Soju is like sake with a bite. A clear, bitter Korean liquor distilled from rice, it is best quaffed from a shot glass and accompanied with Korean appetizers like dried cuttlefish or kimchi stews. Lately, establishments have been dressing up this no-nonsense beverage. 36 Bar and Barbecue has a soju bar upstairs that intimidates with its aluminum industrial decor and deafening K-pop. They offer a variety of inventive soju cocktails like the Twinkie ($8), a concoction of soju, Kahlúa, and light cream. Unfortunately, they load so many mixers into these beverages, you can't tell if you're tasting soju, tequila, or Windex. The World Cup-dedicated Red Devil (peach schnapps, soju, triple sec, sloe gin, and orange juice; $9) misses the goal with its cough syrup flavor, and the jade martini (soju, Apple Pucker, triple sec, and apple juice; $10) is as exotic as a Jolly Rancher lozenge. Stick to the traditional favorites like the soju gimlet. Sour mixers like lime juice blend well with the liquor. Or better yet, keep it simpler and order a bottle of straight soju and some appetizers like scallion pancakes ($10) from 36's excellent menuhearty enough to put hair on your chest.
photo: Joshua Farley
Here's looking at you, kid.
36 Bar and Barbecue 5 West 36th Street,