Makgeolli – what is it and why does “Vincenzo” love it?

Makgeolli (CC2.0 ~Cytryna~)

If you’re a fan of the hit K-drama “Vincenzo,” you’ve likely noticed the mysterious milky drink that the characters, especially Hong Yoo-chan, the charismatic lawyer, and Vincenzo, the mafia consigliere-turned-lawyer, frequently enjoy together. This beverage, known as Makgeolli (막걸리), has captured the attention of viewers worldwide, and now it’s time for you to get to know this traditional Korean delight.

Makgeolli is a cloudy, fermented rice beverage with a unique sweet, tangy taste that has been a staple in Korean culture for centuries. It’s often referred to as Korean rice wine, though it has a lower alcohol content (usually around 6-8%) compared to traditional wines. The drink is made by fermenting a mixture of rice, water, and a special fermentation starter called “nuruk,” which is responsible for Makgeolli’s signature flavor.

You might be wondering why Makgeolli has become such a recurring element in “Vincenzo.” The answer lies in its cultural significance. In Korea, Makgeolli has long been associated with farmers and the working class, symbolizing hard work, camaraderie, and perseverance. It’s no surprise that Hong Yoo-chan, the passionate lawyer who fights for justice, would choose this humble yet powerful drink as his go-to beverage.

Although less popular than the ubiquitous Soju, Makgeolli is gaining popularity in Korea and internationally as Korean culture spreads globally. It’s easy to see why: the drink is versatile, pairing well with various dishes and making it an excellent choice for social gatherings. Traditionally, Makgeolli is served in a large bowl, which is passed around among friends as they share stories and laughter. However, it can also be enjoyed in individual cups or even straight from its iconic green bottle, as seen in “Vincenzo.”

To truly appreciate Makgeolli, it’s essential to understand the proper way to drink it. Shake the bottle gently before opening, as the rice sediment tends to settle at the bottom, and pour it into a cup or bowl. Some people prefer to let the bubbles settle before taking a sip, while others dive right in, savoring the effervescence. When enjoying Makgeolli with friends, it’s customary to pour the drink for one another, showcasing the spirit of togetherness.

If you’re looking to give this trendy beverage a try, you’re in luck! Makgeolli is now available at many Asian supermarkets, specialty liquor stores, and online retailers. While there are various flavors to choose from, we recommend starting with the classic, unflavored version to get a true taste of this traditional Korean treasure.

So, next time you gather with friends or settle in for another episode of “Vincenzo,” make sure to have a bottle of Makgeolli on hand. Cheers to this delicious piece of Korean culture, and here’s to many more shared experiences with this captivating drink!