Asia is known for incredible cultures, savoury food and historical sites. But did you also know how great Asian alcohol can be?
Asian alcoholic drinks come in numerous forms and types. Many people know about sake, a Japanese rice wine, but there are so many other types of alcoholic drinks from Asia you need to check out. Here are some of the best!
Chuhai are fruit-flavored Japanese alcoholic drinks with an alcohol content from 3-8%. You'll likely find flavours such as lemon, peach, grapefruit and lime. These premixed canned drinks are made of shochu and soda and are commonly found anywhere alcohol is sold.
Plum wine (umeshu)
If you're looking for something with a juice-like flavour, Umeshu is a great option! Umeshu is made of Japanese plums (ume), sugar and shochu or nihonshu. This plume wine is commonly made at home, but it's also easily found anywhere alcohol is sold. It is usually served on the rocks, mixed with soda, or as an umeshu sawa (umeshu sour).
As mentioned, sake is a hugely popular Japanese rice wine and typically is about 10-20% alcohol content. This wine is drunk either hot or cold, which makes it different than typical wine.
Maotai, (or Moutai)
This liquor is produced in a town called Maotai in southwestern China, distilled from fermented sorghum (a fast-growing grassy plant). Maotai is a sauce aroma baijiu because of its mild and mellow soy sauce-like after-taste and ranges in alcohol content from the standard 53% by volume down to 35%.
Huangjiu is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world and is often known as a yellow wine.
Huangjiu contains numerous amino acids and is pasteurised and aged for many years before it's finally ready for sale. Some of these yellow wines are aged for more than 20 years before sold to customers.
Huangjiu contains less than 20% of alcohol and is typically mellow and sweet. It can be drunk as is, or after being cooled or warmed.
Soju is hugely popular, not just in Korea but also around the world. Although it pairs well with a lot of Korean cuisine, Soju is strong. Commonly 19-25% alcohol content, Soju is a much higher proof than beer and wine.
Unlike other clear alcoholic beverages like gin and vodka, soju is slightly sweet when you drink it neat due to sugar that’s added during the distillation process. Even if you’re not a fan of drinking liquor neat, there’s a chance that you’ll find soju easy on the palate and you may become a convert.
If you're in need of a great Korean dessert drink, Maeshilju is a wonderful choice! Maeshilju is a super sweet Korean alcohol made from green plums fermented with a sweetener (usually brown sugar or honey). Maeshilju has 14% alcohol content, so a bit more calm compared to Soju. However, Maeshilju is too sweet to have with dinner, but works great as dessert.
This Korean alcoholic beverage dates back to the 10th century and traditionally served in a kettle and drunk from bowls. It's easily made from rice, wheat, and water. Alternatively, makgeolli is sometimes called nongju (farmer’s liquor) as it's the ultimate peasant drink. This rice wine is Korea's version of Japan's Sake rice wine.
Makgeolli has a milky, earthy-sweet and slightly bubbly taste and only has about 6–9% alcohol content.
Asian Flush and Alcohol
Unfortunately, many Asians are plagued with Asian Flush, or alcohol flush reaction, which can limit their enjoyment of alcohol.
In a typical body, alcohol is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. It then gets broken down further into a harmless chemical and the individual drinking alcohol is none the wiser. They may still experience a hangover the next day, if they're not careful, but otherwise their system goes back to normal.
This process gets interrupted in those with Asian Flush. Once they consume alcohol and it's converted into acetaldehyde, their body leaves it as is. They are unable to break acetaldehyde down further, which means this toxic chemical is left accumulating in their system.
Acetaldehyde build-up can cause some really uncomfortable symptoms associated with Asian Flush, such as a red flushed face, headaches, dizziness and restricted breathing. There's also a handful of long term implications to consider, which you can read about here.
While some of these symptoms sound like a typical hangover, the individual suffering from Asian Flush can experience these symptoms almost immediately after drinking alcohol.