Click here to send in your own Weird Soda Review!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sempio Honey Rice Black Vinegar

Sometimes Weirdness is thrust upon you.

The Kibbitzer-in-Chief and I were on our way to see Eddie Izzard at the Hollywood Bowl. If you've never been to the Hollywood Bowl, you're missing a treat. It's an enormous outdoor amphitheater, with seats ranging from private tables down near the stage (season tickets for these are desirable enough that people pass them on as part of their estates) to rows of benches up on the hill, far enough back that it is amusing to observe the delay between what you see and what you hear.
Guess which seats we always buy?
It's really no burden to have the cheap seats, though, because they're just as much fun. Part of the Hollywood Bowl experience is bringing a picnic dinner, which you eat at your seats before and during the performance. People bring anything from McDonalds to gourmet five-course meals on china and crystal. And at least in the cheap seats, it's not uncommon to lean over the folks in front and say "ooo, that looks good!" and end up sampling each others' food. It's a really fun, social atmosphere.
Well, we were coming up from San Diego, so we ran into traffic and ended up getting to the Park & Ride lot about fifteen minutes before the last bus to the Bowl. And, of course, we had no picnic dinner. What an unbearable arrangement! Fortunately, I am a technophile, and asked my iPod to find us the nearest grocery store. There was an Albertson's half a mile away.

Putting the pedal to the metal in my 1994 Ford Aspire*, we pulled into the parking lot...but there was no Albertson's. There was, instead, something called "Freshia".

Hmmm. Must be some sort of Whole Foods-like place. We eat lots of that kind of thing. No problem.


After entering Freshia, our first hint that there would be a minor difficulty was that we couldn't actually read anything. All of the labels were--as far as I could tell--in Korean. As we wandered the isles, acutely aware that the few minutes we had left were running down, we realized that we were faced with a scenario in which we would have to buy packages of unknown substances and hope that they were tasty (that they were, in fact, food and not auto parts).
The Kibbitzer, being a much better cook than I, took on the task of identifying edibles. In such a situation, I felt that it was my duty to find some capacity in which I could help resolve our emergency--some way in which I could provide help, solve problems, and get us to the bus with a delicious dinner.

"I've never had Korean Weird soda before!" I thought, and headed for the aisle which looked as though it had liquids.

I ended up paralyzed with indecision, having realized that I was not sure whether the brightly colored bottles with engaging (but, to me, illegible) labels were some sort of fantastically Weird soda or kids' shampoo, when the Kibbitzer found me. At a glance, she could see that not only I had been distracted from my mission, I was incompetent. I hung my head in shame.
She grabbed a couple of bottles, said "These might be interesting," and led me gently to the prepackaged food section.

Have I mentioned how good this woman is to me?

We ended up grabbing something which looked like pasta in sauce labeled "Platycodon" (which, as it turns out, is a fibrous vegetable with a rather strong scent), something which looked for all the world like Klingon gaghwith garlic labeled "Fern Bracken", and something which we chose to believe was chicken.
Nobody wanted to share our picnic dinner***, but we had a wonderful time and a fascinating culinary adventure. And, as it turns out, had soda Weirdness thrust upon us.

The Kibbitzer had grabbed two bottles: a carbonated rice wine and a drinkable vinegar. I'm not up for wine tonight, so let's try the vinegar.

The setting is quaint and picturesque, reminiscent of midwestern Americana. Note the watering can, wood siding, and homely brick. And the Korean drinkable vinegar, of course.
The label does bear a helpful English translation underneath the (rather dramatic) Korean writing. The picture suggests that it contains honey, a supposition which is borne out by a quick look at the ingredients list. Apparently, it contains honey black vinegar, fructose, apple juice, glucose, dextrose, resin. Acids, sugars, and semiconductors...that's a Weird beverage for sure.

Where and when: purchased sometime in 2011 at Freshia, which might have been in Torrance, CA.
Color: Brown and translucent, about the color of the malt vinegar you find at fried fish places. Pours as if it were more viscous than wanter, seems a bit thick.

Scent: The main scent is sweet, but with a lot of earthiness and a strong vinegar. Can something smell like body odor, but in a good way?

Taste: HoowwwAAAAA...*sputter*...holy crud.
It's massively, overwhelmingly sweet, almost like sipping straight honey. Thicker than it looks, too, like a thin glue. How much sugar is *in* this stuff?

Ah, that explains it. This has 17.86 grams of sugar per fluid ounce.
Compare that to Coke Classic, which has 3.25 grams of sugar per fluid ounce. This stuff is roughly 5 and a half times more concentrated sugar than Coke. By my calculation, assuming the sugar is glucose, this is about a 3.3M sugar solution, which is pretty impressive in a beverage.

The massive, brain-melting sweetness is nicely offset by a remarkable spike of appleish vinegar through the frontal lobe. The two are actually in excellent balance, and the resultant flavor is quite pleasant--just completely overwhelming. I'd be afraid to put this in a hummingbird feeder, lest they all develop instant diabetes.

Nazgul: *sips, shrugs, nods* "Mmmm. I don't know why you don't like sweet stuff."

This from the boy who would happily eat straight cake frosting. I love sweet stuff. This is to conventional sweet stuff as Mighty Cthulhu is to a plate of fried calamari.

Olorin: "Eeeeewwww. That's disgusting."

K-i-C: "Smells like apple cider vinegar with honey." *sips* "Lots and lots and lots of honey. But it's actually very nice. You need that sweet to balance out the acidity."

So we have a quandary. The taste is quite pleasant, complex, and very well balanced, just about ten gazillion times too strong. I wonder if some of the untranslated Korean text on the label reads "Warning: For the love of God and insulin, do not drink this stuff undiluted."

Quaff rating: 3.5. The taste is lovely, and it's certainly interesting.
Cough rating: 1.5. I might have done a spit-take, except given the viscosity, it would have come out more like a loogie than a fine spray.

* Doing so can--given a good tailwind--push you above the speed limit**.
** In school zones.
*** Or sit within fifteen feet


  1. Hello, I work with Sempio Food Company. The Sempio's Black Rice Vinegar is bottled as a concentrate. It is best served cold & Diluted( 25% Sempio Black Rice Vinegar and 75% Water,Sparkling Water or Milk.More or less to for your taste) then enjoy drinking chilled.
    Here is a link to purchase the Sempio Black Rice Vinegar (4 Flavors) on Amazon with " Free Delivery" at

  2. You need dilute this Black Vinegar with Water!!
    You are not supposed to drink it as it is.
    I mix it with ice water or milk..
    it tastes WAY Better, Try it! I learned it from my Korean Friend how to eat.

  3. Ahahaha this post is so funny. Like other people mentioned it's supposed to be diluted but still, it contains about the same amount of sugar as a regular coke. There was a fad in Korea a couple years ago and everyone went like "this is the new health drink, supposed to be good for your body blah blah" until they realized that "Oops. This has loads of sugar in it!" Now even Koreans don't take this all seriously. Next time you bump into a Korean market, you have to try the legit sodas like "Milkis." There are lots of non-carbonated drinks as well. Koreans are not so keen with sodas like Americans are.

  4. Good article I liked it.


Creative Commons License
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.