Awamori is a specialty of Okinawa. It is a drink that is always drunk at Okinawan banquets, but it is widely recognized as having a strong flavor and aroma, and not many people know the reason for its high alcohol content, its ingredients and manufacturing method, its relationship with kusu (old rice wine), or the difference between it and shochu.
So, in this article, I'd like to share with you the basic knowledge of Awamori, the more you know about it, the more you can enjoy drinking it! The more you know about Awamori, the more you will enjoy drinking it!
◼︎ Why is the alcohol content of Awamori so high?
Awamori has a widespread image of being a "strong drink with high alcohol content. Perhaps because of this, Okinawans also have a general image of being strong drinkers. So why is it that most of the Awamori produced in Okinawa has a high alcohol content? There is more to it than just "the taste of Okinawans.
Okinawa is a well-known southern island where the maximum temperature in summer is 31 degrees Celsius and in winter it only drops to about 19 degrees Celsius. Since the days when there was no refrigeration technology, the wisdom of maintaining a high alcohol content was born as a way to keep the alcohol from spoiling on the southern island.
There is also an unexpected by-product of high alcohol content liquor.
It is called "ku-su," which means "old liquor," and it is a rare way of enjoying liquor that changes its flavor and aroma as it ages.
◼︎ Why are Okinawans so fond of "kusu" (old Awamori rice wine)?
There are two types of alcoholic beverages: those that are delicious when freshly made, and those whose value increases as they mature over time.
Awamori is a kind of sake that tastes and smells rough when it is freshly made, but becomes more delicious as it ages. This is called "kusu" in Okinawa, and has been prized and loved since ancient times. Basically, the definition of "old sake" is "Awamori that has been aged for more than three years", and in the old days, people used to enjoy it by storing it in jars or pots to age it.
High alcohol content has a high effect of "dissolving" things, and for this reason, high alcohol content Awamori has a lot of maturing ingredients dissolved in it. In the case of whiskey and brandy, the term "maturing" is used to describe the change in aroma and taste as the components of the barrel dissolve at high alcohol content, but in the case of Awamori, the alcohol itself contains plenty of maturing components, and the aroma and taste of the alcohol changes over time.
In the days of the Ryukyu Dynasty, it is said that there was old sake that was aged for 200 to 300 years, and in the old days when the average life expectancy was much shorter than today, people cherished old sake as something to pass on to the next generation. This is why old sake has been loved in Okinawa since ancient times, as it has a high aroma and deep flavor. Unfortunately, most of the old sake was lost during the Battle of Okinawa, but the Okinawan people's love for old sake has been deeply handed down from generation to generation.
It can be said that Awamori is designed based on this "kusu" (old sake) making process, and the taste of Awamori can only be truly understood by knowing the taste of old sake....
The more you know about the history of Awamori, the more you will enjoy drinking it.
◼︎ History of Awamori" The more you know, the more you can enjoy drinking it.
Japan's Oldest Shochu?
The exact origin of Awamori is not clear, but it is often said to have come from either Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, or from China.
Around 1500, Ryukyu was already trading with Satsuma. A historical book found in Satsuma mentions a liquor similar to Awamori, so the theory that Awamori production must have started in Ryukyu in the 15th century seems to be the prevailing one.
This shows that Awamori is the "first distilled liquor in Japan" and is said to be the "root of authentic shochu in Japan" and has a history of 500 years.
Was it once a "court liquor" to entertain royalty?
Nowadays, Awamori is enjoyed by everyone, but in the past, it was valued as a high-class sake for entertaining royalty.
However, in the 18th century, the royal government of Ryukyu directly controlled the production of Awamori, and it was only allowed to be produced in a limited area called "Shuri Sanga".
In addition to the production, drinking was also strictly restricted among the common people. However, alcohol (Awamori) had already become a must for events such as festivals and wedding ceremonies, and "smuggling" and "trafficking" were taking place in many places.
◼︎ The Changing Trend of Awamori
Awamori has been loved by the common people of Okinawa (Ryukyu) since ancient times. Today, it is commonly drunk all over Japan. When you hear the word "Awamori", many people think of its "strong taste" or "strong smell", but Awamori is also evolving day by day, and a "trend" is emerging!
"The days of strong smelling and stinky Awamori are over!
The era of "strong smelling" Awamori is over, and there are now many different types of Awamori on the market, each with its own unique taste. While there are some traditional types of Awamori with strong flavors, there are also many styles of Awamori with less flavors that are easier to drink.
In addition, the negative image of Awamori is partly due to the fact that it is reminiscent of the days of moonshine. Nowadays, manufacturing technology has evolved, and cheap, high-quality Awamori has increased. The richness of Awamori can be felt even when it is mixed with water or soda, and many people say that it is the best sake for a meal.
◼ Sometimes used in cocktails.
Among the younger generation, cocktails made with Awamori are often enjoyed. Simple drinks such as "Awamori Tonic", "Awamori Ginger", and "Awamori Cola", which use Awamori instead of spirits such as gin and vodka, are also popular!
In addition, it is not uncommon for each bar in Okinawa to have its own original Awamori cocktail. Each bar in Okinawa has its own original Awamori cocktail, and the repertoire varies from fruit cocktails to surprising cocktails with combinations that a layman would never think of. This is a good place for people who are new to Awamori or women who are not strong drinkers.