Even though travel is basically at a standstill these days that doesn't mean you can't enjoy cultural influences and cuisines in your own home. From docuseries and reality shows filmed around the world to virtual cooking classes, there are many ways to mentally step outside your own backyard and be transported somewhere new.
If you've never been to or considered Korea as a travel destination, here's an easy and fun way to expand your horizons. Korean cuisine is interesting and tasty, and the country's drinks are no exception.
Until you can eat and drink like a local in Seoul, recreating these nine juices, coffees, teas and cocktails in the comfort of your own home might be just the thing to inspire some travel planning for when the time is right.
For centuries, citron tea (also known as yuja-cha) has been used by Koreans to ease colds and cases of flu and, in recent years, it's become common to see it on menus in Canada and the U.S. The drink is made from thinly sliced yuzu fruit, which tastes like a hybrid of grapefruit and mandarin orange.
While you can't readily buy yuzu in most Canadian supermarkets, Korean grocery stores sometimes stock the sweet citrus fruit so you can easily create citrus tea at home and enjoy it anytime.
Yuzu can also be found in ready-made preserve form at several stores online or in Asian grocery stores. Just stir a couple of spoonfuls into hot water (add ice for a summery alternative) and enjoy.
If you love to save time, you'll appreciate misutgaru. This filling drink is like cereal crossed with an iced latté. What's great is its versatility — you can pick and choose different grain, bean and nut combos to suit your personal taste and preferences.
Many misutgaru blends include things like rice, barley, soybeans, sesame seeds and millet and are easy to find online when you search for "mixed grain powder". To make your own misutgaru all you need to add is ice, your milk of choice and a sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Make it like a latté with hot or cold milk, or throw everything in your blender just before you head out the door for the ultimate convenience.
Soju is Korea's most loved and consumed alcohol and is considered to be the country's national drink. This colourless and clear liquor is sweet, yet bitter, and often compared to vodka, though with a lower alcohol percentage (around 13%).
Soju is delicious on its own (you can find it in bottles at liquor stores across Canada), but add a little bit of mint, lime and fruit for a Korean twist on the classic mojito.
To make a soju mojito, take a sprig of perilla or mint leaves, one ounce of lime juice or half a sliced lime, and one ounce of fresh fruit (or if you're feeling lazy, just fruit juice) and place in a glass. Crush with a muddler and add one ounce of simple syrup. Fill the glass with ice, pour in two ounces of soju and top it all up with seltzer. Garnish with a perilla or mint leaf and berries and enjoy.
You've undoubtedly heard, seen and maybe even tasted dalgona coffee during lockdown 1.0, but did you know that the drink actually comes from Korea? The name "dalgona" comes from an old-fashioned Korean street snack that tastes similar to honeycomb. The origins of the drink are mysterious but it gained popularity (and its name) after Korean actor Il-woo Jung ordered it during a television show. It took off on social media not long after, and it's easy to see why.
To make this fluffy, creamy goodness yourself, get a medium bowl and, with a hand mixer or whisk, mix up two tablespoons each of sugar, instant coffee and water and keep mixing until the mixture is shiny, smooth and thick. It should be foamy at this point. Add milk and ice to a glass, filling it most of the way, and swirl the coffee mixture on top.
Then sit back and sip on your dalgona coffee while you plan your next big trip and imagine yourself people watching from in a café in Seoul.
The Korean obsession with banana-flavoured milk came about, the story goes, following a government campaign to get Koreans to drink more milk. They didn't like the plain taste, but couldn't get enough of the banana flavour. The iconic banana-flavoured milk is still produced by Bingrae over 40 years later and is even used in creative drinks like banana milk lattés.
You can find banana milk in Asian groceries, or you can make your own at home using a recipe like this one from My Korean Kitchen: Add a chopped ripe banana, half a cup of water, half a cup of milk, one tablespoon of maple syrup or honey, and a dash of pure vanilla extract.
Blend until you get a smooth, milky consistency. It's best to drink up right away, but you can refrigerate this for up to two days — just be sure to shake very well as it tends to separate easily.
Somaek (Soju Bomb)
Where the soju mojito is perfect for sipping on a sunny afternoon, somaek (aka Soju Bomb), is for when you're ready to get the party started! This drink combines beer and soju a real flavour experience - but what really makes somaek is the eye-catching drinking ritual.
To make it, pour three and a half ounces of a light beer into a pint glass (Korean Cass Fresh or Hite are perfect, if you can find them). Add one and a half ounces of soju to a shot glass. Place two chopsticks on top of the pint and the shot glass on top of the chopsticks. Now comes the fun part: slam your hands down on either side of the glass to drop the shot in. Enjoy!
Maesil Cha, or plum tea, is a popular Korean tea that is said to aid with digestion and detoxing. It's made by diluting a Korean green plum concentrated syrup and can be made hot or cold. Many people find the iced version refreshing on a hot day: Just add two tablespoons of Korean plum extract and three ice cubes to a glass. Pour a half-cup of water over it and enjoy.
Korean Strawberry Milk
Wash and remove the stems of about five ounces of fresh strawberries. Dice the strawberries into small pieces or mash with your hands or a potato masher. Put the strawberries into a medium bowl, add two and a half ounces of sugar and mix well. Cover and chill in the fridge for one to two hours.
Once ready, to each glass, add four tablespoons of strawberry syrup mixture and pour over two cups of milk of your choice (many recipes use full cream) and stir well. Add a couple of ice cubes and throw it in a fancy glass, and it's the perfect refreshing drink to enjoy on your patio or balcony on a spring afternoon.
Yogurt Soju Cocktail
Yogurt soju cocktails are super popular throughout Korea and Asia, available pre-mixed in bottles or on menus in bars. Assi yogurt is very similar to other one-shot probiotic drinks you've seen before, and you can find it in Asian groceries if you're keen to try this creamy, fizzy cocktail at home.
In a stainless steel cocktail shaker, add three ounces of soju and three ounces of a plain or flavoured Asian yogurt drink (if you can't find this, you could try Yakult or similar). Shake it up until the ingredients are mixed well and chilled, then stir in three ounces of lemon-lime soda (or use a combination) and strain into a glass.
If you want to get real fancy, you can even find soju in flavours like peach and apple.
And that's just nine delicious Korean drinks from a countless menu, and not including the delicious snacks that would go alongside - like if you visited a traditional Korean tea house.
KOREA'S TRADITIONAL TEA HOUSE www.youtube.com
Until you can hop on a plane and experience authentic, foamy dalgona coffee, creamy banana milk or an epic train of traditional soju bombs in person, you can soothe your wanderlust by creating your drink of choice at home and planning your future trip with the help of the Korean Tourism Organization. From info on Korea's delicious food culture to virtual tours of Seoul at night, they have everything you need to inspire and plan for your journey to this thoroughly modern country with its deep connection to their traditional culture.
To find out more about visiting Korea when travel restrictions lift, check out the Korean Tourism Organization website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Narcity does not condone the overconsumption of alcohol. If you are going to drink alcohol, please do so responsibly and only if you're of legal age.
Before you get going, check our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.