KOREAN NAME: 퇴촌 토마토 생막걸리
REVIEW: Infusion makgeollis are always… interesting. You know you’re going to get a wildly different flavor from what you’re used to but, for me, the most surprising/unsettling aspect of an infusion is the color. So, I obviously knew Toichon Tomato Saeng Makgeolli was going to have a reddish hue but I did not expect to find a bowl full of Pepto-Bismol with floating, orangey chunks. I’m not going to say it but, from my description, you know what it looks like.
I braced myself for a sip and… it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. The initial flavor doesn’t taste much different from a regular, store-bought makgeolli but the aftertaste has that sort of sour-sweet-sharp combo that you find in a ripe tomato or tomatillo. Indeed, the bottle proudly proclaims that 1% of the brew is made from real Toichon (pronounced tway-chon) tomatoes.
But, as is the story with so many makgeollis, the sweetness is aspartame-based and that flavor lingers way too long. In the end, the taste almost reminds you of the visual.
Smell: Put tomato and makgeolli together, and this brew smells almost exactly like a Red Eye. Weird.
BREWERY: Sansamgadeuk (산삼가득)
ORIGIN: Gyeonggi-do, Gwangju, Toichon-myeon (경기도, 광주시, 퇴촌면)
PURCHASED: Seoul, Hwayang-gu, Keonkuk University Station, Duggeobi Mart (서울, 화양구, 건대입구, 두꺼비 마트)
AVAILABILITY: Before finding Toichon Tomato at this corner store, I’d only ever seen it at the Daehanmingook Makgeolli Festival in Ilsan.
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 6%
INGREDIENTS: Korean rice (11.3%), Korean tomatoes (1%), koji (3.2%), purified water (83.9%), purified enzymes, aspartame, leavened yeast
VOLUME: 750 ml
PASTEURIZED: No (30-day shelf life)
OTHER FACTS: Toichon, located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do (not Jeolla-do), holds a tomato festival every June. Although this blog is from 2011, you can get a sense of the festival here. You can also get a few details from the Visit Korea page.
Sansamgadeuk’s main product is their ginseng makgeolli called Sansamgadeuk Saeng Makgeolli.