by Sun Pak
Step into any Korean restaurant on a weekend night and you’ll find similar set-ups at every table: a green bottle of soju perched next to plates of sizzling meats (or bubbling stews) and a collection of small vegetable sides. The clear, simple liquor—akin to a less-alcoholic vodka—washes down the spicy dishes well, and it would be considered egregious to consume less than three bottles before the meal’s over. A new addition to the monopolistic South Korean brands like Chamisul or Chum Churum, is one that’s actually made in NYC. West 32—named after the street that hosts the city’s Koreatown—was founded by college friends Daniel Lee and Maxwell Fine. “As we got older and the hangovers became more difficult to recover from, we decided we would make an all natural local soju,” Fine tells CH. Their version is made locally in NYC from distilled corn, and unlike most sojus, sweetened with natural cane sugar instead of saccharin or stevioside. Though it has a slightly higher than average alcohol content too (at 20%), its crisp finish makes it much more agreeable to take shots.
West 32 soju can be found online, or on the menu at select Korean restaurants throughout the city and New Jersey. But the strict etiquette on how you open, serve and drink it in public only comes with experience.
Images courtesy of West 32 Soju