Makgeolli | How To Make, Where To Buy, Drink And The Best Brands

Want to learn how to make makgeolli? Wondering where to buy makgeolli? Looking for the best makgeolli recipe? Longing for a great makgeolli cocktail?Want to know the makgeolli alcohol content? Learn all about makgeolli rice wine on this Korea food blog.

Makgeolli is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in Korea dating back to the Goguryo Dynasty. It used to be the most popular alcoholic drink in the 70’s but lost its popularity due to the foreign imported liquors and beers. It is quite different from soju but the distillation process and ingredients are rather similar. 

how to make makgeolli

What Is Makgeolli

Makgeolli (makkeoli, makolli, 막걸리, Korean rice wine, Korean rice beer) is a very popular South Korean fermented rice drink. It looks milky white, has a sweet sparkling flavour and has an alcohol percentage of around 6-8 percent. This is a popular beverage to drink at night together with some Korean food like pajeon, fish, meat or even fruits and snacks. The Korean milky rice wine taste can be quite sweet and watery. On top of that it has a lot of health benefits. 

How To Make Makgeolli

Traditional Korean makgeolli rice wine has a very long history and almost every family used to make its own version of makgeolli. As this Korean rice wine makgeolli is widely available at convenience or liquor stores, people tend not to make their own anymore. 

how to make rice wine makkoli

We all know that the mass produced Korean rice liquor tastes nothing like a good homemade alcohol. It is an easy process, but does require some resting time for the fermentation process. This rice wine drink is a nice project for people who like making their own alcoholic beverages, especially as this rice wine calories are very low. 

1. Makgeolli Ingredients

Makgeolli can be made with different ingredients and in different ways. Below is a basic makgeolli recipe that is perfect for first timers. Each of these ingredients can be bought individually or as a makgeolli making kit

  • 6 cups of rice, the best rice to use is maepssal (맵쌀) or haepssal (햅쌀). These are 2 types or rice commonly used for making makgeolli. 
  • 100 grams of wheat yeast (nuruk, 누룩). Check more info here. 
  • 1/4 – 2 cups of sugar (white sugar, honey or corn syrup). The amount depends on how sweet you want it. 
  • 1 teaspoon of dried yeast
  • 20 cups of water

2. Makgeolli Recipe

There are different ways to prepare makgeolli, but the recipe below is for the traditional drink. 

Preparations

  • The Korean traditional rice wine recipe starts off by washing the rice in cold water. Leave it to soak for at least 2 hours. 
  • Drain the rice and put it into a heavy pot (or you could even prepare it in a rice cooker and make steamed rice). Add around 4 cups of water and cook the rice like you would normally do. 15 minutes on a high fire and another 15 minutes on a low fire.  Don’t forget to stir the rice once in a while when cooking. 
  • Optional: after cooking, leave the rice to dry. Put the rice in a basket and place it in a sunny place. 

Mixing & Fermentation

  • Add all the ingredients in your onggi (Korean pot) or alternatively any other pot will work.  Add the nuruk, teaspoon of dried yeast and 8 cups of water. Mix everything by hand or with a spoon. Traditionally makgeolli was mixed by hand, that’s why each Korean rice wine makgeolli had a slightly different flavour even when the same ingredients were used. 
  • If you are using an onggi then put a cloth over the pot and close the lid. If using any other pot or bottle, put the lid but don’t close it airtight. During the fermentation process gas is released, this needs to be able to escape the pot. 
  • Leave the lid on for a couple of hours and stir the mix twice a day with your hands or a wooden spoon. Keep doing this for a couple of days (around 3 to 5 days). The optimal temperature to let the makgeolli rest is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is higher or lower the fermentation process will be faster or slower. 
how to make makgeolli
  • During the first days the liquid will produce a lot of bubbles. On day 4 or 5 the bubbles will almost be non-existent and the mixture will have separated. The rice will sink to the bottom and a clear liquid to the top. When this happened, the makgeolli is ready to drink. 
  • Filter the makgeolli from the rice. This can be done by pouring the liquid into a bowl through a clean cloth (like a towel). Now you can choose to add sugar or water to make the mixture sweater or less strong. 
  • Pour the strained makgeolli into plastic beer bottles or glass jars. Keep it in the fridge and shake it well before drinking.

