Soju is a distilled beverage with a taste comparable to vodka that is produced in Korea. It is often slightly sweeter than average vodka because sugars are added to the liquor. Soju is typically called the Korean version of Japanese sake, and most brands of soju are made in South Korea.
Soju is typically made using sweet potatoes, but it can also be made using rice or wheat. The drink is clear in color and has a smooth and clean taste. It is often drunk with various dishes of Korean food. Soju typically has an alcohol content that varies from 18% to 45% by volume. Most commonly, the Alcohol content is 20% by volume.
Soju is widely consumed across Korea because of its relatively low price in the country. A typical bottle (300 mL) costs around 1,000 to 3,000 South Korean won, which roughly translates to $1 to $3 in the United States dollar. However, to actually purchase soju in the United States, it would cost much more, usually around $6 or even more. Due to its ready availability and low price, soju has become one of the most popular beverages not only in Korea, but across Asia.
The production of soju dates to 1300 A.D. in Korea. According to historians, the Persians brought the technique of distillation to Korea from the Mongols. After its introduction, soju was one of the most popular drinks in Korea for many, many centuries. However, when the Japanese took over Korea, soju production slowed. Sake and beer become the favorites during the Japanese occupation. The production of the drink was also halted during the rice shortage in the 1960s, also during the Korean War. The government declared it illegal at this point to use rice for the production of soju and instead the drink was made using sweet potatoes and wheat.
Today it is mostly made not just with rice but a combination of rice, sweet potatoes, tapioca, barley, and wheat. Flavored soju is very popular today, like apple, lemon, and peach. Older generations typically enjoy the stronger bottles of soju while the younger generations tend to like the milder taste of lower alcohol content varieties.