Korean Rice Wine Gets a Makeover

/ / Business, Food & Flavor

Makgeolli made the pages of The New York Times, hailed as a “cosmopolitan sensation over the past decade…the buzz grew during Covid lockdowns.”

The Korean rice wine is a centuries-old tradition in Korea. Makgeolli (or makkolli) is made from fermented rice and nuruk (a dough-like starter). But the drink’s had a difficult history in the country. It was banned during Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula, then suppressed again in the 50’s during a postwar grain shortage.

“For the people that grew up in postwar Korea, their understanding of makgeolli and soju is very different from what the general population of Koreans understood in prewar,” says Alice Jun, the New York-based makgeolli producer behind Hana Makgeolli. Jun studied the craft in Seoul before starting her artisanal brand in Brooklyn. 

The makgeolli industry used to be run by larger companies until about 10 years ago. Now smaller start-ups are leading the industry, and young Korean professionals are driving demand for the drink.

“It’s not that we’re taking a new approach to things,” Jun said of her brand and the makgeolli start-ups that are proliferating in South Korea. “It’s that we’re appreciating the traditional things, and calling attention to them in the world of the internet and social media and brands.”

Read more (The New York Times)