Measuring beloved Korean drink, from smooth to blackout

SEOUL (Reuters) - For hard-drinking Koreans, few combinations of alcohol have as strong a hold on their hearts as the popular local version of a boilermaker.

Woo Sang-taek, designer and seller of a new measuring cup, drinks alcohol as he demonstrates the use of the cup during a photo opportunity at his office in Seoul June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Truth Leem

Somaek, the mix of Korea’s national alcohol soju -- a distilled vodka-like liquor -- with beer, is a popular tipple for many who find straight soju too strong, but aren’t that keen on beer by itself.

As a result, one lively debate when Koreans gather to drink is the best ratio of the concoction. For some, pouring soju and beer into glasses is a chance to brag about their mixology skills and prime somaek combinations.

Others line up glasses and concentrate on mixing with all the intensity of a laboratory scientist.

But now, a new glass measuring cup takes the mystery out of making the concoction, allowing partiers to mix according to their favourite taste every time.

“One day, my daughter brought a beaker from her school. I started using it to not forget the golden ratio,” said Woo Sang-taek, the designer and seller of the cup which has markings for mixing and cartoon faces for each different combination.

The 39-year-old Woo, who says he loves somaek more than any other drink, decided to share his idea about the cup and since late last year has sold thousands online.

The cup provides guides for all possible permutations, from the 1:9 soju to beer mix described as “gentle and smooth” up to “Blackout” -- a 5:5 mix.

The golden ratio, according to Woo, is 3:7, which combines the alcohol from soju and carbonated fizz of beer.

The cup, which went on sale in December -- just in time for raucous year-end drinking parties -- has drawn a mixed response.

“As soon as I saw it online, I felt like going out to drink somaek right away. It is so tempting.” said Kim Myung-jin, a 26-year-old graduate student.

But others said the logical, metric approach could take all the fun out of drinking.

“If we use the measuring cup, there’s no human interaction and no fun stories about all the strange combinations people make,” said a 37-year old office worker Kim Tae-hyun.

But Woo said that the cup, which only costs 3,000 won, actually makes drinking more fun by providing guides to different somaek combinations.

“Everyone using this cup says it is so cool. It is out of stock now,” he added.

Editing by Elaine Lies