13+ Most Popular Korean Drinks Worth Trying
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From Korean milk soda to the Korean health drinks, you’ll find all your most popular Korean drinks right here!
Korea has a solid drinking culture that forms an essential part of the social fabric of society, from offering a drink to accepting one as well as how one drinks, all include part of a long tradition of social interactions. Obviously, with so much tradition surrounding the act of drinking, many popular Korean drinks exist.
Should you ever find yourself in a Korean bar, my first bit of advice is to coat your tummy before taking shots. South Koreans have a bottoms-up approach, but never fear, alcoholic beverages are not the only popular Korean drinks.
There are close to 200 non-alcoholic or ‘eumcheongnyu’ refreshments available. I’ll provide you with everything you need to know about the most popular Korean drinks and where to find them.
Why Is Drinking Popular In Korea?
In most societies, sitting down and having a drink is a sign of acceptance and a way to form and strengthen bonds between people. Korea is no different, and throughout its history, drinking (be it alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages) has had an important social function.
Alcohol, in particular, has played a central role in Korean life, commonly drunk in both professional and social interactions.
Historically the Elders would teach the art of drinking and the etiquette surrounding it to the youth, forming strong bonds between the generations.
Popular Korean drinks are more than just refreshments but offer an alternate window to the country’s climate, culture, and geography, with the popular drinks being highly reflective of the country as a whole. You’d be amazed as to how much you can experience with a beverage.
Most Popular Korean Drinks That Are Non-Alcoholic
- Banana milk
- Dawn 808
Banana Milk – 바나나맛 우유
At the top of the list of popular Korean drinks is Banana Milk, ultimately just banana-flavored cow’s milk. This is arguably the most common Korean milk drink, with nearly a million bottles sold daily!
Banana Milk became famous thanks to Government programs that promoted health. Unlike many Western Banana Milk offerings, the Korean version has both a sweet and savory flavor that is both unique and hugely refreshing.
Binggrae, the company that pioneered the Banana Flavored Milk craze, also produces many other delicious flavors. It is absolutely worth trying the strawberry and melon milks.
One of my favorite ways to consume this Korean milk drink is by adding a little bit of caffeine (like an espresso shot!) it is so yummy over ice on a hot summer’s day.
It’s no wonder that on our Korean drinks list something as innocuous as a banana flavored milk could have become so popular.
Sikhye – 식혜
Sikhye is a sweet rice beverage that is a must-try popular Korean drink. Sikye is a traditional Korean drink that goes back hundreds of years and is commonly drunk after a meal due to its delightful flavor.
The drink comes canned in grocery stores, which are great refrigerated. But if you would like to learn how to make sikhye, please let me know in the comments below!
It’s also common to see sikhye as Korean drinks in a restaurant – especially after a meal. Sikhye is widely known as a digestive drink with many health benefits. Sikhye has soft rice granules at the bottom of the beverage and thanks to the rice fibers, many people enjoy the fun textures as well.
Guilty confession: I actually can’t drink Korean rice drink. I actually don’t like Korean rice in a beverage. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “How can I recommend this as part of the popular Korean drinks list if I can’t even drink it?”
Well, the answer is: I know how popular it is and whenever I make it for my friends and family, they can’t have enough of it. It’s truly a crowd pleaser and one that symbolically represents the Korean culture.
You may not take my palate for it; but, take my word for it. Sikhye is truly one of a kind!
Milkis – 미키스
Enter one of the most unique yet simple drinks on this planet. Milkis is different and something I recommend trying because it’s just brilliant. Picture milk and Sprite got married and had a baby. No wonder this drink sells over one million bottles too!
Milkis Korean drink is a carbonated milk and corn syrup delight, it comes in a plain unflavored version, but several fruity flavors are also available. As strange as the overall combination may seem, this Korean soda is very satisfying and refreshing.
