For Choi Gyu-won, a 29-year-old South Korean in a small village in South Gyeongsang province, drinking whiskey at home is a way to experience the good life on a budget.

"After tasting highballs at a bar, I decided to make them myself,” Choi said. He makes his own cocktail of Jack Daniel’s or Suntory Kakubin with soda and ice, which sells for about $35 a bottle in South Korea including taxes. While that’s still cheaper than going out for drinks, it’s far pricier than South Korea’s popular soju.

The higher price tag is worth it, according to Choi and many of his peers. South Koreans consumed 14.2 million liters of whisky in 2022, a small amount compared with other nations, but up 46% from 2021, according to Euromonitor International, a London-based researcher. The pace was the fastest in the world, the researcher said.