Gwahaju (Kor. 과하주, Chin. 過夏酒, lit. summer-passing wine) is an alcoholic beverage brewed in spring or summer with rice and, when mature, is mixed with hard liquor called soju (Kor. 소주) to increase the wine’s storage life. The name gwahaju suggests that the wine retains its original fresh taste and flavor even after the hot summer season.
According to the “Eumsik Dimibang” (Kor. 음식디미방, Guidebook of Homemade Foods and Drinks, 1670), the preparation of this alcoholic beverage starts with pouring a bottle of boiled water into 4 liters of malt powder, stirring the mixture, and letting it sit overnight. The following morning the mixture is sifted and added to 20 liters of glutinous rice, thoroughly washed, steamed, and cooled down. Fourteen cups of soju are poured into the mixture three days later, and in seven days it turns into ‘a nice hot and sweet’ wine that is ready to be served. Another recipe for gwahaju can be found in the “Gyuhap Chongseo” (Kor. 규합총서, Chin. 閨閤叢書, Women’s Encyclopedia, 1809). According to this recipe, a gwahaju brewer first needs to make a base liquor by mixing malt powder with cooled porridge, which is made by boiling 2-4 liters of rice powder. Once it begins to brew, the glutinous rice which was steamed and cooled must be added. Twenty ladles of soju are poured into the mixture after seven days. The wine should be consumed after the soju’ flavor and taste have disappeared. The commonalities between the two recipes above are that the wine was made by fermenting the rice and later mixing it with a distilled liquor, soju. Gwahaju has been known since the beginning of the Joseon period (1392-1910) and is brewed in many parts of Korea. The products from Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, and Jeonju, North Jeolla Province are particularly renowned for retaining the original aroma and taste of fermented grains despite their strong alcohol content.