A legal loophole may never be as sweet as a cocktail made of soju. The clear liquor, which can be made of rice, barley, or sweet potatoes, is backdoor vodka, a distilled spirit that can contain as much as 24% alcohol by volume, but can be sold by any establishment with just a beer and wine license.
The exception for soju was added into the law in 1999 by California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control after a successful lobbying effort by Korean restaurant owners who argued that the liquor was the "social and national" drink of the Korean community. But because of soju's versatility (not to mention profitability), it hasn't just been Korean restaurants who have taken advantage of the exception. Ramos House serves a Soju Bloody Mary. Citrus Cafe, a place that offers not even a hint of kimchi, makes its margaritas with soju.
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But soju is soju. It's still not vodka, which is usually about 40% alcohol by volume. Yet soju is so light in flavor, so neutral, that a soju screwdriver I had once might as well have been a vodka screwdriver. The same goes for the soju cocktails at the new TruSushi 'n Fish Beer & Sake Bar. They take on a myriad of fanciful names such as Dream Machine, Juicy Fruit, and Mango Tango, and are poured in into glasses tall, squat and curvy, if you didn't know any better, these might as well be bonafide vodka cocktails.The full spectrum of colors are represented by all five on offer.
The Crazy Rock might just be the perfect thing to drink with nigiri and rolls. It's a two-toned drink made with lemonade and soju, served in a champagne flute, and garnished with not one but two maraschino cherries. It doesn't taste like lemonade nor soju, but something like a weakly alcoholic energy drink, somehow effervescent without being fizzy. It goes down far too easily and probably might cost just as much if it were made of vodka...which is inarguably its true genius.
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