Màkku’s makgeolli is not the same. “Artificial flavors are non-existent in Màkku,” says Pak. “You’re supposed to taste the fresh ingredients.” Indeed, Màkku has an earthy richness which reveals an inimitable freshness.
Màkku is happily sweet but not cloying, and with an approachable 6% alcohol by volume, it’s a bit stronger than a beer. There is a tangy side to the Màkku, as well as an earthy, velvety side to the yogurt that balances it out. It exists in a version without added flavors, but flavored varieties (passion fruit, blueberry and mango) are more popular, made with pure cane sugar and fresh fruit purees. The purees give the normally white makgeolli different pastel hues that are highlighted when the drink is poured into a glass – something to watch out for if you decide not to drink it straight from the can.
Before founding Sool, the company that makes Màkku, Pak worked for Anheuser-Busch, the leader in the U.S. beer industry. The company would have him travel the world to identify trends in organic and fermented beverages. Pak says the job was a perfect fit for what she already does while traveling. “All I like is discovering cool bars. Every time I travel, I ask myself: what do they drink here? It wasn’t so much about the nightlife, but more about experiencing the drinking culture.
While visiting South Korea, friends took her to a makgeolli bar. Growing up in a Korean-American household in a predominantly Korean community in Flushing, Queens, Pak’s primary perception of makgeolli was that it was something older people enjoyed. The TV shows she watched showed grandparents sipping it while rambling about how makgeolli was the secret to living a long life.
So even though going to a makgeolli bar wasn’t on her itinerary, as a drinks connoisseur, she was intrigued. And this experience changed his life. It was in these bars that Pak realized “there was so much more to makgeolli”.
“I think it’s just not as important now because people don’t know about it,” she says. “It deserves a place in the market.”
She describes how, around 2010, sales of makgeolli began to decline in Korea, leading the Korean government to encourage consumers to drink the product so that the historic tradition would not die out. However, in recent years, young Koreans have been consuming it on their own, even devoting their careers to it. Pak estimates that the average age of a Korean makgeolli brewer is now around 30, about half of what it once was.