Koreans are famous worldwide for their drinking habits. You will often find Koreans staggering, getting into fistfights, or giving each other hugs in bars, on the street or even in the office. Koreans drink a lot, especially when their boss drinks, whether they want to or not and the same is generally true for expats and their Korean bosses.
The drinks of choice for most Koreans (and expats, by default) are meakju (beer), soju (a type of Korean sake) and makoli (a white, often carbonated, rice wine that is often drunk from bowls). You can find any of these drinks at convenience stores, and beer and soju are the most popular drinks at Korean bars. You often find the best makoli at Korean Pancake restaurants, as the two go well together. Interestingly enough, you can also find plenty of makoli on the tops of Korean mountains, where local hikers enjoy celebrating their hike by drinking it in small paper cups.
Korean beer, while cheap and plentiful, is not popular among the expat community. The two biggest brands of beer in Seoul are Hite and Cass. However, foreigners often complain about the taste and the after affects of drinking Korean beer. Imported beer is readily available, however it is much more expensive.
Soju is mild tasting, most similar to vodka as far as flavour goes, and is very popular in “soju cocktails” or “kettles” combined with various fruit juices. Again, many expats complain about the after affects of drinking this liquor.
You can find a decent selection of wine at any Homeplus, Emart or LotteMart (See the Hyper/Supermarket section for details), as well as international beers and whiskey. Often on the weekends there are wine tastings at Emart. Wine bars are becoming increasingly popular, and it is also quite easy to get non-specialty wine at just about any convenience store.
Korean wines are the flavour and consistency of an ice wine, or dessert wine, and are worth trying. In particular, Korean blackberry wine is very popular. Recently they have begun making Cabernet Savignon which is a huge improvement in the dry wine sector. Prior to this you could only get Jinro, which is a sweet table wine.
Specialty wine shops located in Seoul
Tour du Vin is located in the French area of Seocho-dong, Sorae village. They sell international wines as well as cheese and deli meats. To find this shop, take subway line seven to Banpo Station and, from there, find Sorae-ro. The French area is located by a stream and the Palace Hotel is located close to the wine shop. Hour of operation are: 10:30 AM to 1 AM. You can buy a bottle of wine or have a glass in the shop.
Ritz Deli is on the first floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel and is open from 10 AM to 10 PM every day. They have a large selection of baked goods, deli items and international wines. To get there, take subway line number two to Yeoksam Station. The Ritz Carlton is about five minutes from the station by foot.
Wineara VINWINI is another wine shop located in the French area of Sorae Village. This shop carries over four hundred types of wine and a sommelier is available to help you with your purchases. This shop also sells cheese and pastries.
VinoVino located in Song-pa near Olympic park. They specialize in Italian wines and you can also get traditional pannini sandwiches and pretty decent cappuccino.
Copan Vine is located in the Ichon-dong area (on the main road across from Dos Tacos). The have been selling delicious wines from all over the world for ten years. You can drink there or take out. Prices are reasonable and the owner is very personable. It is hard to get to from the subway but you can get there quite easily by taking bus 149. Go out of the subway station (line four, exit four). Walk straight until you get to the main road (7-11 will be across the street on the corner). Cross the street and wait in front of the 7-11 for the bus 149. Get off at the hospital. You can also take a taxi to Ichondong. It will be near the entrance to the main road, just after the highway.