No Tylenol Required

David Lansing writes about wine and spirits for The Times.

You know what gives you a hangover. But do you know why some spirits are worse than others? Congeners, that’s why. Nasty things that drop in, like uninvited guests, during the distillation process. There are two truths about congeners: that more of them come along for the ride in darker spirits such as rum or whiskey (on the plus side, these impurities give some spirits their taste and smell), and that some can be filtered out through the distillation process. Which brings us to Korea’s unofficial national drink, soju. Like vodka, soju can be distilled from any number of grains and is basically tasteless. It also has about half the alcohol content of most vodkas. Does this mean you can drink a lot and not get a hangover? No. Soju is full of impurities, stuff that can leave you with a thumping headache and a bit of an upset tummy in the morning. But then there’s Jinro Chamjinisulro Soju. Chamisul, as we like to call it, is filtered four times through a secret ingredient: bamboo charcoal. “In Korea, everyone knows that bamboo charcoal is the best way to purify things,” says Alex Kim of Jinro America. In fact, says Kim, his mom used to throw a chunk of bamboo charcoal in the pot when she made rice. “I asked her why, and she said it cleans your digestive system.” But does bamboo charcoal prevent hangovers? “Definitely,” he says. Which is good enough for me. Now if only brewers would use bamboo charcoal to filter my favorite beer.


Chamisul Soju sells for $4 to $15 a bottle at Korean markets, including:

California Market

450 S. Western Ave.

(213) 382-9444

Hannam Chain Super Market

2740 W. Olympic Blvd.

(213) 382-2922

Han Kook Super Market

124 N. Western Ave.

(323) 469-8935