A club owner brings soju to the thirsty masses

Here’s David Reiss’s favorite recipe for a cosmopolitan: 3/4ounce cranberry juice, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 3/4 ounce nonalcoholicorange liqueur, and 3 ounces soju.

Is that last ingredient a mystery? It won’t be for long, ifReiss has his way. The club owner has become L.A.’s most vocalproponent of soju, a Korean variation on vodka whose popularity isspilling out from Korea town to spots like Reiss’s Sugar, in SantaMonica.

Originally produced from rice but now usually made from sweetpotatoes, soju is 24 percent alcohol, compared with 40 percent forvirtually all vodkas. And thanks to an obscure provision of a 1998California liquor law, it’s a libation that doesn’t require aspirits permit to pour.

Reiss, who started in the club business nearly 25 years ago as aDJ, discovered soju’s appeal when he was launching Sugar ―and found himself unable to get a full spirits license. “I assumedwe’d just have beer, wine, champagne, and sake,” he says. “But wegot our sake from Mutual Trading Company, and a guy at thewarehouse asked why I didn’t also buy soju.”

Reiss describes soju as “pretty neutral in flavor. It may be alittle harsh, not as refined as a premium vodka,” he says. Soju inRed Bull is popular, as are Reiss’s soju-based cocktails, all ofwhich start with Green soju, produced by Doosan Liquor in SouthKorea. And if you’re looking for something soju-inspired to make athome, Reiss recommends his Tai Me Up: 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup, 1/2ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce grenadine, a splash of pineapple juice― and, of course, 3 ounces soju.― Chris Rubin

Seeking soju

Besides Sugar (10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thu-Sat; 814 Broadway, Santa Monica; www.clubsugar.com or310/899-1989), soju is available at many Asian markets.

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