Korea – Sassy Sojurita

Where to Begin

While I prefer to choose a single topic to cover when posting about most of the countries we’ve visited, Korea (particularly South Korea) had so many blow-my-mind facts about it that I just had to compile a number of them rather than delve into individual items. So, let’s take a peek behind the Korean curtain and see which goodies we can find:

Major communication companies Samsung and LG are based out of Korea and because of this, new phone technology is often released in the country first. Around 98% of Koreans own mobile devices and use them for everything from phone calls to watching live TV to online shopping. Despite Samsung and LG calling Korea home, mobile devices are expensive there, although users are still likely to regularly replace their phones with updated versions.

Samsung Funny

Online gaming is huge in Korea, where players can make some serious cash and become celebrities. Gaming sessions are even broadcast on TV, with the most popular titles including Starcraft, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Lineage. Gaming parlours have opened up around the country, where men, women, and children can visit for gaming fun across a local network. On the negative side, internet and gaming addiction in particular is common and there has even been a few cases of people dying due to marathon gaming sessions.

Koreans don’t shy away from using credit cards, making dramatically more purchases per person, each year, using plastic. Have you ever been somewhere that didn’t accept credit? That’s illegal in Korea. Similarly, every cab has a card reader in it, so no more having to be driven to a bank machine just to pay your fare… take that Tacoma, Washington!

While Koreans work exceptionally hard (an average of 44.6 hours per week), they are also known for their drinking culture. In fact, if someone doesn’t join in on the evening out, getting blitzed on Soju, they are committing a major faux pas and party foul all at once. Drinking games are popular while out on the town. Jinro Soju has consistently been the world’s most sold spirit with an estimated 61 million-plus cases sold in 2011, dwarfing the worldwide sales of Smirnoff Vodka, the number two most popular liquor worldwide, which sold a mere 24 million-plus cases. Pretty epic given most sales for Jinro come domestically.

Soju 30 Shots

Korean golfers are increasingly becoming top stars of the sport, particularly on the women’s side of the ledger. As of July 2014, of the top 50 female golfers, 19 are Korean, including three in the top 10.  At 14 years old, Lydia Ko (born in Korea, but grew up in New Zealand) became the youngest to ever win a professional tournament when she emerged victorious at the Samsung Women’s Open in 2012.

Cartoons such as The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, and King of the Hill have all had their basic animation, in-betweening, and colouring performed in Korea. As for domestic releases, Pororo the Little Penguin is wildly popular, even being given the nickname President Pororo. The flightless bird is so popular that it has a section of a theme park dedicated to it, thousands of products emblazoned with its likeness and will earn millions of dollars for the company that created it.

Korea is the birthplace of the martial art, Taekwondo, which was developed by the South Korean military. Taekwondo’s philosophy includes five tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. South Korea has been awarded the most Olympic medals in the sport with 10 gold, two silver, and two bronze for 14 total. China, the United States, and Chinese Taipei are tied for second most with eight.

World Taekwondo Federation

In Korea, men are just as likely to use cosmetics as their female counterparts, spending about $900 million each year on foundation, makeup, and skincare products. Korean males make up a quarter of the international men’s cosmetics market. In a similar vein, the men of Korea are more likely to have plastic surgery than other parts of the world and that may be partly because it is much cheaper in Korea, causing folks from nearby countries to flock to the republic.

Korea’s music industry is highlighted by pop songs, known as K-Pop, which groups feature mostly young performers. A number of the bands have weird names that combine numbers and letters, including TVXQ, 2PM, B1A4, EXO, 2AM, CNBLUE, MBLAQ, SS501, 2NE1, and GOT7. 2PM and 2AM are rival groups and routinely settle their differences Gangnam Style (also a Korean export).

Sticking with the country’s entertainment industries, the Korean film industry has been dubbed Hallyuwood (using the term Hallyu, which describes the Korean Wave of popular culture being exported from the country, along with the ‘wood’ of Hollywood) and is best known for mini-series dramas. They even had a show called Full House, but I don’t think you’d find the Tanner clan in it.