Dalgona – 달고나
You may have heard or seen of these viral Korean coffee drinks all over social media. Dalgona is a coffee-flavored drink that one could refer to as an upside-down cappuccino. Dalgona is composed of milk first and then added coffee foam on top.
Like many Korean drinks, there is also sugar involved, providing a lightly sweet and refreshing take on caffeinated beverages.
Did you know you can make Dalgona coffee with just 3 simple ingredients? The main ingredient is instant coffee and so easy to make! Let me know if you would like to learn how to make whipped Dalgona coffee.
Additionally, did you know that you can make a matcha version of the dalgona beverage? It’s absolutely delicious and if you love matcha latte’s and dalgona coffee, you’ll love matcha dalgona.
Sujeonggwa – 수종과
This one is for those with a bit of a sweet tooth. Sujeonggwa is the perfect balance of drink and dessert with amazing health benefits. Served cold, Sujeonggwa is a richly flavored mixture of spice, cinnamon, persimmon, pear, and ginger. Topped with a few pine nuts, this beverage is my absolutely personal favorite on the list.
It is a unique, delicious beverage, and you can expect to want more especially if you love cinnamon like me. There are various ways to sweeten sujeonggwa. The added persimmon and pears already sweeten the beverage but many use dates, honey, or even a little bit of brown sugar to give sujeonggwa a sweeter note.
Yuja Cha – 유자차
To many Yuja Cha (Cha means tea in Korean), is the best Korean tea ever. Some may even know this tea as citron tea. Not only does this smell citrusy and warm, it tastes like a warm lemonade. Yuja tea is made by combining the yuja preserve and hot water. This is a fantastic way to enjoy a hot beverage in winter and is often used as a health remedy.
Asia is well known for its love of tea, and wide varieties are available. You can find corn tea, chrysanthemum tea, barley tea, and green plum tea, amongst others.
As a tea lover, I recommend trying as many Korean teas as you can.
Bacchus – 박카스
Not to be confused with the Roman God of the same name, Bacchus has nothing to do with alcohol but everything to do with revitalization and energy. Bacchus is a Korean energy drink, it’s a sugary, syrupy concoction, but it also includes taurine, from which it provides that little wake-up kick.
A Dawn 808 (which is coming up next) followed by a Bacchus should get you right and ready to face any day after a Korean social evening.
Dawn 808 – 여명 808
Before we look at the alcoholic options, let me introduce you to the antidote to those shots! Dawn 808 is an exciting mixture of herbs and roots and works wonders as an all-around pick-me-up from a night of drinks.
Dawn 808 is the ultimate home remedy for a heavy night out but be warned that it is an acquired taste and maybe a bit too medicinal in flavor for some. That said, as a hangover cure, it does work wonders. Just be sure to finish the can for the best effect.
Best Soft Drinks to Pair With Alcohol
When it comes to famous Korean drinks, alcohol is certainly a cultural norm in South Korea. It’s also worth mentioning that many types of alcohol drinkers in Korea love mixing drinks, which I’ll get to more in a bit. Sometimes people mix milk, coffee, Coca-Cola, and juices with alcohol.
With drinking culture heavily entrenched in Korea, many will mix alcoholic beverages. One of the most popular being the Soju Bomb, or 소맥 (Somaek), where Soju is mixed with beer, a bit like one would create a boiler-maker in the US.
Top Alcoholic Drinks In South Korea
The best Korean drinks are so popular, you can easily find them in major Korean grocery stores everywhere. Here are the most famous Korean drinks – alcohol version:
- Cheongju Rice Wine
Soju – 소주
Soju is the quintessential Korean alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, wheat, barley, and even sweet potatoes; Soju has been a staple in Korean life since the 1200s. You can find most major soju brands wherever soju is sold.
Soju is clear and has a slightly sweet aftertaste. The alcohol content varies depending on the brand and how “neat” it has been served. This liquor is enjoyed with pretty much any Korean food cuisine.
Personally, I like to use any original flavor soju for cooking and fruit infused flavored soju for cocktails.
