Alcoholic Drinks Of Asia Cultural Studies Essay

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What is alcohol? Alcohol is obtained from the fermentation of grains, barley and other plants. The yeast in these plants changes the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are many types of alcoholic drinks in the world. Some date back to ancient times which are passed down from generation to generation. Now, we would like to focus on the alcoholic drinks production in Asia, especially South East Asia. The countries we are going to focus on are Japan, China and South Korea. First of all, we are going to introduce the types of alcoholic drinks of the three countries. Secondly, we would explain the types of famous alcoholic drinks in these countries. The most famous alcoholic drinks in these three countries are usually wines, liquors and beer.


The objective of our assignment is to introduce the alcoholic drinks of Japan, China and South Korea to the public. What are the brands and products famous for alcoholic drinks in these countries and the emergence of the alcoholic product in these countries? We are also identifying the alcoholic drinks that are currently famous in the world that originate from these countries.

Alcoholic beverages in Japan

In Japanese society, drinking play an important role which is a common activity that is used to strengthen social and business ties. Typically, Japanese are drinking at bars, restaurants or izakaya, a type of Japanese drinking establishment. There are few type of alcoholic beverages in Japan, which are Japanese beer, shochu, awamori, umeshu, sake / nihonshu, and wine.

Japanese Beer

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. The leading breweries are Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo.

In the early Meiji Period, the brewers from Germany arrived. They imported the art of brewing beer as a development project for the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan.

Due to the Japanese taxation system, it divided beer-like beverages into few categories based on malt content. The varieties of brewed malt beverages in Japan are categorized into 2 groups, which are beer and happoshu. An alcoholic beverage contain at least 67% malt is classified as beer in Japan.

Happoshu is sparkling alcoholic beverage, also known as low malt beer, which contains less than 67% malt. It has a similar flavor and alcohol content as beer. The different is it made with less malt, and it gives a lighter taste. Today, most of the happoshu contains less than 25% malt. This is putting it in the lowest tax category of low malt beer to sell at a lower price.

The third beer is a beer-like beverage which contains no malt, and made from soybeans, corn, and other ingredients. It is made by Japanese breweries to produce even lower taxed. They are counter the tax changes that reclassified the malt content of beer and the price of happoshu is increase.


Shochu is a traditional Japanese distilled spirit with alcohol content between 25% - 30%. In the old time, Kyushu island a southwest island of Japan, was difficult to make good sake under its warm climate. In 16th century, a spirit and distilling method were indroduced in Kyushu island from Ryukyu (Okinawa) and Asia through the trading.

Shochu made from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and brown sugar. It can be drink straight, on the rock, mixing with water, hot water, tea or soft drink. Takara shochu is one of the brands that can found in Malaysia.


Awamori is Okinawa style spirit with alcohol content between 25% - 40%. It was imported to Japan and China and loved for its unique taste. Awamori and its method of production were introduced to Kyushu and it was the origin of Kyushu style spirit shochu. The different is it is made from long grained Thai-style rice instead of short grained Japanese-style rice. It also can be drink straight, on the rock, mixing with water, hot water, tea or soft drink.


Umeshu is plum wine which is made from Japanese plum, sugar, and shochu or nihonshu. It has sweet, fruity, juice-like flavor and aroma. It is usually served on the rocks, mixed with soda, or as an umeshu sawa (plum sour). One of the brand that you can easily found in Malaysia is Choya.

Sake / Nihonshu

Sake or nihonshu is the traditional rice wine in Japan. It is drunk either hot or cold. It comes in several different varieties, and was first made at least 2,000 years ago. Since then, sake has played an important role in Japanese culture and history.

Sake is brewed using rice, water and white koji mold as the main ingredient. Sake is produced by the multiple parallel fermentation of rice. The basic process of making sake involves polishing or milling the rice kernels. Rice kennels were cooked in good and clean water, and made into a mash. The alcohol content for undiluted sake is 18-20%, and it is often lowered to around 15% by diluting the sake with water prior to bottling.

There are three types of tokutei meisho-shu, which is special designation sake. First is honjozo-shu. Honjozo-shu is premium sake which is added a slight amount of brewer's alcohol before pressing. It is extract extra flavor and aroma from the mash. Secondly, there is junmai-shu. Junmai-shu is pure rice sake. It is made from only rice, water and koji, which is steamed rice that has koji-kin, or koji mold spores, cultivated onto it.

Thirdly is ginjo-shu, which is made from rice polished to 60% or less of its original weight.

There are many more types of sake due to the different handling after fermentation. Below are five examples of sake:

Namazake is sake that has not been pasteurized.

Genshu is undiluted sake.

Taruzake is sake aged in wooden barrels.

Seishu is clear or clean sake.

Nigorisake is cloudy sake.

Sake is drunk either hot or cold. It is served at various temperatures depending on which food or which situation you are in.


Hot sake (around 50°C)


Warm sake (around 40°C)


Lukewarm sake (around 35°C)


Sake served at room temperature


Chilled sake (5°C to 8°C)


Hot or warm sake

Here is some brands that can be found in Malaysia, which are Kiku-Masamune, Nihonsakari, Hakutsuru, Morita Nenohi, Ishinokurakara, and Iichiko.