Korea: Sassy Sojurita

Sassy Sojurita Cocktail

  • 2.5 oz Soju
  • 0.5 oz Pisco
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with an Orange Wedge

I never knew that there was this much neat stuff going on in Korea… and now I want a slice of the action! My night will start with an epic Soju binge (after an exhausting day at work, of course) and then it’s off to the video game parlour for a marathon of online action before practicing some bedroom taekwondo with Mrs. Sip and then repeating it all over again the next day!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Finding Soju recipes isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I was able to track down a couple which were usually adaptations of classic cocktails, simply subbing in Soju for the traditional spirit. I really liked the addition of Pisco to this margarita-style drink and that inclusion likely bumped this libation up half a point. Mrs. Sip bought me this bottle of Soju and ironically, it is in fact from the Jinro company, even before I had heard of it.

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Chile – Ménage à Trois

Mine Craft

In 2010 the world was captivated by the story of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for an astonishing 69 days – kind of ironic given the title of today’s cocktail! – before being rescued. That’s three sets of digits I’ve thrown your way already and here’s some more, as we look at the Copiapó mining accident by the numbers:

miner

August 5th – When the mine collapse first occurred, as a result of a cave-in. No souls were ever lost in my mashed potato mine cave-ins, but to this day, gravy is still cursed in the region.

15 Minutes – Duration of the claustrophobic ride to safety inside the rescue capsule… soon to be an attraction at Disneyland: Chile.

17 Days – When the first contact between rescuers and miners was made. The survivors had taped a note to a drill bit that was exploring the mine shaft, hoping to find signs of life. I’m a little surprised endorsement deals weren’t handed out by 3M or other companies claiming it was their tape that was used in the communication.

Foo Fighters - Miners

This was requested by two trapped Australian miners in 2006… whatever the Chilean miners asked for, they asked wrong!

18 Pounds – The average weight each man lost by the time the group was discovered still alive. All you little sippers out there should take note that this is a steadfast way to drop some pounds and get back into shape.

21 Inches – The size in diameter of the rescue capsule. Some might describe the shape of the pod as bullet-like, but others might come to a more phallic conclusion.

24 Hours – How long the entire rescue operation took to extract all the men who had been buried. That sounds about right, as it takes me about 24 hours to get myself out of any hot water with Mrs. Sip.

chilean-miners-media

The 33 – Name of the feature film being made on the entire ordeal. It’s set to star Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen. Jennifer Lopez was once attached to the project and despite no women being among the trapped, you can bet Lopez would have seen a fair bit of screen time (largely shot from behind!) in some sort of grieving role.

54 Years Old – The age of foreman Luis Urzúa, who is largely credited with leading the group of miners through their ordeal. He was the last man to be raised to the surface. Having a drink with this hombre would be quite the experience.

121 Years Old – The age of the Copiapó copper-gold mine, which lacked proper escape equipment such as ladders in the ventilation shafts and up-to-date maps. To be fair, all 121-year-olds operate without all the necessary faculties.

sex-with-miners

If it wasn’t 33 dudes trapped, I bet it wouldn’t have taken 69 days for a successful rescue!

540 Square Feet – The size of the emergency shelter the miners were forced to occupy. That’s smaller than my apartment and Mrs. Sip and I often get in each other’s way as just two people.

2,300 Feet – How deep the miners were trapped. That’s like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, one of many books I never quite finished!

$20,000,000 – The cost of the entire rescue operation, which was paid for by private donations, the mine owners, and the government. That $20 million could have gone to funding this site with an endless supply and selection of booze.

October 13th – The rescue effort is deemed a success with the final miner emerging from their tomb. Now let’s drink to their achievement and well-being!

