Leegangju is one of the finest liquor produced in Jeolla Provinces and Hwanghae Province since the mid Chosun Dynasty, and it appears in several historic records such as “Gyeongdo Japji”(Kor. 경도잡지, Chin. 京都雜志, Miscellaneous Records of the Capital Hanyang) and “Dongguk Sesigi”(Kor. 동국세시기, Chin. 東國歲時記, A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea). It is a high-class liquor favored by the aristocrats from old times, championed by several old documents. Since it was mingled with homegrown Soju, pears and ginger, the liquor began to be known as Leegangju, ‘lee’ meaning pear, ‘gang’ meaning ginger and ‘ju’ meaning alcohol. Leegangju, Jukryukgo, and Hosanchun were famous liquors from southwestern region of the country during Joseon Dynasty. Leegangju especially was recorded as a leading liquor that was consumed when King Gojong signed a treaty of commerce with the U.S. delegation in 1882.
Qs&As about common sense of Chosun in 1946 (By Choi, NamSon)
A : Most widely popular is Gamhongro from Pyongyang, which mixed sweet substances with soju and colored red with reddish grains.
Next comes Leeganggo from Chonju brewed with pears, ginger and honey.
Then comes Jukryukgo from Jeolla Provinces, which is Soju mixed with bamboo juice boiled over charcoal. These three liquors were widely well-known across the country in the past. Additionally, there were temporarily popular liquors such as Dugyeonju from Gimcheon, Gwahaju from Gyeongsung. In Seoul and countryside, there were numerous secret recipes for bootleg wines as well. It is a pity that they are disappearing these days, due to the invasion of modern trends.
* Leegangju is called Leeganggo in the past.
Actual record of trade with the United States in 1882When signing the United States-Korea Treaty of 1882 in Incheon, Iganggo was served. According to the record, the best food in Joseon was served and each one of attendances drank seven cups of Iganggo. Abalone, pine nuts, Chinese matrimony vine, yakbab (medicinal cooked rice), fruits preserved in honey, and Dasik (Tea Confectionery) were also provided. The US representative Shufeldt greatly praised them. He said, "When we look at the food of a country, we can see the climate and character of the country. By looking at this delicious food and fresh fruits here, this country will develop greatly in the future." The full text is about treaty-signing process recorded by Shin Heon who was dignitary of the Joseon Dynasty. The contents are as follows.
Dongguk Sesigi (A Record of Seasonal Customs in Korea) in 1849The most famous Soju comes from the cauldrons for Samhaeju in Ongmak and Gongduk . The finest liquors are Gamhongro and Byunhangju from Pyongan Province, Leegangju from Hwanghae Province, Jukryukgo and Gyedangju from southwestern region and Nosanchun from Chungcheong Provinces.
Bongsan Mask DanceLeegangju was mentioned in this traditional folk mask dance with a dramatic storyline, when its principal character, maltugi, recites a catalogue of high-class liquors in front of aristocrats, along with whiskey and brandy.