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Soju Haiku

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Are more than one haiku called haiki? I don’t think so, but I’m too drunk on soju to really care. Imo, another bottle, please! And you might want a few, too, before reading my haiku. (Is more than one bottle of soju called soji?)

Evening of soju,
Puked on your boss and passed out.
It’s seven p.m.
If I drank as much
As that little old woman,
Hospital visit.
One hundred ten won?
But that’s less than a dollar…
You people are nuts!
Soju Busan

Soju is the most-sold liquor in the world, and it’s basically only consumed in Korea. Now, wrap your head around those two facts. Koreans drink more soju than everyone in the world drinks Johnnie Walker. That is insane. In 2004, more than three billion bottles were sold. Three billion.

Made from rice, soju tastes like vodka but sweeter. At about 20%, soju has a significantly lower alcohol content than the harder liquors, but the sheer amount that people drink makes up for that. Koreans drink soju everywhere; with dinner, chilling with friends, at the baseball game. We’ve seen hikers pull bottles out of their backpacks during breaks. And the price! You can get a small bottle for $0.99 at the supermarket. And though one is more than enough to intoxicate, it’s customary for a couple having dinner at a restaurant to put down three or more.

Drinking soju is a huge part of the culture here, and comes with its own set of rules. It’s nearly always consumed neat, in shot glasses which are sipped from. But should your drinking buddy issue the rallying cry “One-Shot”, you should pound it all at once. Empty glasses should be immediately refilled, and the younger, or lower-status person should always refill the glass of his superior, using two hands. If someone hands you an empty glass, it means he intends on pouring for you, and you hold your glass with two hands to receive.

We’ve been met with incredulity from some Koreans when we order soju — they find it hard to believe that we actually like the stuff. The truth is, we don’t. Not really. If I have the choice between a shot of whiskey and soju, I would always choose the former. But we’re cheap drunks, and 99 cents a bottle isn’t something we’re going to pass up.

-Busan Travel Book Coming Soon

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June 23, 2012 at 1:50 am Comments (5)