At This Drinking Spot, Makgeolli is Cool Too
Oh shit, it’s bul geum!! Fire Friday is the weekly holiday where everyone’s off work and tryna turn up for the weekend, and at Hamburo, we’re all about it. To facilitate your debauchery, we’re featuring a drinking spot each week to fit into one of the rounds of your night. Or, you could just grab some green bottles at a convenience store and get slammed in an alley. That’s on you fam.
If you’re a 20-something in Korea and you go out drinking, nine times out of ten your night is going to be centered around soju and beer. It makes sense; soju is cheap, easy to drink, and does the trick. Beer is…well, it’s beer. But in respect for Korea’s century-old drinking culture, there’s one player in the sul game that we can’t leave out. Yeah, it’s makgeolli [막걸리].
There are plenty of young Koreans who drink makgeolli, but that doesn’t stop it from having an ahjussi-drink reputation. The sweet, milky rice alcohol is like beer’s extremely Korean grandfather, or soju’s dirtier cousin. The taste is closest to a nigori sake, and the overall drinking experience is kind of like a slightly creamy hard cider. Some people love it, some hate it. I love it. But no matter your feeling on it, and regardless of all the flavors that brewers come out with, makgeolli has a bit of an image problem.
Historically, the drink has always been a peasant brew. And now, with the reputation of an old school traditional beverage, it’s just not sexy. But reputations are shaped, and Dallyurah Gemmi [달려라개미] – or just Dalgae [달개]- might shape the way you think about makgeolli.
First, there’s an extensive selection of makgeolli varieties, served in two sized, but always in a joojunja, the classic makgeolli kettle [주전자]. Varieties range from their house brew to yuja [유자], barley [매밀], corn [옥수수], and malt whiskey makgeollis. Where it gets really fun is their frozen makgeollis, made in the same dispensers other places might use for daquiries or margarities. Flavors sometimes change, but generally the options are grapefruit slushy, green grape slushy, yuja mojito, and a combination of any of those three.
Before I tell you how good they are, if you’ve had makgeolli before, you’re probably thinking, holy shit, how did I never think of a frozen makgeolli slushy before? It makes so much sense. Makgeolli is fizzy, sweet, and slightly milky – it just works. The result is basically the alcoholic version of a combination of calpico and a slurpee. Genius.
The flavors are all banging, super refreshing and a really creative take on a traditional drink. They probably aren’t gonna do much by way of getting you drunk, but because they’re sweet, icy, and fresh they’re perfect for dropping some soju into. But as great as the makgeolli respect is, this place has a lot more going for it.
There’s a substantial list of both sojus and western liquor, if you hate makgeolli and just got dragged here (though you should really work on that). But! The anju take the same approach of adding a creative, modern twist to Korean classics. Bulgogi quesadillas, chicken intestine fondue, bacon cheese potato pancake, as well as slightly (only slightly) more conservative options like stir fried octopus, brisket and crab stew, and makgeolli brined fried chicken. Unreal.
The anju menu is basically straight out of a Korean exchange student’s first-time-getting-high-as-shit fantasies, and it’s as good as you would expect. I don’t know where the owners of this place cop their gas, but I need the number.
Anyway, the environment of this place is just as lighthearted as the food and drink offerings. Dalgae occupies the second story of a weird-shaped building right on Kyungridan-gil, and the interior is surrounded by a balcony that you can sit on as you watch all the foreigners and trendy Koreans hit the bougier spots. As unique as this place is, in a lot of ways it’s probably one of the most Korean sul jibs on this street. But whether you care about cultural implications or not, everything here is fucking awesome. Enjoy.
Let us know what you think about this spot or what we said about it. For another article like this, check out last week’s Fire Friday feature about this Epcot-esque indoor market themed chain.
Photo credits: https://www.facebook.com/dalgae2/, @danbi0070, @hanssi__