Soju Games

“I’m getting too old for this shit.” – Roger Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon

I thought I knew drinking culture. I guess I just don’t go out and party like I used to. Any time I hear about some drinking game or tradition, people respond, “What? You didn’t know that?”

Here are some little things people do in Korea when they drink soju.

The Elbow Tap

Before opening a chilled bottle of soju, hold it upside down and tap the bottom vigorously against your elbow. Don’t know why. Maybe to disturb sediments. Maybe to make it open easier.

Flick the Strip

It’s inevitable. Whenever one opens a bottle of soju, there is always a metal strip dangling off the cap. People at the table pass it around and try to flick off the strip. The person sitting to the left of the successful flicker has to drink a shot.

Lucky Number

After flicking the strip, the flicker looks at the bottom of the cap, where there is a number. Everyone takes turns guessing it. The flicker tells them if the number is higher or lower. You have to guess within the parameters. For example, if someone says, “Thirty,” and the flicker says, “Higher,” you can’t guess below thirty. The person who guesses the correct number has to drink.

I always lose these games.


Author: ZenKimchi

Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canadan, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan. Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide. He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.

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