Makkolli, traditional wine of Korea



Makkolli is a proper Korean word meaning a coarse wine, which derived from the practice of its rough making. Of the word “makkolli” the first syllable mak means rough and the latter part kolli stands for the gerund of the verb filter.

Depending on the kind of material used, makkolli is divided into high-class makkolli which is made from white rice and high-quality malt, ordinary makkolli made from cereal wastes and wheat malt, Koryo medicinal makkolli mixed with different kinds of medicinal materials, and some others.

In the past it went by such nicknames as thakju, jaeju and hoeju as it looks cloudy, kaju as it is made at home, saju as it is often drunk during the working hours, or nongju and nongthak as it is a favourite of peasants.

Of the traditional wines of Korea makkolli is the one that is made by the simplest method. And it is known that makkolli has been in use for ages. There are different historical documents with descriptions of makkolli, typically Tonggukrisanggukjip written by Ri Kyu Bo (1168-1241) who was a renowned poet during the Koryo dynasty (918-1392). They show that the Koreans' practice of makkolli making began earlier than the time of the Koryo dynasty.

The original drink continued to be a favourite of the Korean people in their everyday life during the years of the feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910).

There goes a tale that foreigners from a neighbouring country on their visit to Korea were surprised to see peasants drink big bowls of makkolli at a gulp during the break of work.

As it is of low alcoholic content and has a pleasantly refreshing mixture of sour, sweet and astringent tastes, makkolli was in wide use in everyday life. Every family made makkolli and shared it with their neighbours during the break of work or over lunch in the scorching season of summer, relieving the fatigue and furthering friendliness, and this was almost a community tradition.

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