For more details on the fermentation process, the history or each ingredient. Check out this pdf created by RDA. 

3. Things To Know About Making Rice Wine

When making makgeolli it is recommended to use the traditional Korean equipment like a stoneware onggi or glass jars. This will give the Korean rice liquor so much more flavour. This can easily be bought online. Check more info here. 

For straining the makgeolli use a cheese cloth and strainer, this will do the job just fine. This can be found in any kitchen shop or online. Find more info here. 

4. Makgeolli Making Classes

In Seoul you’ll find many courses on how to make makgeolli. These include all the ingredients, equipment and information to make your own makgeolli in 2 hours. Perfect to take home and try a couple of days later. 

  • 2 hours course in central Seoul – learn to basics of making your own makgelli at the Susubori Academy. Check more info here. 
  • Making rice wine class – An introduction to makgeolli followed with a tasting session and a class on how to make makgeolli. Check more info here. 
Korean rice beer makgeolli

5. Makgeolli Cocktail

Why not make a great makgeolli cocktail to mix it up a little. Below are some recipes ideas for mixing Korean rice wine with other ingredients to make the perfect makgeolli drink cocktail. 

  • Makgeolli and tonic – Blend the chopped cherries with a cup of makgeolli and two soup spoons of tonic water. Add a couple of ice cubes. Use different kinds of makgeolli to change the flavour. 
  • Makgeolli Mimosa – Add 1/3 of rice wine, 1/3 of orange juice and 1/3 of campagne. 
  • Daiquiri Makgeolli – Blend 5 strawberries, a glass of frozen makgeolli, 2 tablespoons of sugar, a shot of white rum and 25ml of lime juice. Add a couple of ice cubes. Try looking for a light and watery makgeolli for this cocktail and any other cocktail. 

Makgeolli Alcohol Content

The rice wine alcohol content is between 6 and 8 percent, especially for the commercial makgeolli. Some brands have a much small or higher alcohol content. During the fermentation process, makgeolli produces microorganisms, this makes it a probiotic product. 

It is known to be boost the metabolism, reduce tiredness and improve the overall health. This is because of the high level of vitamin, fiber, acids, lactic acid bacteria, inositol and choline. 

1. Makgeolli Calories

One bottle of makgeolli has an average of 350 calories. This is quite low compared to other beverages like wine (625 calories) or champagne (570 calories). 

2. Makgeolli Benefits

Drinking too much of any alcohol is never good, but it is proven that the makgeolli benefits on the body are quite good. Researchers have found that the dealcoholized rice wine could have a positive effect on cancer. The size of body tumors reduce over a period of time. 

Another benefit is that makgeolli helps improve the immune system, due to all the antioxidants it contains. It also seems to have an anti-bacterial effect, helps improve the skin conditions, blood circulation and metabolism. 

How To Drink Makgeolli

Makgeolli is normally served in a plastic bottle, bowl with a wooden ladle or poured in a aluminum kettle.  It is always served cold. The makgeolli is scooped or poured into small bowls made out aluminum or ceramics. Not in a glass or cup like other alcohols. This is because the makgeolli tends to split quickly. Check where to buy these makgeolli bowls here

Makgeolli is best eaten together with Korean pancakes, like kimchi pajeon, seafood pajeon or other types of pajeon. It is also served with fruits or rice cakes.

Where To Buy Makgeolli

Where to buy makgeolli really depends on where you live. Do you live in Korea, then you can find makgeolli in any convenience store. When living abroad you will have to order this online.  

Where To Buy Makgeolli rice wine

1. Buy Makgeolli Online

Some Korean or Asian supermarkets might sell makgeolli, but buying it online is so much easier. Websites like Nanuko, Leiser’s, Geonbae sell different types of makgeolli in their webshop online. Buying rice wine in  Walmart is sometimes possible. 

If you know of any other places where to find rice wine please let me know in the comment section below.

