsoolbeob is very scientific and a wise method.
Sour taste: The sour taste of yakju is natural acidity created by various organic acid such as lactic acid and citric acid according to the microorganism formation in yeast and the fermentation progress. When savoring sourness, you should enjoy it with its flavor. The best feature of Korean traditional alcoholic beverages is the sweetness well harmonized with natural sourness of citric acid, lactic acid, and succinic acid. If a person likes dry taste, he/she should check the sweetness and the sourness of a liquor before selecting an alcoholic beverage.
Unpleasant taste: You can enjoy this taste by eating acorns or unripe persimmons. This taste is created because gustatory nerve is paralyzed. Thus, this taste may give you an unpleasant feeling. However, this unpleasant taste of yakju is generated by lactic acid so that, if it is proper, this taste matches well with meats.
Bitter and hot taste: The hot taste of yakju is caused by the alcoholic substance. In case of medicinal liquor, the bitterness of the medicinal herbs used affects the taste of liquor, and yeast itself gives the bitter taste. Proper bitterness stimulates your appetite. The alcohol content of traditional spirits ranges from 11% to 18%. When selecting a yakju, it is recommended to consider the harmonized taste instead of alcohol content. The longer the time of fermentation is, the higher the alcohol content is and the deeper the taste is.
Delicate taste: This taste is the most important in yakju. It is unique to fermented beverages prepared from grains. In particular, the protein, much in the cortex of grains, is broken down into amino acid, and this taste is naturally created. This delicate taste tends to be stronger when a liquor is ripened. If you like a delicate taste, the liquor brewed with much yeast or that in dark color can be selected. If you prefer clean and fresh taste, the liquor in light color can be selected.
Refreshment and temperature: Refreshment is closely related with the temperature of yakju. At low temperature, sweetness reduces and sourness increases. The stimulation of alcohol and the delicate taste decrease and the refreshment increases. According to Kyuhapchongseo, a food literature of the Joseon Dynasty period, “It is recommended to have a meal at the temperature of spring, having soup at the temperature of summer, having sauce at the temperature of autumn, and drinking an alcoholic beverage at the temperature of winter.” Thus, the optimal temperature to drink liquor ranges from 6 to 15℃. If you prefer light taste, drink it at low temperature as much as it can.
When opening a bottle : Do not drink liquor once opening its bottle. After opening the stopper of a bottle, wait a while to escape tiny gas in the bottle and fill a cup with liquor.
Selection of yakju matched with food: Traditional alcoholic beverages usually have sweetness and sourness stronger than that of other liquor. Relatively dry yakju is well matched with meals. From the past, banju (liquor taken before meal time) improves your appetite and promotes digestion by drinking a cup of yakju before meals. Thus, it is recommended that yakju proper to banjo should not be much sweet and have a little sourness. You can select a yakju drunken during a meal or after a meal with having a friendly talk according to your preference, but it needs to consider the type of foods.
There is the manner of Korean traditional alcoholic beverages. When you get together with people including elderly people and have a chance to drink an alcoholic beverage, you should not receive a drinking cup from an older person while being seated. However, if he or she approves it, you can drink it while being seated. The young should not start to drink an alcoholic beverage earlier than the older. If the person for whom you are pouring is older than you or of higher status, you should pour holding the bottle with two hands and drink with head turned aside, not facing the senior. To pour a drink, hold the bottle in the right hand with the left hand touching the right forearm or elbow; this peculiar arm position originated from the practice of holding back the sleeve of the hanbok so that it wouldn't touch the table or the food. Korean drinking etiquette looks like somewhat completed and difficult, it shows respect for older people even when we drink liquor. From the past, Korean people from the King to the lowest class of people have enjoyed Korean traditional spirits. Thus, drinking etiquette has been considered important.
Types of Appetizer Dishes
Po (Dried food): A popular snack, po are thin strips or sheets of dried meat or fish, similar to jerky. The dried beef is called yukpo and the dried fish is called eopo. Eopo includes juripo made of carp, chugok of abalone, inbok, and eoran. As a dry snack for liquor, it is used in geongujeolpan (platter of nine delicacies). Yukpo includes pyeonpo, uyukbaepo, jangpo, yakpo, and chiyukpo.
Hoe (Raw food): Octopus, abalone, sea cucumber, and croaker are eaten as hoe. In summer, sukhoe is made with fish, abalone, cucumber, and shiitake mushroom. In winter, after pheasant is caught, it is frozen and sliced to make dongchimi (white radish kimchi) to use as a snack for liquor. Sushi, yukhoe, cheon, mandoo are a kind of jinanju (gujeolpan, Sinseollo, cheongol). Especially, the pheasant dongchimi is a one-dish meal.
Others: In addition to po and hoe, people enjoy ‘jokpyeon and pyeonyuk’ made by boiling beef soup bones, ‘jeopisujeong’ made with the skin of spiced pettitoes, ‘suyuk’ sliced by simmering beef or chicken, ‘daemandoo’ that small mandoos exist in a large mandoo when they drink liquor.
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