History, Recipe, Brands and Restaurants

Japan is just not only famous for traditional food or street food. Mentioning Japanese cuisine, you might not forget wine (or sake – 酒 in Japanese). There are a lot of sorts of traditional drink that’s popular. Today, we would love to introduce Awamori. Let’s discover what’s Awamori, its history and various brands of this liquor.


What’s Awamori?

Awamori is a distilled liquor unique to Okinawa and is the oldest one in Japan. Typically, awamori is 30-43% alcohol but some types will be as much as an alcohol content of 60%. In Okinawa, there are over 30 regions that make this liquor and every place has different name to call. When awamori is aged greater than three years, it is named kusu (古酒) – old liquor. Nevertheless, only Okinawan use this name, in different places in Japan, people often call it koshu with the identical meaning of aged liquor.

The fundamental ingredient of Awamori is indica rice imported from Thailand. As this liquor has a robust alcohol content, it is generally served along with ice and water. You may as well drink straight with ice or add to a cocktail.

The difference with sake and shochu

In case you are a fan of alcoholic liquor, you might hear of sake and shochu somewhere. Nevertheless, do you realize that there are some differences between these liquors? This table below shows some significant differences between these beverages.

Sake Shochu Awamori
Producing process brewing distillation
two fermentations
single fermentation
Ingredient short-grain Japonica rice short-grain Japonica rice long-grain Indica rice
(from Thailand)


History of Awamori

Within the 1400s, Okinawa (the Ryukyu Kingdom at the moment) began to prosper as a trading nation by making the most of its geographical benefits. The royal trading ships traveled across the countries of East Asia, collected precious goods and exchanged the to amass wealth. Among the many Thai products that began to be traded in 1404, there was Tenjiku (made in Thailand), a distilled liquor made by fermenting and distilling coconut sap. The strategy of distilling sake was developed under the control of the royal family. By 1470, it had grown enough to be exported. At the moment, the residents of Akata, Sakiyama, and Toribori behind Shuri Castle were the individuals who made it. 

After that, through the Ryukyu Dynasty, the one one that was allowed to make it was Shuri Sanka. Within the Meiji period, Ryukyu became Okinawa Prefecture and privately-owned awamori began from there. There have been about 760 liquor stores at the moment. Later, the awamori industry suffered great damage attributable to the results of the Pacific War. Nevertheless, attributable to the strong determination of the people there, awamori revived and have become signature drink of Okinawa. With a history of over 600 years, it’s Japan’s oldest distilled liquor. Subsequently, beyond a drink, it is usually a living history and the pride of Okinawa people.


The name of the sake “Awamori” appears in an ancient Okinawan song from the late 1400s. There are several theories concerning the origin of the name “awamori”.

The awa theory

The idea that’s believed by numerous people is that the unique name is “Awamori” but with different kanji 粟盛. In Japanese, awa means “millet” and 盛 refers to “numerous”. The explanation for this name could also be due to incontrovertible fact that this drink was originally comprised of millet. Nevertheless, the change of from (millet) to (bubble) possibly results from the change in ingredients from millet to Thai rice.

The Sanskrit theory

Awamuri is the traditional Indian Sanskrit word for alcoholic beverages. Subsequently, some people consider that the word was dropped at Japan and have become “awamori”.

The Satsuma theory

In other theory, it is claimed that when the Satsuma lords presented the liquor to Tokugawa Shogun, it was named Awamori to differentiate it from shochu from Kyushu.

The bubble theory

An image of pouring awamori right into a bowl to make bubbles (from Minamijima Zatsuwa)

Within the old days, people used to envision the standard of distilled liquor using bubbles. The tactic is to carry a teacup or sake cup in a single hand and slowly drop the liquor into the bowl from several dozen centimeters with the opposite hand to see how foamy it’s. The higher the standard, the more fantastic bubbles were formed and the longer it took for the bubbles to vanish. For that reason, the name awamori, which suggests pouring bubbles, roots from this practice. That is one of the vital widely accepted theory.

Tips on how to make Awamori?

STEP 1: Use black koji mold

The black koji mold, which is one unique characteristic of Awamori making process, has a wonderful flavor and produces good acidity. Because of this, it is feasible to make awamori stably and safely even in hot and humid Okinawa.

In sake making process, people use yellow mold koji while shochu (mainly from Kyushuu) is comprised of white koji mold. Awamori has discovered and utilized black koji, which could be very unique to southern countries. A significant feature of black koji mold is that it produces a considerable amount of citric acid through the manufacturing process. In other words, in comparison with other koji mold, the acidity of the “moromi” will be increased. Subsequently, the “moromi” is not going to rot even in the new and humid weather of Okinawa.

STEP 2: Produce rice koji

As we have now stated before, the fundamental ingredient of awamori is Indica rice from Thailand. The ingredients are washed and soaked thoroughly after which steamed. Thai rice is then made into rice koji using black koji mold, water. Next, to make “moromi”, people will add yeast and ferment the alcohol. That is the koji preparation, a very powerful feature of Awamori. Since the ingredients are 100% rice malt, the liquor has a robust flavor, and the older the liquor, the more delicious it becomes.