The emergence of Japanese Alcoholic Products

In recent years, Japanese alcoholic products are getting easier to find in other countries. Shochu, awamori, umeshu are also become popular in other countries in this few years. In Malaysia, you can drink these Japanese alcoholic products not only in Japanese restaurant, and also can found these in wine shops.

Not only that, sake also became more popular widely from young to old, women and men. Today, sake has become a world beverage with a few breweries springing up in China, Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and Australia. There are more people in the world drinking sake and the quality of sake has been increasing.

The emergence of Asian alcoholic product (China)

Beer in China

Among the type of liquor beverage in China, beer is the most popular liquor beverage in China with largest number of consumers. Compared with other alcoholic beverages, beer has the lowest alcohol content of about between 2.5 to 7.5%. Factor that causes the high demand of beer in China due to the price of one can or one bottle of beer is cheaper than other. Also the climate at China is cold, and then need to drink alcohol to warm their body. When reach the modern times, beer had rapid development in China. At present, the annual output of beer is ranks second in the world.

This table show that the brand of the beer and the location of production of the beer



Location of production


Harbin Beer



Reeb Beer



Snow Beer


Tsingtao Beer



Yanjing Beer



Zhujiang Beer


Last time, most of the beer in China is product by the westerner people due to they want sell the beer to the westerner peoples at China and also a group of amount of Chinese people at that time. For example, the Harbin Beer is founded by Russian people at Harbin at 1900. Also, the Tsingtao Beer is founded by German settlers in 1903.

Nowadays, the most famous beer in China is Tsingtao Beer that product in the city of Qingdao. Furthermore, every years in the city of Qingdao will having an annual beer festival held offering visitors to give them an opportunity to enjoy the fragrant taste of the Tsingtao.

Wine in China

China is now the seventh largest wine producing country in the world, ahead of Germany, South Africa, Portugal and Chile. Also China is the top wine producing country in Asia follow by Japan and India. Other than use grape to brew wine, it also use other material to brew like sorghum, millet, rice and fruit such as Lychee and Asian pulm. The fruit wine usually has a very low alcohol content of 7% to 8%.

Most of the China vineyards are in cool-climate zones with the temperature 3 C in winter and 26 C in summer. There are 360 wineries in China with over 100 in the Shandong province alone, but most of them are in small facilities. Other wineries and vineyards in China such as Yantai, Qingdao, Dynasty, Qinhuangdao and more.

In China, they use varies types of grape varieties to brew wine such as Beichun, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Chardonnay, Chasan, Chenin Blanc, Cook's Heart, Dragon Eye (Longyan), Gamay, Gewurztraminer, Mare's Nipple, Marsanne, Muscat d'Hambourg, Muscat a Petits Grains, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Syrah and Welschriesling. Example of the brand of wine that product in China are Dragon Seal, Great Wall, Grand Dragon and more.

Furthermore, Chinese people divide the functions of wine to three main categories example like to cure diseases, for longevity and for practice of etiquette. Also, it show that the level in the society.

The region and the produces in China

Beijing Friendship Winery

Pernod- Ricard's joint venture makes 40,000 cases of white dragon Seal, using blended French and Chinese grapes.

Hua Dong Winery

The company partly owned by Hiram Walker and is associated with Shandong Peninsula's Qingdao state winery. Australian consultants have helped set up the venture, including an experimental Chardonnay vineyard. The best well know export product is white Tsingtao brand wines.

Remy Martin

The first modern- style Chinese white wine was Great Wall, made in 1978 in the conjunction with the Tianjin Farm Bureau. This venture now produces 120,000cases of Dynasty (red and white), for home and export markets. Imperial Court, a traditional- method sparkling white using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Petit Meunier and Ugni Blanc is produced at a winery near Shanghai.

Other alcohol beverage product

The national alcohol in China

The national alcohol in China is the famous distilled spirits Moutai. It was produced by Chinese in the year of B.C. 135 with over 2100 year's history. The alcohol content of the liquor reaches 53 degrees. It won the golden medal in 1915 at the Panama Exposition and it becomes one of three famous distilled spirits in the world. In 2000, Moutai was collected by the China National History Museum as a historic witness and cultural symbolization. Also, this spirits always give by the Ministry of the China to leader from other country as a gift when have diplomacy.


In few decades, China wine and beer producing is successful. It not only had high demand in local (China) and also export to overseas country. For example like Asia country, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and more.

SOUTH KOREA Alcoholic Drinks

How did it start?

The history of South Korea wines and liquors started thousands of years ago. Since then, it has become popular not only among the locals but also international citizen who enjoy a good alcohol drink. The earliest alcoholic beverage in South Korea happened when the people discovered the natural fermentation of fruits and grains. The Koreans has created a variety of unique and special alcohols from rice malt. The method is that the grains are pasted with water then fermented. 'Makgeolli' is one of the oldest rice wine made from non-glutinous rice and glutinous rice with malted wheat. It is milky in colour.

