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Meet Makgeolli

In Korea, a new generation has revived a folk drink made from rice and mixed-culture fermentation. Now, two small-batch producers are making makgeolli on American shores, celebrating their heritage while introducing many more to its depth of flavors.

Courtney Iseman Dec 19, 2022 - 14 min read

Meet Makgeolli Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves

There’s a new fermented drink in town—new to many American drinkers, anyway. In fact, makgeolli is ancient; as a rice drink, it is thought to be Korea’s oldest alcoholic beverage. Now, thanks in large part to two New York City–based producers, it’s sparking more interest on the American craft-beverage scene.

So, what is it?

For Alice Jun, founder of Hana Makgeolli in Brooklyn, defining makgeolli starts with defining sool. That’s the word that Koreans use today for all kinds of alcoholic drinks—it means booze, essentially—but its older meaning is especially connected to traditions of fermented drinks. Specifically, Jun defines it as a traditional grain-based beverage fermented with nuruk.

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