OWL Magazine Korea

Low-Alcohol Traditional Liquor ‘Jeonju Moju’

Moju is a type of takju, a traditional Korean rice wine, made from makgeolli. It’s classified as an alcoholic beverage, but it has a very low alcohol content, approximately around 1%, making it a drink with minimal alcohol.

Especially in the Jeonju region of Jeolla Province, ingredients like jujube, ginger, and cinnamon are added to create a dark-colored, strongly aromatic moju with a taste resembling a blend of makgeolli and crystal sugar. The color is dark brown like brown sugar, and the taste can vary slightly from store to store.

“Low-Alcohol Traditional Liquor, Moju (母酒)”

Due to its low alcohol content, it’s common to consume moju as a hangover cure after having a hearty soup. The name ‘Moju’ is derived from the Chinese character “母” meaning ‘mother.’ There are a few theories regarding the origin of the name.

One theory suggests that it’s named ‘Moju’ out of a mother’s concern for her son who enjoys drinking. She creates a drink with beneficial medicinal herbs, making it sweet in taste and very weak in alcohol content. Another theory is connected to ‘Gwangsan Bubuin Noshi,’ the mother of Inmokdaebi who was exiled to Jeju Island. She made and sold a drink called ‘Daebi Moju’ (大妃母酒) to sustain herself, and over time, the ‘Daebi’ part was dropped, leaving just ‘Moju.’

There’s also a tale that Inmokdaebi, while in Seoul, filtered cheongju (clear rice wine) for sale, which became very popular. To meet the demand, they started making a simplified version by squeezing out the residue, and this eventually became makgeolli. Even so, customers continued to ask for the residue, leading to the creation of moju.

In addition, a dish prepared by mixing water and ingredients in the same way as making biji-jjigae (a type of stew), then boiling it until hot, is also referred to as moju.

“Making Jeonju Moju”

The process of making moju isn’t overly complicated, and it’s something that people occasionally do at home. It’s said that older residents of Jeonju sometimes made and enjoyed it at home.

  • Essential Ingredients: 1-2kg of makgeolli lees or 1.5L of makgeolli, 2-3 tablespoons of fruit syrup, cinnamon, licorice, jujube, brown sugar.
  • Optional Ingredients: omija (magnolia berry), burdock (greater burdock root), ginger.

Here’s how you make it using the above ingredients:

  1. If using makgeolli lees, add an equal amount of water and let it ferment for an additional 2 days. If using makgeolli, proceed directly to step 2.
  2. Strain the mixture once to remove any residue, then add other ingredients and boil for 40 minutes.
  3. Adjust the taste with sugar, and let it cool.

Moju pairs particularly well with kongnamul gukbap (bean sprout rice soup). It’s been a tradition in Jeonju to enjoy a hot serving of moju after drinking, along with kongnamul gukbap, the day after.

Thanks to this, most restaurants serving kongnamul gukbap offer moju as an accompaniment, so even if you don’t visit Jeonju, you can still try this drink in restaurants serving Jeonju-style kongnamul gukbap in other regions.

However, due to its prevalence in Jeonju, moju with low alcohol content is a traditional drink that you should definitely try when visiting the city.