Traditional Wines and Liquors

Korean wines and liquors are known locally for their medical benefits rather than their alcoholic contents. In recent years, their sales have been growing rapidly. In the domestic market, countless of traditional wines and liquors are being mass produced because it yield a profit of millions of dollars. Over 600 kinds of brewing techniques have been past down from generation after generation such as fermented, distilled and compound alcoholic drinks with 150 varieties.

They are acknowledged for medicinal effects because most of them are made from grains and herbal ingredients which are famous for smoothing the circulation of blood, relief of fatigue, improvement of appetite and cure diseases like arthritis and kidney disorder. Example is the 'Insamju' which is a ginseng wine. It is effective for people with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Currently, there are 100 local companies which are mass producing 150 kinds of traditional wines and liquors to support the large market. Among them, one of the famous wine is the 'Bekseju 'which is brewed with glutinous rice, yeast and more than 10 medical herbs is having a fairly high sale because of it medicinal benefits.

In conjunction with this robust growth of sales in Korean wines and liquors, the government has decided to host a Korean Traditional Drinks Festival which is located in Jeonju, 250 kilometres from Seoul. During the festival, around 100 types of traditional wines and liquors were on displayed, including their brewing techniques.

Categories of Wines and Liquors

The traditional wines and liquors are divided into 5 categories. First of all, the 'yakju' is refined pure liquor fermented from rice. It is also known as 'cheongju'. Cheongju means clear wine or clear liquor. It has an alcohol content of 15% to 20%. Secondly we have 'soju'. Soju is distilled hard liquor from grains or potatoes. It is actually distilled from 'yakju'. It is currently known as the most well-liked traditional Korean liquor among the common public. During the olden days, soju was actually brewed from grains, but today it is mass produced mainly from sweet potatoes. Now, the companies have evolved soju to suit the market. Younger generation prefer low alcohol content and sweet alcoholic drinks. Therefore, we have soju that are flavoured with fruits like apple, lemon and peach. Besides that, soju is also used in mixed drinks and alcoholic punches. Stronger soju are more popular among the older generation. Its alcohol content can range from 25% to 35%. Thirdly there is the 'takju' which is a thick unrefined liquor fermented from grains. Others are like fruit wines and medicinal wines.

The Naju Pear Wine is a wine that is made from the best quality pear with 100% pure pear juice without addition of water. Another fruit wine is the Bokbunja wine which is made from fermenting wild berries. It is known to be good for the kidneys.

South Korea also manufacture flower wines from scented flowers such as the chrysanthemums, peach blossoms, honeysuckles, wild roses and berries.

Emergence of Wines and Liquors

Throughout 2009, there was a great sale of beer and soju. Target market such as young generation and female customers in urban areas contributed to this sale. The people preferred lower priced but high alcohol content local alcoholic drinks like soju and takju because of the economic recession and increasing prices of items. Low alcoholic drinks with flavours are the favourite female buyers.

Currently taking women by storm, especially Japanese women are the traditional Korean rice wine, Makgeolli. It is popular among females because of its rich and sweeter taste and beauty and health benefits. Besides that, it also has low alcohol content, from 6% to 7% which means fewer calories. Moreover, there is also the popularity of South Korean items all around the world and the increase consciousness of the public towards health which create a strong demand for healthy low alcohol drinks. To meet this market, Makgeolli is now manufactured into many types such as mandarin orange and grape flavours. There are also Makgeolli base cocktails.

Health Benefits of Wines and Liquors

Here are some of the advantageous functions of traditional Korean alcohols to a human's overall health.

Preventing heart diseases

Preventing cohesion of blood

Reduce stress

It is alkaline, which mean that it has high level of vitamins and essential amino acids

Well fermented traditional alcohol does not give one headaches or hangovers

Beer in South Korea

Furthermore, besides being famous for their traditional wines and liquors, South Korea also produces beer. This process started when beer was introduced by the Western in South Korea. South Korea has two big beer producing companies which are competitors with each other. There are the Oriental Brewery (OB) and the Hite Brewery Company Limited.

Oriental Brewery (OB)

First of all, let's talk about Oriental Brewery. It was established by the Doosan Group in 1952.

The many brands of Oriental Brewery:

OB Lager - this is serve as a draft in many places in South Korea

Cass Lager - one of the best selling beers in South Korea - also famous as a draft in pubs and clubs

Cass Ice Light

Cass X2

OB Light

Cass Red

Cafri - a close resemblance to a Corona

Hite Brewery Company Limited

Next, we have the Hite Brewery Company Limited. Its brewery is based in Seoul. The main product of the Hite Brewery is rice wine and beer. Its most competitive rival is the Oriental Brewery.

The many brands of Hite Brewery:

Hite - lager - also serve as a draft all around South Korea

Prime Max - more expensive than Hite

Hite Stout - dark bitter beer - lost its popularity due to other products

Exfeel S - is a light beer suitable for young drinkers

Hite Soju


Thus, now we know more about the emergence of alcoholic drinks in Asia, especially Japan, China and South Korea. The demand of their alcoholic drinks is gradually increasing and may one day be very famous and sought after products in the world. So, people should take initiative to learn more about these products because it may someday be useful to us.