What is Soju

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Soju is a popular Korean alcoholic beverage that is distilled from rice. It is the drink of choice in Korea, China, and Japan.

What is Soju?

A clear, almost tasteless liquor, soju has about half the alcohol of vodka, clocking in on average between 24-30% alcohol. Traditionally, it has been distilled with rice, but manufacturers now use several alternative starches, such as tapioca or wheat. No matter what starch is used, due to the distillation process, this form of liquor is always gluten-free.

Types of Soju

There are three types of this alcohol, including the following:

  • Distilled: The traditional variety is made through distillation.
  • Diluted: Diluted forms are cut with water to lower the alcohol content, making it easier to drink.
  • Flavored: Flavored varieties are mixed with fruit juice, and is also referred to as cocktail soju.
Two people cheering over miniature glasses of soju

Soju is served with traditional Korean meals to enhance their flavor. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutritional Information 

On an average, this type of liquor contains around 540 calories in one 360 milliliter bottle and contains roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates.

Benefits of Soju

The benefits of drinking this unique eastern alcohol range from stroke prevention to ear health:

  • Researchers have found that at least one drink of this alcohol per day helped prevent strokes.
  • Mixing this liquor well with water is taken to help with vomiting and other digestive system problems.
  • Externally, this alcohol is used to help dissolve ear blockage.
  • Mixing it with salt is taken to relieve chest pain, coughing, swelling, and inflammation.
  • This strong liquor is also recommended as a treatment for diarrhea and excretory system issues.

How to Make Soju?

Let’s take a look at the process of brewing soju.

Two people cheering over miniature glasses of soju

Homemade Recipe to Make Soju

Make your own batch of this Korean drink at home!
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Course: Beverage
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: soju
Appliance: Strainer
Servings: 1 bottle
Author: Ishani Bose


  • 2 cups of white rice
  • 4 cups of cold water
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 8 tbsp of Nuruk enzyme (specifically used for making rice wine)
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 tbsp sugar


  • To brew your own soju, you should first soak 2 cups of white rice in water for one hour, then steam.
  • Once cooked, place the rice in a sealable container and add 4 cups of cold water, yeast, and 8 tablespoons of Nuruk enzyme, which is sold specifically for making rice wine.
  • Stir the mixture twice a day for a week, then let it sit undisturbed for two weeks.
  • When ready, strain the mixture, and pour two cups of water through the strainer into the liquid.
  •  Lastly, dissolve 4 tablespoons of sugar in your beverage and serve!


Given that this drink is likened to vodka by many, it can be used to make many cocktails. 

Soju vs. Sake vs. Vodka

  • This alcohol is made through the distillation of starches, such as rice or wheat, making it more akin to liquor. It has a slightly higher alcohol content than sake, averaging about 24%.
  • Sake is made through the fermentation of rice, similar to how beer is made. The average alcohol content of sake is 17%.
  • Vodka is also distilled from fermented grains, but typically has a much higher alcohol content of at least 40%.

Uses of Soju

  • Drink: This is a common, popular drink in Southeast Asia, and is usually consumed with food or meals.
  • Cleaner: It is also used externally as a topical disinfectant and cleaner, due to its relatively high alcohol content.

Word of Warning: As with all alcoholic beverages, moderation is key. Overconsumption of soju can lead to liver damage, depression, and other issues associated with an excessive intake of alcohol.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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