Korean culture is no stranger to us Filipinos. While not everyone is into it, many of us, for sure, are familiar with K-dramas and K-pop songs. In 2017, around 19 K-pop concerts took place in the Philippines: that is as frequent as typhoons visit our country every year. As the Korean culture conquers the country by storm, the desire among Filipinos to authentically experience it in its native South Korea grows. Korea Tourism Organization's data reveals that 220,771 Filipinos visited South Korea for tourism last year, making the Philippines among the top ten countries where international visitors are coming from.
Enculturation or the process of learning the surrounding culture has many means. Perhaps, the easiest among these is through food or drinking. Understanding that we love both, the folks at HiteJinro, the company behind the world's best-selling liquor in the world, Jinro, recently brought us to a pub crawl in Poblacion, Makati City to experience the Korean culture by exploring the many possibilities that can be done with Jinro Light.
Jinro, as many of us already know, is soju, a clear, colorless beverage in South Korea. While it is not widely consumed across the globe, particularly in the beer-drinking Philippines, South Koreans are the heaviest alcohol drinkers in Asia, and that helps in making Jinro a best-seller worldwide. World Bank's 2015 data reveals that South Koreans over the age of 15 consume an average of 10.9 liters of alcohol per year. Shamefully (=P), Filipinos' alcohol consumption is just about half of the Koreans'.
The most familiar iteration of Jinro among us, apart from Chamisul (the one easily seen in convenient stores), is Jinro 24. As what its name suggests, Jinro 24 boasts 24% alcohol by volume (ABV). As the drink is recommended to be consumed along with barbecue or grilled meat dishes, it must be the reason we started our pub crawl with a samgyeopsal dinner at Min Sok Restaurant in Poblacion. But the real star of the night was the new Jinro Light. We took a pure shot of both Jinro variants, and we noticed that Jinro Light is milder than Jinro 24. With 17% ABV, Jinro Light is targeted toward a young demographic.
From Min Sok, we headed to Z Hostel. According to our host Isa Rodriguez, Z Hostel is among the establishments that paved the way of making Poblacion into a night life destination. The bar at the hostel's roofdeck, which offers a cool view of city's skyline, makes a perfect spot to try out Jinro Light in its different implementations.
The first of which is the bomb drink (poktanju) wherein a shot glass of soju is dropped into a larger glass of beer, then it is gulped quickly. The HiteJinro team also introduced to us Titanic, a Korean drinking game wherein a small group of people should attempt to keep a shot glass floating inside a regular glass of beer. Each member of the group take turns in pouring small portions of soju in the shot glass until it sinks, resulting in a cocktail called somaek (soju + maekju or beer in Korean). The (un)fortunate fella who sank the shot glass must drink the somaek quickly.
Our next stops were Fyre Rooftop Lounge and Run Rabbit Run where we tried the sweeter, more wholesome cocktails of Jinro Light. Fyre poured strawberry and mango slush into our Jinro tumblers. Apparently, fruity slush with soju is popular among Koreans. There was also Jinro Light mixed with Yakult. In Run Rabbit Run, we got a chance to have Curious Dream, a classier cocktail with Jinro Light. Our pub crawl concluded at Dulo MNL, described by some as the ultimate hangout for millennials, the appropriate target market of Jinro Light.
While the Philippines is primarily a beer country with gin as the second most consumed liquor, it is not hard for us to assimilate soju into our culture, just as how many of us wholeheartedly accepted Korean food, K-drama, and K-pop music. With HiteJinro, the entity behind Jinro, targeting young Filipinos through Jinro Light, are we going to see a generation of soju drinkers who will change the drinking culture in the Philippines? Only time will tell. For the meantime, let us have a toast for the arrival of Jinro Light in the country.
Jinro Light is now available in Puregold, S&R, and other major supermarkets nationwide at a suggested retail price of PhP 195. Follow @hitejinroph on Facebook and @jinrolightsoju on Instagram for more information.