Soju: The New Vodka
By Kate Bonamici

(FORTUNE Magazine) – No liquor license? No problem. Alcohol trends move so fast it's hard to keep track, but one booze to watch is Soju, a Korean import gaining popularity as a vodka substitute.

Soju is distilled from rice, barley, and koji (a cultured grain), and cheaper brands are made from sweet potatoes. The brew is about 24% alcohol, compared with around 5% alcohol by volume for beer, 11% to 14% for wine, and 40% for vodka. Though Soju is twice as potent as pinot noir, for the past few years it has been lumped in with wine and beer under New York and California licensing laws, meaning restaurants without a full liquor license can offer mixed drinks using the mild-tasting spirit. It's a coup for small restaurants, since a full liquor license costs $4,352 for a two-year permit in New York City, while a beer and wine permit is only $480 a year. Soju's more popular cousin, sake, the Japanese rice wine, is also a popular mixer, but Soju contains more alcohol and less flavor, so it's better in cocktails and sweet drinks. Popular choices include Red Bull and Soju and a Soju screwdriver. As for Soju straight? Let's just say this writer advises against it. -- Kate Bonamici