Traditional Korean Rice Wine(Makgeolli): Why you must try on your next Seoul travel

NomadHer
6 min readJan 19, 2023

About Makgeolli

In South Korea, traditional alcohols such as Makgeolli (Korean rice wine), Soju, Dongdongju, and Bokbunja-Ju(Korean black raspberry wine) are an integral part of the country’s culinary heritage. Among these beverages, Makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, holds a special place in the hearts of many.

Makgeolli is known for its unique milky, off-white color and light effervescence. It has a subtle viscosity and a harmonious blend of sweet and bitter notes. The origins of Makgeolli can be traced back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392), where it has been a beloved staple of Korean cuisine for centuries.

5 Modern Makgeolli Flavors

Experience the authentic flavors of South Korea with Makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, on your next trip to Seoul. Makgeolli is known for its milky white color and cloudy appearance. With a lower alcohol content of 6–8%, it is a popular choice among those looking to enjoy a refreshing beverage without the strong effects of higher alcohol content.

The taste of Makgeolli is characterized by a delicate balance of sweetness and slight sourness, with a smooth texture derived from its main ingredient, rice. In recent years, makgeolli makers have made it with various flavors such as chestnut, peach, banana, and citron, adding a new level of creativity to this traditional drink. Makgeolli can be easily purchased at convenience stores for 2,000 won($2), an affordable price.

The Best Korean Foods to Pair with Makgeolli Wine

Makgeolli is a Korean traditional drink that is popular among the young generation these days. You can see most Korean bars sell this drink and there are even “Jumak” style bars that specialize in selling various types of Makgeolli with different flavors. When Koreans drink, they love to eat foods that go well with the taste of their drink. Find local friends in NomadHer to enjoy delicious Korean foods together. Here are recommendations for foods that complement Makgeolli Wine.

Jeon(Korean-style pancakes)

✅ Various types of Jeon

The most popular and typical dishes with makgeolli are “Jeon”(Korean-style pancakes). There are various types of Jeon based on the ingredients such as kimchi-jeon (kimchi pancakes), haemul pajeon (seafood pancake), Gamja jeon(potato pancake), etc. Jeon is cooked in a frying pan with oil resulting in a crispy pancake that pairs well with the taste of sparkling Makgeolli.

Bindaetteok(Mung bean pancakes)

✅Bindaetteok

Bindaetteok is similar to Jeon but it is made with mung beans and not wheat flour. Other than this difference, most of the ingredients are similar and include vegetables, meat, or seafood. But due to the use of mung beans, the texture is more soft and chewy compared to Jeon.

Jokbal (Braised pig trotters)

✅ Jokbal (braised pig trotters)

Jokbal is a rich and savory dish made with braised pig trotters. It is a famous food that is cooked with soy sauce and spices. After a few hours of cooking with lots of seasonings, it absorbs the flavors and becomes soft for wonderful glazed meat that pairs well with Makgeolli.

On rainy days, it’s not uncommon to hear Koreans remarking that “it’s a perfect day to have Makgeolli and Jeon” as they gaze out the window. The cozy atmosphere, the soothing sound of raindrops, and the taste of the traditional Korean rice wine and the savory Jeon (Korean pancake) makes for a delightful experience. The combination is considered perfect comfort food. As the rain continues to fall outside, it’s the perfect time to sit back, relax, and enjoy a comforting meal.

How To Drink Makgeolli

To enjoy Makgeolli in the best condition, it is served chilled in a bottle or a charming pottery bowl. Before taking a sip, it is customary to give the wine a gentle mix with the ladle or flip the bottle upside down with the cap on to incorporate the delightful sediment that settles at the bottom. The experience of drinking Makgeolli is a true pleasure for the senses. Finding a travel buddy in the NomadHer community is a good way to experience a Korean-style bar to drink Makgeolli together.

Makgeolli Recipe

Making homemade Korean rice alcohol is very easy and simple– the only ingredients you need are rice, nuruk (yeast), and water. This means that some Koreans who love Makgeolli make the drink at home. Due to processes of natural fermentation, Makgeolli is considered healthy, organic, and clean. This drink is not commonly found outside of Korea and therefore is often new to foreigners.

✅ How to make Makgeolli:

  • Step 1: Begin by washing the rice thoroughly to ensure it is clean. Next, steam the sticky rice in a steamer until it is cooked through.
  • Step 2: Once the rice is cooked, spread it out to cool. Allow the rice to cool down until the exterior of each grain becomes hard, while still maintaining a moist interior. Then, add yeast and water to the container and mix everything together using a wooden spoon.
  • Step 3: Thoroughly combine the ingredients and ferment for 5 days. During this time, it’s important to open the container and check on the fermentation progress. You may notice bubbles popping to the surface. Stir the mixture a few times throughout the fermentation period using a wooden spoon, and make sure to keep the container covered. After 5 days, your homemade Makgeolli will be ready to enjoy!

A Beginner’s Guide to Makgeolli Class in Seoul

“Experience the Art of Makgeolli Making with NomadHer: The best Makgeolli Class Led by Enthusiastic Traveler and Makgeolli Lover Matilda Kim of Baekusaeng

Join NomadHer on a journey of traditional Makgeolli making, led by the passionate and knowledgeable Matilda Kim of the renowned Korean Traditional Craft Makgeolli brand, Baekusaeng. As a traveler, flight attendant, and Makgeolli lover, Matilda brings her unique perspective and expertise to the class, teaching participants how to make this delicious and healthy traditional wine using only vegan and natural ingredients.

Participant Soyoung raves about the class, saying, “I love to drink and hang out with new people. After taking this NomadHer Makgeolli class, I fell in love with hand-made Makgeolli. In her cozy house, the teacher Matilda guided all participants on how to make this traditional wine. I liked the blind-tasting game for different types of Makgeolli so much!

I’m so impressed that she prepared so many things for this class including snacks to enjoy with the drink. I will take her class again and will definitely bring my friends next time”. With Matilda’s fluent English, the class is open to all, regardless of language. Don’t miss out on this unique and authentic experience on your next trip to Seoul!

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We Empower Women Through Travelling. NomadHer is the #1 app for female globetrotters, to encourage solo travelling safely.