Brewed just outside Seoul, South Korea, Màkku is an all-natural beverage made with Gimpo rice, mountain water and live cultures. It’s a modern take on makgeolli, Korea’s oldest alcoholic beverage. When I first gave it a taste, I was expecting a creamy drink, but I instead experienced the complete opposite. Màkku is light and fizzy, and goes down as easy as a flute of cold bubbly. I chatted with founder Carol Pak to learn more about her one-of-a-kind canned beverage that she’s bringing to the American palate.
What is makgeolli and how did it inspire you to launch Màkku?
Makgeolli is a traditional Korean alcohol that is brewed from rice. It is coarsely filtered and easy to drink at around 6% alcohol. Dating back to the 10th century, it’s the oldest known alcoholic beverage in Korea and is commonly seen all around the country to this day. However, as breweries have been family-run and -operated for generations, there hasn’t been much innovation in the makgeolli industry.
I wanted to honor the traditional recipe and use only all-natural ingredients so consumers wouldn’t get any artificial aftertastes or be left with a strange mouthfeel. After several months of trying my terrible-tasting makgeolli, my mom (a licensed herbologist) stepped in and crafted the Màkku you taste today. She read through pages and pages of Korean blogs and forums and experimented and troubleshooted her way to a delicious batch.
What was life like growing up in New York City as the daughter of Korean immigrants?
My parents both came to the United States with a language barrier, nothing to their name and no credit. So my father did what most immigrants do: He took a few odd jobs until he saved up enough money to start his own business. He initially had a deli, then a taxi company, then a bus company and eventually settled in the beauty industry. He currently has a beauty supply store in Brooklyn.
My mother immigrated with a nursing degree and got a job at a hospital but wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and only went back to work when times were rough. She was our safety net because immigrants put most of their savings back into their business. I grew up in Flushing, and I know that my parents were always better off than others since we always had my mom’s nursing degree to fall back on.
Coming to America was my parents’ sacrifice for us children to have a better life. All immigrants come because America is the dream. I definitely had pressure to make a good life for myself and not have their sacrifice be in vain. And while there is plenty I love about Korea, my parents’ homeland, I’m so thankful that I was born and raised in America.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes. I had a few jobs before becoming an entrepreneur, and there were many things that I hated about working for others. I don’t have the patience for repetitive work, inefficiencies, organizational politics, bad ethics, lack of passion, or being confined to hours and expectations. As risky as entrepreneurship is, I prefer to have more control over the risks I am taking. My favorite part of being in this industry is the people I come across. Everyone is so talented, passionate and dedicated.
How did you come up with the design for Màkku’s sleek packaging?
I knew that as a new brand and a new category, packaging was going to have to be our first priority followed by the taste of our product. I set out to find the best designers, and the resulting package that we have today is really the brainchild of designer Joe Doucet. I let him know that we found that most people found the color of the drink unappealing, but I also knew that people are turned off if reality doesn’t meet expectations. So we thought a white can could subconsciously prime consumers to prepare for a white-colored liquid. We also thought it was beautiful, clean and very different from any other beer can on the shelf today.
Màkku has a variety of creative flavor infusions. Do you have a favorite?
I like different flavors depending on my mood and the time of day. I always encourage people to try the original flavor because I want them to know what makgeolli is supposed to taste like. Màkku should be served cold, with a gentle shake or flip of the can before opening, as rice sediments fall to the bottom of the can. You want to make sure the sediment is evenly spread out for optimal taste and mouthfeel.