But all that is about to change. I gave up drinking (well, heavy drinking) for two weeks, and my life hasn't gotten any better, so fuck that wagon, I'm leaving it behind. I'd burn it, too, but I don't carry a lighter since I gave up smoking.
No disrespect towards Korea or Koreans, but having lived in Singapore for a time and traveled around to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, I've had my fill of hot crowded countries filled with short people trying to sell me crappy alcohol. Jinro is not the best ambassador for the Experience Korea! dept.
Disturbingly, the Jinro bottle itself leaves the curious shopper mostly in the dark. "One of the World's Best Selling Spirits" the bottle demurely claims. "Enjoy...traditional chilled straight shot, ready to serve cocktails on the rocks with cucumber, lemon, or your favorite Juice, or fun and fresh flavor of infused Jinro in assorted fruits, vegetables or coffee." In retrospect, it should be considered a warning sign when the one of the three recommended ways to drink a liquor is to "infuse" it with the flavor of something else, and one of the other recommended ways is "put cucumber in it." The front of the bottle is even less help: "Distilled spirit speciality. Made with grain neutral spirits, sugar, and citric acid." Sigh. "Neutral?" "Citric acid?" Who knows...maybe something's lost in the translation. Maybe that entire thing sounds a lot more badass in the original Korea.
The actual taste of Jinro is about as exciting as the bottle claims. At 24% alcohol, it's got the relative strength of watered down vodka, and about the same taste. Imagine vodka, cut with water, poured into a glass that you'd forgot to clean out since you drank 7-Up out of it, and you have the relative taste and thrill of drinking One of the World's Best Selling Spirits.
All is not lost, however. By virtue of the fact that the booze is only 48 proof, Jinro turns out to be a great drink for those who really like shots but can't handle their liquor. As long as no one examines your bottle too closely, you can easily keep lining up shots of Jinro and tossing them back with nary a grimace. And I think this is probably the key to why it's One of the Best, etc. Jinro is for people who want to look badass without actually being badass. This is an alcohol that has a particular form of Judo--it uses our weaknesses against us: this is how I managed to despise every sip of Jinro that I took, while nevertheless drinking the entire bottle in a single night in full view of a room of non-drinkers.
Incidentally, does it count as drinking alone--what alcoholics and drunkards do, I'm told--if you're the only one drinking heavily in a crowded room?
Why do I ask?
Oh, no reason.
Jinro in Brief
Quality: C- Taste: Watered down vodka with a hint of limon. Aftertaste: Not really a taste; more a feeling your mouth is slimier than it should be. Strength of liquor: 48 proof - 24% alcohol by volume. Strength of hangover: Mild. Easily slept off, with only a slight aversion to direct sunlight, with a slight taste in your mouth that will make the first few drinks of water in the morning taste nasty. Final recommendation: Definitely not anyone's first choice if they want a vicarious trip to the Far East. A thoroughly mediocre drink in every meaning of the word, that should really only be bought by Koreans who feel strong links to their mother country, or by people who want to substitute for vodka in drinks to make them weaker and blander than they already are.