My favorite way to drink soju is mixing it with yogurt. Peach yogurt soju has been a huge win for our friends and I have a perfect recipe for you to try.
As for food, Korean Bacon is the perfect anju (food eating with alcohol)!
Makgeolli – 막걸리
Makgeolli is a milky-colored drink with a slight fizz and a tinge of sweetness. It is a rice-based alcohol where the rice is fermented with a traditional starter, nuruk. This is one of the most traditional drinks in Korea and dates back to the 900s.
Have you ever heard of makgeolli cocktails or even makgeolitas? I have started to see a huge trend on using makgeolli as a base for mixing cocktails. It’s essentially makgeolli with your classic margarita ingredients – tequila, triple sec, sweetener of your choice, and lime juice.
Cheongju Rice Wine – 청주
Another rice-based alcohol is Cheongju, a rice wine. This is different from Soju as cheongju has a a spicier dryness. Some would compare it closer to sake rather than soju. Royal and aristocratic Koreans historically drank it during ceremonies.
While cheongju can be drunk, this wine is commonly used in cooking. I’ve used Cheongju in enhancing my rice, marinating meats, as well as cooking down sauces.
Insamju – 인삼주
This alcoholic beverage is more than 1500 years old and is made from Ginseng, giving it additional health benefits. The word “insam” is ginseng and “ju” means alcoholic beverage (or wine); hence the name “insamju.”
With a rare ginseng permeating through the Korean wine, it has incredible health benefits (obviously drunk in moderation). Some even call this drink traditional Korean medicine because the boost from ginseng.
More and more popular Korean drinks are coming out with added health benefits. I have seen alcohol with rare mushrooms, other wild herbs and spices, and even special fruit. Would you want to know what these taste like?
Bokbunjajoo – 복분자
Bokbunjajoo is a tasty Korean black raspberry wine with a slightly sweet taste and is thought to have beneficial health properties. It’s a beautiful reddish-pink color. Contrary to what it may be known for, I prefer to drink bokbunja as a digestive or a dessert wine.
But be sure that its authentic bokbunja because some brands use flavorings and substitutes to provide that bokbunja flavor.
Real bokbunja is amazingly great for you when drunk in moderation. It helps with blood circulation and it doesn’t hurt that it tastes great too!
Where To Buy Popular Korean Drinks
Fortunately, thanks to the popularity of these Korean drinks, finding popular alcoholic drinks are relatively easy worldwide. For soft drinks and teas, most local convenience stores will carry the refreshments, and many restaurants will offer these drinks on their menus.
When it comes to alcoholic drinks, you can rely on most bars and Korean restaurants to carry these beverages. If you want to drink at home, most convenience stores and supermarkets carry these popular Korean drinks. So, it’s pretty easy to find what you are looking for.
Best sides for popular Korean drinks
안주 (anju) comes in various forms. From Korean Snacks that are sweet to Korean Chips that have your lips smacking for more. One of the more popular pub foods in Korea is pretty much anything you can quickly and easily eat with your fingers. Depending on the popular Korean drinks, some prefer crunchy nuts whereas the sweeter wines call for a more Tradition Korean Snack.
What is the minimum age limit for drinking alcohol in South Korea?
You can legally drink alcohol in South Korea from the age of 19. SOURCE
Are South Korean Drinking And Driving Laws Strict?
Yes, the law is strict in South Korea, and you should not even have one alcoholic drink and drive. If you are drinking, always use public transport or taxis.
Korea has a vast selection of unique and refreshing drinks, whether non-alcoholic or alcoholic. From traditional Korean rice drinks to modern pick-me-ups like bacchus, you won’t be looking for red bull or plain old coffee milk any more.
There are many popular Korean dinks for every occasion. Get ready and go on a taste adventure today! Please let me know what your favorite popular Korean drinks are. Is there a Korean beverage not listed here that you would highly recommend? I’d love to hear about it.