Apple Infused Makkoli, Oh My!
Almost every place in Korea has some special food they’re famous for, or at least the locals proclaim the fame, even if they’re the only ones to believe it. In Cheongsong, apples are the claim to fame, or one of many things that they proclaim, and boy are they truly delicious. Another one, just FYI, is a high-in-iron chicken dish that turns blue once it’s cooked!
On the way to the Juwangsan National Park, some makkoli infused with the delicious apples, as well jujube and Korean bellflower root was spotted and I LOVE a good bowl of makkoli!
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking. These funds go to maintain the site. Thank you for your support.)
Across the country, it isn’t uncommon to see hikers partaking in a little makkoli time while on the mountain and hiking in this region with this specialty drink will definitely hit the spot. So, what is makkoli?
Makkoli is an alcoholic beverage that has been referred to by many as “rice wine” although there are some pretty avid alcohol connoisseurs that will tell you this shouldn’t be labeled wine at all, but I’ll get to that bit later. Made from rice or wheat and mixed with nuruk, a Korean fermentation starter, it ends up being a milky white color with about 6%-8% alcohol content. Originally enjoyed by farmers and considered an after a hard days work in the fields libation, it can now be found everywhere and everyone can partake.
Just grab that bowl and fill-her-up!
Yes, unlike most wines, makkoli is enjoyed drunk from a bowl… were you picturing farmers with wine glasses? Nah, farmers were having their fill and enjoying it until young Korean hipsters and some Japanese customers started drinking and calling it the “new” cool thing to have in your cup. Then suddenly, the Korean tourism boards jumped in and decided to rename everything. Let’s get down to the gnitty gritty.
Why do some people fight the term “rice wine”?
Well, for starters, as ZenKimchi explains, wines generally come from the natural fermentation of the yeasts and sugars in fruits whereas makkoli gets its alcohol from starches that are converted to sugars and mixed with water. The process is a bit closer to beer than it is wine. Maybe “rice beer” would be more appropriate? The shelf life of makkoli is also WAY shorter than wine. In fact, it might even be shorter than most beers, though the makkoli industry in Korea is working to change that and they have extended it by standardizing production which also helps to reduce off-flavors and ensure more consistency for brands.
The style of drinking is also anything but chic and wine-like. Would you ever be seen gulping your wine? I should think not. Like I mentioned earlier, makkoli was originally for farmers and they were gulping down this nutritious libation in an effort to quench their thirst after working up a sweat. And good for them! They deserved that drink headed straight to the gullet.
Considering makkoli is made from a grain and NOT fruit and it has a low alcohol content, it is more akin to an ale, according to ZenKimchi, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s too bad that the Korean government and tourism groups want to promote it as anything but. Sit down with a group of Koreans, grab that bowl of makkoli, maybe infused with apples, maybe not, and gulp it down as you dine on some Korean pancakes or pajeon. It’s what hiking is all about for some.. or rainy days, depending on who you ask.