An odd article entitled “Liquor wins quality medal for preserving national smack” emerged recently, published by the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea’s (DPRK’s) Pyongyang Times. In it, claims are made that a North Korean insam (ginseng) liquor can be drunk without fear of hangover.
The manufacturers, Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory, have apparently been developing and improving the drink over the course of many years. Their final creation, called Koryo Liquor is “made of six-year-old Kaesong Koryo insam, known as being highest in medicinal effect, and the scorched rice, is highly appreciated by experts and lovers as it is suave and causes no hangover,” according to the article.
The liquor purportedly has an alcoholic content of between 30 to 40 percent (!!). Regular beer, of the type you might buy at your local corner store, has an alcoholic content of 3-10% and most wines anywhere from 8-14% (spirits can vary greatly depending on type; anywhere from 20-70%).
Hangover Free Beer / Liquor – Is It Too Good To Be True?
As we’re massive science fans over at Sobur HQ, we were super excited to deep dive into this supposed hangover-free beer and look into the research behind it upon first hearing whispers about the elixir. But the wording of the Pyongyang Times article about the elixir gave us immediate pause, it is just a little bit too full of pro-DPRK propaganda to be believable as a credible starting point for research.
But I’ve read my fair share of press releases for alcohol brand announcements and other industry news to filter out/ignore sentences like ”The product exudes national flavor also in the shape of bottle and packaging“ and ”the liquor has already been registered as a national scientific and technological hit“ — so let me attempt to break down how the hangover-free alcoholic drink actually works.
How Koryo Liquor Works
So in a surprising twist from previous supposed North Koreans
achievementsactions, including allegedly successfully testing a deadly hydrogen nuclear bomb earlier this month, a weapon able to wreak about 80 times more damage than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 which killed and wounded more than 130,000 people, the North Korean’s seem to be doing a 180 and actually attempting to change peoples (social) lives for the better…
But how does this hangover-free alcoholic elixir work? Well, from what research we’ve been able to perform, the main ingredient in Koryo liquor is Ginseng, a perennial plant with fleshy roots that is commonly used in both North & South Korea on account of its medicinal properties, and the Kaesong area in the DPRK is famous for the product.
The specific type of ‘insam’ (meaning ginseng) used here is Kaesong Koryo insam, which apparently ”boasts of a 170 year history“ and is said to wield a myriad of medicinal benefits, ranging from beating physical and mental fatigue all the way to curing diabetes.
North Korea recently released a wonder drug named Kumdang-2 containing ginseng (and not a lot else) that apparently cures Ebola, AIDS, MERS, tuberculosis and well…cancer. It would seem that many North Koreans place a lot of faith in the plant.
Sugar, in this elixir, is then replaced with scorched, glutinous rice and this process removes the bitterness from the insam (ginseng) and, crucially, the hangover.
Whether ginseng, by itself or combined with glutinous rice, is an effective hangover cure is a subject matter that’s up for debate. Ginseng is touted as a viable alternative to coffee as a pleasant morning-after energy booster, particularly as caffeine is a diuretic and so doesn’t exactly help with the re-hydrating process needed to sober up after consuming large quantities of alcohol. Ginseng has also been known to cause nausea, headaches and high blood pressure as ‘side-effects’ if consumed in too large an amount, which can be really bad in combination with a hangover!
Where Can I Buy This North Korean Hangover Free Alcohol?
My first piece of advice if you’re considering getting your hands on some Koryo Liquor in the hopes that you can party like a rockstar and wake up the next day feeling 110% (ready to do it again?) would be to re-read the insight above into how effective ginseng liquor really is. If you have, and still want to give it a try (for science) I have a few tips on where and how to get your hands on Koryo liquor:
- Take a trip to North Korea and buy some yourself
Not as hard to do as it was say, 4-5 years ago, visiting one of the most isolated countries on earth (it’s called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason) is the
easiest fastestcraziest way to get your hands on some Koryo liquor. Most tourists only experience the political smokescreen of Pyongyang, where the liquor is actually available in ‘supermarkets’.
Be advised though that its illegal for foreigners to handle local DPRK currency. To pay, you have to line up; receive a receipt, then pay at a currency exchange booth offering unofficial, artificially inflated North Korean Won rates — head back to collect your goods and finally back to the booth to collect change in 3 different currencies.
You’ll also likely be thoroughly searched upon exit of North Korea at Sinuiju. I don’t envy you if you decide to go this route!
- Hop on Alibaba
Always good for obscure products that are readily available in the Asia-Pacific region, Korean Ginseng tea and likely liquor are readily available on Alibaba if you’re willing to search through the listings and do a little bit of back-and-forth communication with the sellers.
- Wait until the ginseng-based, hangover-free alcohol liquor is available locally to you
Although more likely to happen due to a rise in demand for the taste of ginseng liquor (those crazy hipsters) than it is for the ‘magic’ alleged benefits of ginseng in liquid form, remaining patient and pestering your local shop keeper to see if they have ‘started selling Koryo liquor yet’ is 100% the laziest way to maybe try some out… one day.
- Purchase through obscure, risky-looking websites
Koryo liquor is available to buy online in several places, although we do not vouch for any retailer and you purchase at your own-risk. One such retailer we found is Benje Trading LTD, and here’s their Facebook page.
Have You Heard About The “Miracle Hangover Cure” that Wired magazine, New Scientist and the NY Post are all talking about?
It’s called Dihydromyricetin and it will change the way you consume alcohol for ever! Sobur, our hangover cure supplement, uses dihydromyricetin (read more about Dihydromyricetin here) as our key ingredient, along with several other essential ingredients that replenish & restore key vitamins and minerals the body looses when you drink alcohol.