If I told you that Smirnoff was the fifth largest spirits brand in the world by sales, that would make sense right? It's an affordable vodka that can be purchased everywhere. Contenders for the top title surely must be Bacardi (No. 10) or Jack Daniels (No. 16). Wrong. Coming in at Number 1 AND Number 4 is Korean Soju. That's right. Jinro Soju sold more than 71 million 9 liter cases. Second place Emperador brandy came in at 33 million cases, and Chum Churum soju in 4th place sold 28.4 million cases. Damn. That's a lot of soju. This tells you two things. One, Koreans like to drink. A lot. Two, soju kicks ass.
The numbers prove that soju is the most popular unknown liquor in the world. For those of you that haven't tried it, imagine gin without the flavour. Some of you might say that flavourless gin is a good thing. When I was in my younger days, I would mercilessly mock gin drinkers. I would say "If I wanted to drink gasoline, I'd go to Exxon" or "Liquid pine needles, yeah, that sounds awesome...NOT." Hey, you should be impressed that a fourth grader was making fun of gin, not the immaturity of the required youth "NOT!" stage of development. I think, thankfully, that stage lasted for about a couple of months until I found a new way of being condescending. As I've gotten older, my palate has changed and I am a little more receptive to gin. I won't say that a gin and tonic is my first choice of libation when I go to a bar, but I think I can appreciate now why people imbibe it. Anyway, soju is not like gin. It's really not like anything at all. Maybe the closest comparison I can think of is perhaps a good, high quality rubbing alcohol. The next time you're getting a vaccine, ask the nurse if you can see the bottle of rubbing alcohol that they are using to disinfect your shoulder. If it is a green glass bottle that says Jinro on it, I like their style. Plain soju is candidly pretty awful stuff. Thankfully human kind has invented these ingredients called flavouring and that seems to transform soju from radiator cleaner into best Friday night ever.
If you are new to soju, I urge you to try Green Grape soju. This stuff is game changing. Be careful drinking it, because soju has a much higher alcohol content than beer. And green grape soju drinks like Welch's grape juice. You can down pints of this stuff and not know it and then you get up and all of a sudden the bullet train of intoxication just took you out at the knees and you're now puking into a purse of a lady that just wanted to stop by and support her grandson's new band. If you don't want to get hammered that quickly, try the Apple Soju. The elusive Blueberry soju still hasn't been acquired yet, but I desperately want to try it as blueberries make everything amazing. I like to call blueberries Smurf eggs. Not because Smurf eggs are amazing, but because blueberries desperately need a nickname.
It's a dubious distinction, but I legitimately am proud that soju is the top selling spirit. Do a little more digging, and you will see that Korea is #1 in a lot of other things as well. Korea dominates the Innovation rankings, Science and Technology rankings, has the best airport in the world, Koreans watch more movies than any other country, highest colorectal 5 year survival rate, tertiary degree acquisition, best archers, short track speed skaters, top producers of 43 year old male bloggers making fun of Korea, the list really goes on and on. For a long time in my mind, the only thing Korea was #1 at was sending their babies all over the world because they didn't want to take care of them. It's going to be a long time before I start wearing Korean flag t-shirts and I'll never get a Korean-inspired tattoo or some craziness like that. But I am reluctantly enjoying my discovery of this fascinating culture. And by fascinating culture, I clearly mean Smurf egg soju. Cheers!