Soju cocktails: Another reason to get out to LACMA

September 26, 2014
Bar Director Sean Naughton at Ray's and Stark Bar inside LACMA pours a soju cocktail. (Tae Hong/The Korea Times)

Bar Director Sean Naughton at Ray’s and Stark Bar inside LACMA mixes a soju cocktail. (Tae Hong/The Korea Times)

By Tae Hong

Who’s up for soju cocktails at LACMA?

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, located just a few minutes’ drive from Koreatown, is on its last days of hosting the largest-ever U.S. exhibition of Korean Joseon dynasty art, a look at the progression of Korean art and culture through 518 years.

Ray’s and Stark Bar, located inside the museum, is offering a special selection of soju cocktails through September to commemorate the exhibition, titled “Treasures From Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910.”

Bar Director Sean Naughton, who spent two years working at a restaurant in K-Town as a bar manager before joining the Ray’s team, put together a selection of three cocktails.

“Whether it’s sour-forward or sweet-forward or liquor-forward, I look to a balance of flavors, to highlight a certain aspect but not let that aspect overpower it,” he said.

Although the bar does not have a soju-based drink on its current regular menu, Naughton said he can see its inclusion in the future, especially considering its long-standing popularity with the local community.

Soju, first distilled around 1300 A.D. and primarily made from rice or sweet potatoes, is a clean, fun spirit to drink, Naughton said.

“It’s about becoming a part of the experience, giving people the whole experience. Going to the exhibit, enjoying the drinks,” he said. “I really wanted to highlight what a cool spirit [soju] is, because it’s the most consumed spirit on planet Earth.”

The K-Town Old-Fashioned (The Korea Times)

K-Town Old-Fashioned (The Korea Times)

The Soju: K-Town Old-Fashioned

“It’s a very soju-forward drink. Because soju can be such a neutral drink, because it can be lost in a lot of flavors if you allow it to be, I wanted to make at least one drink that was really going to feature the soju as the star of the drink,” Naughton said.

Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters, Miracle Mile Pecan Bitters, Miracle Mile Yuzu Bitters, a twist of grapefruit, lemon verbena, soju.

Gangnam D (The Korea Times)

Gangnam D (The Korea Times)

The Sweet: Gangnam D

“The Gangnam district, for lack of a better reference, is a Las Vegas of South Korea,” Naughton said. “I wanted it to be souped up and have a bunch of exciting flavors going on, a lot of things happening, but still really fun and accessible.”

Ginger, lime, basil, blackberry, soju.

Gunbae (The Korea Times)

Gunbae (The Korea Times)

The Sour: Gunbae

“Gunbae” is “Cheers!” in Korean.

“There’s a long finish to this drink,” Naughton said. “It’s a very sour-forward drink. It’s very trendy, in the last year or year-and-a-half, to be using vinegars. It does add a really interesting element that a lot of modern audiences aren’t necessarily used to in their cocktails. So I really wanted to bring that rice wine vinegar with the soju because they complement each other so naturally.”

Lime juice, rice wine vinegar, Chareau aloe liquer, chamomile, soju.


Soju cocktails will be available through Sept. 28 at Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA, located on 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Call 323-857-6180 for more information.


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