Before I first visited North Korea, I am not sure I had even heard of soju, and if I had I assumed it would be as bad as Chinese BaiJiu. I like a drink, but BaiJiu is frankly putrid.
The first Soju I tried was Pyongyang Soju, which is probably my favourite. What is the Soju percentage? It genuinely depends but the Soju Ginro from the South is about 17%, whilst North Korean Soju, or rather Pyongyang Soju is about 23%.
That being said, in both North and South Korea these percentages can vary extremely greatly, with there being liquor versions of Soju going up to even 60%.
My favourite of the liquor varieties would be Ginseng Soju, a product that really could not be more North Korean.
The main soju’s such as Jinro are what I call creepers though. The percentage of Soju is more than wine but less than liquor, such the drunkenness seems to come from nowhere.
Jinro, and a number of South Korean firms have started doing flavoured soju. Stay away from that hipster shit, ok kids. Soju was made to be drunk pure, it does not need a mixer, and is perfect as it is.
But, that being said there is one Soju cocktail that is vaguely acceptable and that is SoMeag. A mixture of Soju and maegjiu 맥주, which means beer. You literally drop a shot of soju into beer. There is no way of avoiding getting hammered if you do this, and chances of a “kimchi flower” making session are increased.
A few years ago Soju was almost impossible to get, but now at least I can lay my hands on it in Shenzhen, Manila, and Hong Kong in most stores. In the Philippines, they even serve it in a lot of bars, and at $4 rather than $1 for a really bad beer represents excellent value, or at least more chance of getting drunk.
The Street Food Guy recommends drinking soju responsibly. Only kidding, do what you like.