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Is Korean Rice Wine (Makgeolli) Healthy?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Like drinking Korean alcoholic drinks like soju or makgeolli?

Korean rice wine (makgeolli) is known to be healthy as long as you drink it in moderation. Because it contains alcohol, drinking too much of it will be harmful.

Generally speaking, Korean rice wine (makgeolli) is made from rice, which comes with many health benefits such as anti-fatigue and anti-aging. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should be drinking it every day.

Even though Korean rice wine (makgeolli) isn’t as popular as soju, it’s still one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in South Korea.

Let’s get started.

Nutritional Facts about Korean Rice Wine

Korean rice wine, also known as makgeolli, can be beneficial when drunk once now and then. On average, there are about 50 calories per 100 ml in Korean rice wine, which isn’t a lot. Unlike many other drinks, rice wine is actually one of the lowest-calorie drinks.

This doesn’t still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t drink it every day. Some people think that drinking rice wine will make you fat.

However, because of the low amount of calories in rice wine, it won’t. You can drink a whole bottle of rice wine, and it still won’t make you gain weight. This is one of the reasons why Koreans even drink it in the mornings or afternoons.

So, you don’t have to worry about getting fat when drinking Korean rice wine. And the amount of sugar is also 0. There’s 0 sugar in rice wine, at least when we’re talking about makgeolli.

There are many different types of rice wines, but when we’re talking about the specific Korean rice wine, then there are 0 grams of sugar.

This makes Korean rice wine one of the healthier alcoholic beverages to drink. And eating it with samgyeopsal or bulgogi on the side makes it even better.

Makgeolli Benefits

Makgeolli (막걸리) comes with many benefits. I mean… it’s way better than drinking alcoholic beverages like whiskey or beer.

The health benefits of Korean rice wine are:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Helps digestion
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Boosts the circulatory system
  • Fights fatigue

With such benefits, it’s almost a no-brainer to drink Korean rice wine over any other drink. Now, if you really want to experience the best of the best, then it’s recommended to go to a traditional Korean makgeolli brewer.

These are often based in the countryside of South Korea. However, when you have the chance to taste freshly brewed makgeolli, it’ll change your whole outlook on drinking rice wine.

Also, with such a low percentage of alcohol in makgeolli, it’s considered to be healthier than the average drink. Makgeolli contains about 5 to 6% of alcohol, which is a lot lower than drinks like soju, for example.

Studies have even shown that drinking makgeolli is great for improving skin conditions.

A study done by Sang-Jin Lee shows that Korean skincare products that contain rice liquor improved skin condition in the short run. [1]

However, when we look at this long-term, there’s no evidence backing this up, so it’s something to take with a grain of salt.

The study shows that it helps with wrinkles, inflammation, and whitening of the skin. But because this study was done in 2013, it’s something to be cautious about.

How To Drink Korean Rice Wine

Drinking Korean rice wine should always be done from a bowl. The Korean rice wine or Makgeolli is always served cold, and sometimes it’s even served frozen.

People drink this using the traditional way, which is using a bowl. Why do they use a bowl, you might be asking?

This goes back thousands of years when their ancestors drank makgeolli with a bowl. The main reason why people drink makgeolli from a bowl is that it tends to split out the white fraction and fall to the bottom. 

It’s basically a way of showing respect. 

So, whenever you’re at a restaurant. Do not drink makgeolli from a glass or cup. This will be seen as disrespectful, and as a guest in South Korea, you don’t want to show any signs of that.

If you’re drinking it by yourself, then it doesn’t really matter. I’ve seen people drink Korean rice wine straight from the bottle like soju. And if you can’t drink the whole bottle at once, then you can put the Korean rice wine in the refrigerator.

Normally, it tends to stay good for a few months when unopened. But when you’ve opened the bottle, it’s best to drink it within 3 to 5 days.

Otherwise, it can get very thick and sour, which isn’t very tasteful.

Final Thoughts

After all, Korean rice wine is known to be very healthy as long as you don’t drink too much of it. It’s not as strong as soju, but it is more expensive. 

On average, a bottle of makgeolli costs anywhere from $5 up to $75, depending on the brand.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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