“I DRINK to make others interesting,” said Ernest Hemingway. But what if you are holding a book in your hand, and reading it while drinking? With the liquor, it will make books even more interesting than they already are. Books and liquor may appear as an unconventional combination but there are bookstores which have introduced the two together. Welcome to “book pubs,” where reading books becomes more fascinating with the effects of alcohol.
BOOK&PUB and red wine share similar vibes: they are both classy, modern yet surprising. The bookstore is classy as it does not openly reveal itself with a big signboard. Instead, it is marked with empty beer bottles in front of the gate and a small standing sign that says chaek-han-jan, “a glass of a book” in English. The interior is modern — under its dim yellow lighting, the decoration resembles a construction site that is scattered with books instead of building equipment. The surprising element of BOOK&PUB is the selection of books and magazines that are available; they are mostly independent books, with non-mainstream, unique and original contents. What caught my eye was an unusually tiny book written by an amateur author suffering from depression. Drinking red wine while reading the gloomy miscellany eased me into the book’s contents. However, stay noted that the owner warns in his handwritten menu: “Do not get too drunk since it is still a bookstore.” Thus, if you have a low alcohol tolerance, please do not drink irresponsibly. Elseways, you will have a wonderful time in BOOK&PUB, exploring the beauty of independent books.
Location: 206, Sungmun-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Wednesday–Friday 14:00-22:00/ Saturday 14:00-19:00/ Sunday–Tuesday off
Price: Beer-\5,000-9,000, Wine-\5,000, Apple juice-\4,000, Tonic water-\4,000
Arriving at the café at 5 p.m., and suffocating from the summer’s heat, I asked the owner if one could order beer during the daytime. The owner smilingly said the café sells beer at any time of the day. Having ordered “four-words-beer,” a type of crafted beer sold in the shop, I started to explore the diverse entertainments that are available.
Café Pastel is a place of various charms. It is a large, multi-entertainment place, run by three different shops altogether: “Frente” that sells albums, LP records, and decorative items; “Café Pastel” that sells drinks including liquor and coffee; and “Wit n cynical” that showcases a range of books and poem collections. Reading the memos on the bookshelves that explained recommendations of poem collections, I chose a collection by an Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Then, sitting by a window, through which Sinchon Train Station was visible, I began reading away. What made the reading more enjoyable was the drink—it had a fragrant scent and a sweet, smooth taste. A good drink in this relaxing place will provide an escape from the last of the summer heat.
Location: 22-8, Sinchonnyeok-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Every day 12:00-23:00
Price range: Varies widely
Dae-ryuk Bookstore is like vodka tonic. Just as some people may be put off by vodka and its high proof, Dae-ryuk Bookstore may appear unapproachable, with its old-fashioned signboard. However, just as tonic water is easily consumed by people, Dae-ryuk Bookstore, located in Seong-dae Market since 1987, is close to the daily lives of ordinary people. Moreover, as vodka tonic tastes surprisingly sweet and pops in your mouth, the interior of the bookstore is fascinating, with vividly colored furniture and plants decorating every corner.
Each bookshelf has a distinct theme explained by memos attached underneath. There are independent books written by people in the town, picture books, children’s books and other works that are placed together under a certain theme. I asked the owner about the selection of books available and he kindly replied that these books are the ones he has read and liked, or the ones recommended by people in the town. While drinking vodka cocktail and looking closely into each shelf, I noticed that in each book, there are bookmarks with different handwritings. The owner explained that they were once memos written by customers who left their impressions of the books. If you are fond of a cozy yet vibrant environment, this is the place that suits your need.
Location: 40, Seongdae-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Every day 11:00-22:00
Price: Sangria & Vodka cocktail-\4,000
Pi-mang and Tomato
Here, you have no choice but to drink beer. But don’t worry; there is a wide range of beers available, a lot more than you can imagine! Pi-mang and Tomato is a manga pub that specializes in beer. A huge fan of the beverage, the owner frequently introduces new types of brew and replenishes the refrigerators with every shade of beer imaginable. As you walk into the pub, you will find numerous shelves full of comic books under the dark blue lighting, several transparent refrigerators filled with bottled beers, and fluffy cats walking on couches. On the beer refrigerators, the owner has attached memos, describing the taste and price of each beer. Astonished by the quantity and variety of drinks available, I asked the owner if he could recommend a beer with a sweet taste. Taking his recommendation of Lindemans Kriek beer from Belgium and picking up a comic book titled Liquor, I sat on one of the couches and let the liquor guide me through the pages.
Location: 27-21, Myeongmul-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Every day 17:00-02:00
Price: Mostly under \10,000
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During the intoxicating field trip to the book pubs, I discovered that the hardest part was to maintain the right balance between drinking and reading. Try not to forget that the purpose is to read and not only to drink. Then, you will get to share the joy of reading while drinking!