I’d never heard of bokbunjaju, Korean black raspberry wine, before I chanced upon being able to buy it along with the soju and makgeolli; with the idea of a couple of blog posts already quickly forming in my head, it seemed silly not to give it a go as well. After the mixed reviews of the other drinks from my associate tasters (namely my partner and my father), I had high hopes for this last one.
Bokbunjaju is made by steeping fruit in strong clear alcohol. Technically a liqueur rather than a true wine, this drink uses the black raspberry that is also used in the French liqueur Chambord. It’s one of numerous fruit-based drinks found in Korea, and is one of the most common, along with maesilju that is made with pale Asian plums. While soju and makgeolli are everyday drinks, bokbunja ju and other fruit wines are often preferred for special occasions or as a means of enjoying the medicinal properties of the fruit. Bokbunjaju is, perhaps unusually for a fruity drink, associated with virility. The drink is mostly produced in Southwestern South Korea and the nearby island of Jeju. This area is the most popular honeymoon destination for South Korean newlyweds and so bokbunjaju has become the drink of choice for these couples looking to capitalise on its alleged properties.
Dark red in colour, bokbunjaju has a rich smell of red fruits – far more inviting than sour makgeolli or the ethanol aroma of soju. And it tastes much like you might expect: sweet and of raspberries. Unlike other Western fruit liqueurs such as sloe gin or indeed Chambord, it is not oversweet and has a dry aftertaste that makes it much better to drink on its own rather than in a mixed drink. Although traditionally sipped chilled from a small glass with a meal, I’d quite happily drizzle it over ice cream and a chocolatey pudding as well. I’m glad I tried the drinks in the order I did, ending on a high note with something that I think can be enjoyed by most: if I were a hosting a Korean-inspired dinner party, I’d certainly want bokbunjaju on hand to drink with dessert.