How to drink like the Koreans? Part I - Boozez

How to drink like the Koreans? Part I

drink like the koreans

Credits: Unsplash

Koreans are known to be the heaviest drinkers in Asia – drinking is heavily intertwined in their culture be it whether you are working or studying! Well, soju is the best and most sold liquor in the world! Here is a three-part series on how to drink like the Koreans if you are going there to work, study or even if you are there just for a holiday! The drinking culture in Korea is multi-faceted so stay tuned to learn more about it!

Drinking etiquette is key to enjoying drinking in Korea. There are certain rules that you have to follow when out drinking with Koreans! It may seem a little daunting at first but you will soon get used to it. Just go ahead and try it out, you’ll be given a bit of leeway for being a foreigner.

Here’s how to drink like the Koreans!

  1. Respect!

Respect forms the basis of many practices when drinking. Firstly, hierarchy is a big thing in Korea so always know the age or position of the position you are out with! It is common for the asking of age to be the first question when meeting in Korea. Always remember to be respectful in words and actions to someone who is higher up! You can be more casual with a friend of the same age or status but basic respect is still required.

  1. Use two hands

Always use two hands when holding your cup or holding the alcohol. It is customary for juniors to fill the cups of seniors with alcohol and when doing so, use two hands to hold the bottle. When receiving a drink from someone similarly, use two hands to hold your cup.

  1. Never let a cup get empty

Do not let the cup of anyone you are drinking with get empty! Always pay attention to those around you. The same goes for them – they will fill your cup when it gets empty so do not fill your own cup back up! If you do not want to drink that much, drink whatever that is in your cup slowly.

  1. Turn away when drinking

When taking a drink with someone older and more senior, turn to the side and cover your drinking with your hands or body as a polite gesture.

  1. Take your first drink in its entirety

As the Koreans always go “one-shot”, which is equivalent to a bottoms up, try to finish your first drink in one try! This is especially so if the drink was given to you by someone.

Now with all the basic rules for drinking out of the way, the next step in learning how to drink like the Koreans is  to learn about the three most popular alcohols in Korea – Soju, Maek-ju and Makgeolli!

korean alcohol


Credits: GIPHY

The most sold spirit in the world. Often in its characteristic green glass bottles like in all k-dramas, soju is unsurprisingly Korea’s most popular alcohol. Easily available and extremely affordable, soju is almost like water to the Koreans. It is traditionally made from rice but manufacturers now use alternative sources of starch and has an ABV of around 17-25%. Crowd favourites for soju include Jinro and Chamisul. Don’t forget to shake, roll and pop the soju when you start! The Soju opening ceremony is a must!


Maekju (Beer)

Maekju is Korean for beer and is the next most popular booze in Korea after soju. There are three main Korean beers – Hite, Cass and OB. However as Korean beers are usually very light and low in ABV, many often use maekju as a base for mixing other spirits in.



A milky looking drink that is off-white, makgeolli is a sweet fermented rice wine. Makgeolli’s roots go all the way back to the Goryeo Era and this is one drink that has been around for long! Usually served in ceramic pots, makgeolli is often drank along side the eating of Jeon (Korean pancakes).

korean seafood pancake

Credits: Munchado

Head into a makgeolli bar in Korea to taste the many different kinds of makgeolli-s while eating a pajeon (green onion pancake) or haemuljeon (seafood pancake).

Credits: GIPHY

Don’t forget to drink to the exclamations of “Gunbae!” (“Cheers!”) and “Jjan!” (the onomatopoeic sound of glasses hitting each other). Have a smashing time drinking and drink safely! Stay tuned for Part II of How to Drink like the Koreans and in the meantime, check out for more cool content!

About Kelly

Kelly is a well known lifestyle writer with over 3 years of experience. She loves to travel and explore places; a majority of her work has been dedicated to reviewing famous pubs and restaurants around the world. She is also a renowned food critic and is known for her honest and tasteful reviews. Currently, she is working on her upcoming book.