Soju so far for Anheuser-Busch

You can't accuse Anheuser-Busch of rushing into the spirits field.

I reported on its first effort back in November 2005 with Jekyl & Hyde, a dual-drink effort. Now, at last, its second drink effort beyond beer and non-alcoholic drinks is soju, an ancient Korean sweet potato distillation that is loosely classified as a vodka.

A-B is teaming up with Ku Soju Inc. of Laguna Hills, CA, to test market and distribute Ku brand soju, distilled by Doosan of Seoul, South Korea.

Among soju's selling points are that it has about one-third fewer calories than vodka and, at 48 proof, contains less alcohol.

The low alcohol volume will help in marketing the drink because it can be sold by A-B's network of nearly 700 distributors to stores licensed to sell beer, wine and — as is the case in New York and California with licensed on-premise accounts -- beverages with no more than 24% alcohol, which makes it 48 proof.

“There’s huge potential,” Ku Soju President Norman Suh told Brandweek magazine. “This is a mainstream brand for everybody. It’s much smoother, and if you compared Ku against any super premium vodka on the market — Grey Goose, Belvedere, Chopin — we’ll come out on top in any taste comparison.”

Of course, not everyone is interested in a straight drink. Soju mixed with Sprite and various kinds of syrup is popular in Korea, especially among women and young people in general, as is a concoction of one part soju, two parts Sprite plus lemonade powder.

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