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Soju drinking tips: The ceremony, mixology, and regret of Korea’s worldwide best-seller

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Did you know that Jinro soju is the best-selling booze brand in the world? Not bad for a product enjoyed (if that's the right word) almost exclusively by current and former residents of a tiny peninsula!

I had no idea.

The statistically typical South Korean adult drinks more than three times as much booze as his American counterpart, a chart-topping 9.6 liters of liquor per year. Whether he ought to slow down a bit is a matter of dispute. (Indeed, the record reflects that disputes—in the form of drunken fistfights—are no small part of the soju lifestyle.) But there is no doubt that the thirst for the native spirit—a 9-million-bottle-a-day habit—is responsible, year after year, forJinro soju’s ranking as the best-selling booze brand in the world. We may safely expect Jinro to sell about 60 million 9-liter cases this year and for the runner-up, Smirnoff vodka, to move about 25 million. The only other field in which South Korea is so dominant is Olympic archery (a sport which, ironically or not, demands a steadiness of hand and soul inconsistent with the soju-hangover lifestyle).

Twice as popular as Smirnoff, the #2 booze brand in the world?! Wow wow wow.

Soju loves watermelon.

Online research indicates that watermelon-soju cocktails are somewhat popular. In-the-field reporting—that is, bumbling into a Koreatown restaurant which, lacking a white piano or an indoor waterfall, is decorated with old chopstick wrappers scrawled with patrons’ messages—indicates that people who love watermelon-soju cocktails will express it by writing, "I ♥ watermelon soju." Ask yourself: Are those the kind of people I want to be hosting?

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