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Makgeolli 4.jpg
A bowl of makgeolli
Type Rice wine
Country of origin Korea
Alcohol by volume 6–9%
Colour Opaque off-white
Ingredients Rice, nuruk
Korean name
Hangul 막걸리
Revised Romanization Makgeolli
McCune–Reischauer Makkŏlli
IPA [mak.k͈ʌ]
Hangul 탁주
Hanja 濁酒
Revised Romanization Takju
McCune–Reischauer T'akchu
IPA [tʰak̚.t͈ɕu]
Hangul 농주
Hanja 農酒
Revised Romanization Nongju
McCune–Reischauer Nongju
IPA [noŋ.dʑu]

Makgeolli (Korean: 막걸리, [mak.k͈ʌ]), sometimes anglicized to makkoli (/ˈmækəli/,[1] MAK-ə-lee), is a Korean alcoholic beverage. The milky, off-white and lightly sparkling rice wine has a slight viscosity that tastes slightly sweet, tangy, bitter, and astringent. It is the chalky sediment that gives it a cloudy look.[2][3][4] Having low proof, about six to nine percent alcohol by volume, it is often considered a happy, communal beverage.[5] In Korea, makgeolli is often unpasteurized, which means the wine further matures in the bottle.[6] Due to the short shelf life of unpasteurized "draft" makgeolli, many exported makgeolli undergo pasteurization, which deprives the beverage of complex enzymes and flavor compounds.[5]


The name makgeolli (막걸리) is a compound consisting of mak (; "roughly, recklessly, carelessly") and a deverbal noun derived from the verb stem georeu- (거르-; "to strain, to sift, to filter") and a noun-forming suffix -i (-이).[7]

Being cloudy, makgeolli is also called takju (탁주; 濁酒), meaning "opaque wine", as opposed to the refined, transparent cheongju (청주; 淸酒), meaning "clear wine".[7] Another name for makgeolli is nongju (농주; 農酒), which means "agricultural wine" or "farmer's wine," which was given because the beverage was popular among farmers.[8]

English nickname[edit]

In 2010, South Korean Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries announced that the winner of the selection for an English nickname of makgeolli was "drunken rice", with the five-member panel reasoning that foreigners would understand it is a type of liquor made from rice, and they may relate it popular Korean hip-hop group Drunken Tiger, which serves as Korean alcoholic beverage's ambassador.[9] "Makcohol" (makgeolli + alcohol) and "Markelixir" (makgeolli + elixir) were the runners-up.[9] However, the Korean public gave a frosty reception, pointing out that the proper names like makgeolli need not be translated into English, and "drunken" conveys a negative meaning.[10] Scottish Rock N Roll disco funk Peace ambassadors Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 who played the inaugural DMZ Peace Train Festival in 2018, call Makgeolli 'Fight Milk' , aka 'Korean Buckfast', alongside Soju and Cass, this is part of the Korean booze trilogy, a term coined by music business honcho and mogul Danny Keir.

Japanese name[edit]

In 2009, Korean importers in Japan started producing makgeolli products, attempting to promote them under the name makkori, the Japanese pronunciation of makgeolli.[11] In 2011, Japanese sake companies such as Gekkeikan and Tatenokawa launched cloudy rice wines with the name makkori and announced their plans to export the products to Asia, America, and Europe.[12] Concerns that this may lead people to mistakenly regard makgeolli as being traditionally Japanese rather than Korean, as in 1996 kimchi-kimuchi case, were raised in Korea.[12]


Makgeolli is the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea.[4] The rice wine was brewed since the Three Kingdoms era, which covered 1st century BCE to 7th century CE.[3] In Jewang ungi (Ode on Emperors and Kings), a 13th-century Goryeo Korean book, the consumption of rice wine during the reign of King Dongmyeong (37–19 BCE) was mentioned in the founding story of Goguryeo.[13] Other early records of rice wine in the Korean Peninsula include the section Garakguk gi (Record of the State of Garak) of the Goryeo Korean book Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) mentioning the brewing of yorye (醪醴; "cloudy rice wine") in 661 in Silla for King Suro of Gaya by his seventeenth generation descendant,[14] the section Dongyi (Eastern Foreigners) in the Wei Shu (Book of Wei) of the Jin Chinese book Sānguózhì (Records of the Three Kingdoms) mentioning, "the Goguryeo Koreans are skilled in making fermented foods such as wine, soybean paste, and salted and fermented fish",[15] the section Ōjin-tennō (Emperor Ōjin) of the Asuka Japanese book Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) mentioning a Baekje Korean named Inbeon (仁番) taught how to brew wine,[16] and the poem Gōngzishí (公子時) by the Tang Chinese poet Li Shangyin mentioning Silla wine (新羅酒) made with non-glutinous rice.[17]

During the Goryeo dynasty, makgeolli was called ihwa-ju (이화주; 梨花酒, pear blossom alcohol), as the liquor was made during the blossoming of that particular flower.[18] Many communities in Korea around that time enjoyed the tradition of drinking and dancing all night in special ceremonies.