2. Buy Makgeolli In Korea

Makgeolli can be bought in any convenience store, Korean supermarket and ordered at any Korean restaurant. It is very affordable with the cheapest commercial bottles going for around 1200 krw. Home brew or artisan makgeolli can be bought at the breweries or liquor stores. These are much more expensive than the commercial ones. 

Makgeolli Brands

There are loads of different kinds of makgeolli brands from commercial products to home brew alcohols. Instead of learning how to make makgeolli you can just easily buy different brands and flavours. Below is a small list of our personal favourites which are widely available at convenience stores. Once opened the makgeolli needs to be stored in the fridge and has a shelf life of around 10 days (depends on the brand). Make sure to check the expiry date. 

1. Supermarket Makgeolli Brands

  • Seoul Makgeolli – This is the most popular Korean rice liquor that is sold in convenience stores and bars across the country, not only in Seoul. It has an alcohol percentage of 6% and is rather sweet. 
  • ★ Gyeongju Beopju – Our go to makgeolli, a bit more fizzy than other drinks and an alcohol percentage of 6%. This is also available abroad as it a pasteurized makgeolli. 
  • 옛날 (Old Days) – This thick Korean rice liquor is full of flavour, very smooth and fruity. The alcohol percentage is 7%. 
  • Gapyeong Pine Nut – A pine nut flavoured makgeolli that is very easy to drink. Similar to the others, the alcohol content is 6%. 
  • Jinro Makgeolli – This is not one of the best brands but it is available abroad (especially in the US). It is non carbonated, easy to drink and a little sweet. 
  • Banana Makgeolli – the fruit flavoured makgeollies are getting more and more popular in Korea, especially the banana one. The alcohol concentration is only 4%.
  • Kooksoondang Makgeolli – Kooksoondang is the name of a Korean brewery that opened in 1952. They sell different flavours like the banana or peach makgeolli. 
  • Chestnut Makgeolli – This drink has a deep chestnut flavour to it. It goes great together with pajeon (Korean pancake). 

2. Artisan Makgeolli Brands

  • Boksundoga – Another one of our favourites! The best makgeolli in Korea, also called champagne makgeolli because it is a very sparkling rice wine. It is a handmade Korean rice alcohol made in a small brewery in Ulsan. Available at Lotte Department store in the liquor section. Check more info here
  • Soola Makgeolli – A 100% homemade makgeolli without any preservatives. Check more info here. 
best makgeolli brands rice wine

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Makgeolli Vegan?

Makgeolli is a Korean traditional alcoholic beverage made from rice or wheat, and sometimes other grains such as barley or millet. The main ingredients in makgeolli are grains, water, and nuruk, a type of Korean fermentation starter. Based on these ingredients, makgeolli is generally considered to be vegan. However, it is important to note that some brands or variations of makgeolli may use additional ingredients that are not vegan-friendly, such as honey or milk. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check the label or ingredient list before consuming any product to ensure that it aligns with your dietary preferences and restrictions.

Is Makgeolli Gluten Free

Makgeolli is a traditional Korean alcoholic beverage made from rice and other grains. Whether or not makgeolli is gluten-free depends on the specific recipe and production method used to make it. Some types of makgeolli are made only from rice, which is naturally gluten-free. However, other recipes may include additional grains such as wheat or barley, which contain gluten. Therefore, it’s important to check the ingredients list or contact the manufacturer to determine if a specific brand or type of makgeolli is gluten-free. If you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and choose alcoholic beverages that are explicitly labeled as gluten-free or made from gluten-free ingredients.

2. Is Makgeolli Gluten Free

Yes the standard makgeolli is gluten free, but some brands use some wheat. Make sure to check the bottle label to make sure. 

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Did you learn how to make makgeolli? What are your best makgeolli brands? Why do you like Korean rice wine makgeolli? Let me know in the comment section below!

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1 Response

  1. Erica says:

    Hello! Thank you for the great information about Makgeolli! I am looking to buy Boksoondoga Makgeolli but can’t find it anywhere in the States. Do you know of any distributors in the USA?

    Thank you!

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