Chile: Ménage à Trois

Ménage à Trois Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Pisco
  • 2 oz Riesling Wine
  • Splash of Sour Mix
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with Grapes

Aren’t numbers fun! I feel like the Count from Sesame Street right now… minus the accent, fangs, and cape. I do have the monocle however!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink was a mix of sweet and sour thanks to the Riesling Wine/Simple Syrup and Pisco/Sour Mix, respectively. The Grape garnishes were a nice touch and I don’t get to play with them often enough.

Chile – Pisco Sour

Island Hopping

As we make our way to the country of Chile (not the food, although that sounds pretty good too and would go well with today’s drink) the Sip Advisor makes a point of learning something new every day… and today’s fresh factoid is a doozy: Did you know that Easter Island, located among the Polynesian islands and home to the Moai statues, is actually Chilean land? The more you know *rainbow star swipe*! Let’s take a closer look at this mysterious island:

The entire island, also known as Rapa Nui, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it offers a spectacular chance for researchers to learn about some of the world’s earliest civilizations. The Moai statues, for which the Easter Island is best known, were constructed between 1100-1680 CE. 887 of the figures have been catalogued and it’s estimated that each statue took one year to complete and was carved by a team, using volcanic ash from the extinct Rano Raraku volcano. Each sculpture represented the deceased head of a family.

stonehenge-easter-island

The Moai civilization believed that the dead provided everything their people needed, including health, successful crops, good fortune, etc. Most Moai settlements were located along the coast and that is why the statues are found there, facing inwards to look over the people and with their back to the spirit world of the sea.

The Birdmen Cult, whose leader could be anyone from wrestler Koko B. Ware to basketball star Chris Andersen (both enjoyed careers with the nickname Birdman), also once inhabited the island, following the Moai era. Also known as Tangatu Manu, they form a large part of the Rapa Nui mythology and their decorations can still be found at churches on Easter Island.

Easter Island covers only 63 square miles and is one of the world’s most isolated locations, inhabited by a population of only 4,781, as of 2009. Back in the day, constant clashes between tribes occurred on the small space and with limited resources and disease, it wasn’t long before the island fell to pieces. Chile gained control of Easter Island in 1888 and used it as an expansive sheep farm, protected by the Chilean Navy, until opening it to the public in 1966. At that time, the leftover Rapa Nui citizens were made people of Chile.

Easter-Island

As a massive fan of water, the Sip Advisor finds it incredibly disappointing that Easter Island lacks any freshwater source. That said, it is a freakin’ island, which receives a fair amount of rain. For this Vancouverite, it would certainly feel like home. Tourists can stay on Easter Island, but like other remote locations, goods and services can be much more expensive than in other parts of the world. The area is accessible by the Mataveri International Airport.

You might be asking: What else is there to do on Easter Island, other than view the statues. Well, part of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series is held there, giving the Sip Advisor and fellow thrill-seekers a chance to join the Moai with smushed-in faces. Fishing is also a popular activity, as is watching the beautiful Polynesian women dance in revealing outfits!

In recent years, Easter Island has been cited as an example of what can happen when natural resources are mass consumed, which caused its basic extinction at one point in history. The island has been used as a metaphor by some scientists to show what could happen if the earth’s population doesn’t change its ways, although there are also opponents to this example.

Chile: Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour Cocktail

  • 2 oz Pisco
  • Top with Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Splash of Egg Whites
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

If I know Mrs. Sip as well as I think I do, then you can bet we will one day travel to this unique destination. Hopefully they serve drinks in Moai statue-themed glasses and they’re not one of those anti-alcohol locales!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This is one of Mrs. Sip’s favourite cocktails, although she enjoyed them in Peru, instead of Chile. It was a first try for me, as I kept saving the cocktail for when this project rolled around. I enjoyed it, but I wonder what the drink would taste like with Lemonade subbed in for the Lemon Juice? I’ll have to give that a try at some point. For those who haven’t yet tried Pisco, it reminds me of Tequila, but it perhaps a little sweeter.