Makgeolli was brewed at home for centuries[3] and considered a "farmer's wine" or an agricultural, working-class beverage.[2][5] It was the most consumed alcohol in South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s,[6][8] but it began to lose its popularity in the 1970s with the rise of imported alcoholic beverages.[3] Government-enforced rice rationing in the period due to national food shortage also caused makgeolli to be made of barley and wheat instead of rice, which lead the rice wine's sales to plummet.[8] As makgeolli was considered as cheap and old-fashioned, sellers focused on selling big quantities rather than quality control,[3] with many makgeolli companies turned to mass production. Here, the rice wine is usually brewed with non-traditionally manufactured fermentation starter instead of traditional nuruk. It is also diluted with water.[3]

In the 21st century, makgeolli faced a resurgence in urban areas and among younger generations.[2][8][5] Its health benefits, low alcohol proof, and a growing interest in cultural traditions in recent decades have added to the revival of makgeolli.[3] The price continues to be inexpensive, a plastic, soft drink-style 750 ml (26 imp fl oz; 25 US fl oz) bottle being around 1,200 ($1.06).[2][8][5] Nowadays, novelty high-end makgeolli made with traditional methods without artificial additives are also produced, in at least 700 small-scale breweries existing in South Korea in 2017.[3]


Brewing makgeolli

Makgeolli is made from rice and with nuruk, a Korean fermentation starter.[6] Nuruk, the dry, molded cereal cake, produces hydrolysable enzymes, decomposing macromolecules to monomers for yeast growth, which means the yeast fungi feed on the sugars created by saccharification of rice starch and turns them into alcohol.[19] Different kinds of nuruk, made with different ingredients such as rice, wheat, barley, or mung beans, produces makgeolli with different flavour.[3][6]

Steamed rice, nuruk, and sometimes additional flavouring ingredients such as corn, chestnuts, fruits, herbs, and flowers are mixed and let ferment in onggi, the same permeable clay crocks used for making kimchi, soy sauce, and other fermented foods.[3][6]

The brewing process has two steps: seed and main mash and main fermentation.[20] Seed mash is the process of obtaining actively-growing yeasts and enzymes in the mixture of yeast and nuruk.[20] The main mash acquires tastes and aromas from the transformation of nutrients and amino acids derived from the rice.[20] Main fermentation lasts for about a week.[20]

Makgeolli is best consumed fresh, a week or two after being brewed.[3] When freshly brewed, it is milder and creamier.[5] It gets a stronger taste over time and becomes rice vinegar after a couple of months.[5]

Commercial production[edit]

Makgeolli bottles

Many mass-produced makgeollis are brewed with non-traditional manufactured fermentation starter instead of traditional nuruk, diluted with water, and with additives such as aspartame. This gives the liquor sweetness without adding a fermentable carbohydrate and thus increases shelf life.[3] Flavorings such as fruit and ginseng are also sometimes added. These drinks are inexpensive, a 750 ml (26 imp fl oz; 25 US fl oz) around 1,200 ($1.06).[2][8][5] They are most commonly available in plastic, soft drink-style bottles or aseptic box containers.

High-end makgeolli made with traditional methods without artificial additives are also produced in at least 700 small scale breweries existing in South Korea in 2017.[3]

Makgeolli production in South Korea[21]
Year Production
2005 166,319 kL (5,873,500 cu ft)
2006 170,165 kL (6,009,300 cu ft)
2007 172,342 kL (6,086,200 cu ft)
2008 176,398 kL (6,229,400 cu ft)
2009 260,694 kL (9,206,300 cu ft)
2010 412,269 kL (14,559,100 cu ft)
2011 458,198 kL (16,181,100 cu ft)
2012 448,046 kL (15,822,600 cu ft)
2013 426,216 kL (15,051,700 cu ft)
2014 430,896 kL (15,216,900 cu ft)
2015 416,046 kL (14,692,500 cu ft)


Makgeolli in a bowl with a ladle

Makgeolli is usually served chilled, in a bottle or a pottery bowl with a ladle.[5] It is stirred with ladle, or in case of a bottle gently flipped upside down several times with the cap on, to mix in settled cloudy sediment,[5] It is then ladled or poured into, and drunk from, individual small bowls, rather than cups,[5] because makgeolli is often divided into cloudy white portion tends settle to the bottom and pale yellow-clear liquid on top.

