Whisky Capitals: Seoul

Seoul night time skyline

Seoul is a vast capital – roughly half of South Korea’s 50 million-strong population lives within its metropolitan area alone. As such, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had – especially if you’re a whisky drinker.

Soju is the Korean spirit of choice for the most part, but whisky is increasing in popularity. We asked editor Ahrim Won and her team at Time Out Seoul to give us their recommendations for whisky lovers on the hunt in the Land of the Morning Calm. There’s a map at the end to help you find your way.

Where are the best places to have a whisky in Seoul?

Keepers in Cheongdam-dong is superb. The bar’s entire concept and menu changes every three months, and this Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) holiday is a chance to find out what the brilliant staff here have come up with. Since large tables have no extra cover charge, it’s a great place to go in a group. Charles H. at the Four Seasons Hotel is an equally elegant example. Head bartender Chris Lowder focuses on various recipes from the different cities in which cocktail writer Charles H. Baker once lived.

Where would you enjoy a whisky cocktail?

SAHM in Sinsa-dong. You can make an abstract order for a cocktail, and let the bartender surprise you. We were pleased with our order of “an old-fashioned-like drink minus the whisky and the orange zest”.

Where would you go to dram and dine?

Currently, there isn’t much of a food scene here that takes inspiration from whisky. But we love the food at d.still in Hongdae. The menu exhibits attention to detail paired with quality cocktails, setting the mood for fine dining. Miyeok seaweed in the winter, dureup shoots in the spring — d.still utilises seasonal ingredients paired with the perfect cocktail.

How about distilleries in Seoul?

Unfortunately, there are none at the moment. With about 220 bars in the country where single malt whisky is available, we’re hoping this trend will continue and bloom into creative attempts at whisky production.

Where would you shop for whisky?

We would contact individual importers, or visit Namdaemun Market‘s liquor section.

Where to find a whisky hidden gem?

Rivington Social in Seorae Village. The moment you step into this bar, your eyes will dart towards the massive collection of whiskies. The bartender explains the traditions and different recipes about this drink with such vivacity that watching his passion is just as warming as the whisky itself!

Additionally, Le Chamber in Cheongdam-dong is great for a speakeasy experience. From their pricing to their service, they strive for the finest; the Diageo World Class award-winning bartenders offer seven-star service. The entrance to their basement is shaped like a bookshelf, and only if you pick the right book will the door open – a classic mystery novel touch in a modern-day setting.

And if you’ve only got 24 hours in the city?

Definitely some of our top 10 things to do in Seoul. Plus, spending time outside at night, at a park (or even sat outside a convenience store) with some drinks and snacks of your choosing, meeting all of the interesting characters that Seoul accommodates is highly recommended!

Whisky map of Seoul