Mageolli is often served with fried pancakes such as pajeon (made with scallions), haemul-panjeon (made with scallions and seafood), and bindae-tteok (made with mung beans and pork).[2][4] Makgeolli with those pancakes are often associated with, and consumed on rainy days.[5]

Makgeolli can also be mixed with fruits such as mango and pineapple, and ice to make fruit cocktail, or with saida (lemon-lime drink) to make a simple cocktail named maksa.[5][4][3] Makgeolli mixed with kkul (honey) is called kkul-makgeolli.

Due to the microorganisms present during fermentation, makgeolli is probiotic with high levels of lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus as well as vitamins, amino acids, and fiber.[3][3][8] Containing 1.9 percent protein, over 10 amino acids, vitamin B, inositol and choline, makgeolli is reported to increase metabolism, relieve fatigue and improve the complexion.[13]

Similar beverages[edit]

Dongdong-ju ("float-float wine") is a drink very similar to makgeolli but is slightly-creamier with unfiltered rice grains floating. The word dongdong is an ideophone for a small object floating by. Ihwa-ju ("pear-blossom wine") is so named because it is brewed from rice with rice malt which ferments during the pear-blossom season.[18] Ihwaju is often so thick that it is eaten with a spoon. Dansul ("sweet wine") is a sweeter variety with partial fermentation.

Chinese choujiu and Japanese nigori are rice wines similar to makgeolli.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "makkoli". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hirsch, J.M. (20 July 2015). "The next sparkling wine to try is Korean makgeolli". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Son, Angela; MacDonald, Joan Vos (8 August 2017). "Makgeolli in Seoul: Why this speciality liquor is only at its best in the South Korean capital". The Independent. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jung, Alex (12 July 2017). "Best Korean drinks -- from banana milk to hangover juice". CNN Travel. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Schamberg, Anne (14 August 2015). "Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine, is an unfiltered joy". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Callaghan, Adam H. (20 February 2017). "Should You Be Drinking Makgeolli?". Eater. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  7. ^ a b "makgeolli". Standard Korean Language Dictionary (in Korean). National Institute of Korean Language. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Rane, Jordan (30 May 2011). "Makgeolli: The rice wine revolution is here". CNN Travel. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  9. ^ a b Kim, Tae-gyu (26 May 2010). "Makgeolli gains nickname Drunken Rice". The Korea Times. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  10. ^ "Makgeolli yeongmun-pyogi 'drunken rice', nurikkun-deul "heol~"". The Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). 28 May 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  11. ^ "Nihon-de "Hōsen-makkori" tōroku-shita hito-wa kangokujin". JoongAng Ilbo (in Japanese). 5 November 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Lee, Jinwoo (1 April 2011). "'Makgeolli' myeongching ilbon-e ppaeatgil pan". Asia Today (in Korean). Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Kim, Hee-sung (7 September 2009). "Say hello to the latest Korean fervor - makgeolli the rice wine". Korean Culture and Information Service. Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  14. ^ Il-yeon (1281). "Garakguk gi". Samguk yusa (in Literary Chinese). Gunwi, Korea: Ingaksa. Retrieved 13 March 2018 – via Korean History Database by National Institute of Korean History. 
  15. ^ Chén, Shòu. "Wūwán Xiānbēi Dōngyí chuán" (in Literary Chinese). Sānguózhì. China: Wikisource. 
  16. ^ Ō, Yasumaro. "Ōjin-tennō" (in Literary Chinese). Kojiki. Japan: Wikisource. 
  17. ^ "Makgeolli". Doosan Encyclopedia (in Korean). Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  18. ^ a b Lee, Hyo-gee (Winter 1996). "History of Traditional Korean Alcoholic Drinks". Koreana. 10 (4). Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  19. ^ Choi, Jae-Suk; Lee, Yu-Ri; Ha, Yu-Mi; Seo, Hyo Ju; Kim, Young Hun; Park, Sun-Mee; Sohn, Jae Hak (2014-06-01). "Antibacterial Effect of Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) on Makgeolli-Brewing Microorganisms and Its Application in the Preservation of Fresh Makgeolli". Journal of Food Science. 79 (6): M1159–M1167. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12469. ISSN 1750-3841. 
  20. ^ a b c d Kang, Bo-Sik; Lee, Jang-Eun; Park, Hyun-Jin (2014-06-01). "Qualitative and Quantitative Prediction of Volatile Compounds from Initial Amino Acid Profiles in Korean Rice Wine (makgeolli) Model". Journal of Food Science. 79 (6): C1106–C1116. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.12489. ISSN 1750-3841. 
  21. ^ "Alcohol production". Alcohol Statistics System (in Korean). Korea Public Health Association. Retrieved 14 March 2018.