Rice Koji

Certainly one of the differences between awamori and shochu is the koji preparation and fermenting process. Awamori is made by fermenting all the raw rice into rice koji, adding water and yeast.
Alternatively, to make general shochu, first you may have to make rice koji, then add water and yeast to ferment it. During this process, the fundamental ingredients comparable to potatoes, barley, rice, and buckwheat are put into and fermented as well. That is the explanation why sochu has double fermentation process while awamori has just one.

STEP 3: Distill with a pot still

When the alcoholic fermented moromi is prepared, add heat and steam it by condensing the source of the alcohol containing the fragrant components. The primary liquor coming out from the still is named “Hanasake” (Flower Liquor). It’s a distillation method that cools down the moromi and makes it develop into awamori. That is the oldest and simplest approach to distillation.

Liquor will be broadly divided into brewed liquor and distilled liquor. Non-distilled alcoholic beverages comparable to sake, beer, and wine are fermented alcoholic beverages. Shochu, whiskey, brandy, vodka, etc. are distilled alcoholic beverages.
Distillation is the strategy of separating the components or substances from a liquid mixture through the use of selective boiling and condensation. In case you cool it down, alcohol of 60 degrees or more will come out. It’s the so-called “Hanasake” flower wine. This hanasake has a high content of alcohol. Nevertheless, once you drink it, the sweetness of the rice is absolutely amazing.

STEP 4: Storage

In spite of everything the manufacturing process, awamori can be stored. Long-term aging is claimed to enhance the sweetness and taste of the liquor. You may store it using a standard storage container or a ceramic pot, etc.

Tips on how to age your individual Awamori?

If you must age a superb kushu (aged wine), it is necessary to decide on the right wine. There are two things that you may have to concentrate to when selecting:

  1. Select one with high alcohol content.
  2. Select one with strong flavor.

Select one with high alcohol content:

Over the long time period, original ingredients of awamori chemically change and result to the aged awamori. This old liquor has a sweet aroma and a mellow flavor and the longer it’s, the tastier awamori. The professional of liquor with high alcohol content is that it consists of more ingredients than water, which suggests more ingredients are aged through the wine aging.

Although awamori with low content of alcohol could be very easy to drink and is suitable for young people and woman, the proper selection for awamori aging is the one with high degree.

Select one with strong flavor:

Do you realize that the fashionable awamori is far easier to drink than up to now? Certainly one of the explanations for that is that the technology and equipment for producing awamori have evolved tremendously over the past few a long time. Nevertheless, so as to make awamori easy to drink, it is just not enough to easily lower the alcohol content however the makers also need to remove the unique odors and richness of it.

In truth, this unique odor and richness is saif to be very vital ingredients in aging awamori. Subsequently, slightly than easy-to-drink awamori, awamori that’s “unique” and have “strong” favor is healthier for making aged sake.

Beneficial brands of Awamori

Easy-to-drink types

Kamimura Sake Brewery- Awamori Warm Stream, 30°

Awamori Warm Stream

Kamimura Shuzo is a long-established brewery founded in 1882, and can also be generally known as a pioneer of barrel-stored awamori. It is a discerning bottle based on old sake that has been stored in oak barrels for over 3 years. The really helpful approach to drink it’s to mixed with soda and served with cut lemons. It could possibly be the very best choice to pair with cheese or meat.

Chuko – Yokka Koji, 43°

Yokka Koji

Awamori is the normal spirit of Okinawa and Chuko have been making it since 1949. It is a wealthy, complex and whisky-like Awamori from Okinawa, Japan. This liquor has hints of pear, green apple and rose with a wealthy body, a smooth, luxurious texture and an extended, involved finish.The information for you is to drink it as a whisky and you can find a tremendous sour taste. Additionally it is a superb idea to  mix it along with your favorite drink to create an original cocktail with a wealthy flavor, or benefit from the texture of a partial shot chilled within the freezer within the bottle.

Beneficial brands of luxury awamori

Zuisen Sake Brewery – Mizuizumi Omaro 21 Yr 35%

Awamori aged for 21 years, the pride of “Zuisen Brewery”. The gorgeous vanilla scent that rises when the stopper is opened is attractive. Once you put it in your mouth, it has a soft sweetness unique to aged old sake, together with a wealthy and umami flavor. Perfect for celebrating vital anniversaries and special occasions. We recommend drinking straight or ice style. In case you are searching for a heavy vintage awamori, please test it out.

Yamakawa Sake Brewery – Kaneyama kusu (Limited Edition Hizoshu)

Aged old sake that has been aged for a very long time. It’s a full-fledged brand produced by Yamakawa Sake Brewery, a brewery that has been making old sake with a robust commitment since its establishment, in order that it is named “old sake Yamakawa”. The awamori, which has been aged for 20 years, is characterised by its bittersweet and sweet cacao-like scent. You may enjoy a thick and mellow mouthfeel that doesn’t make you’re feeling the high alcohol content of 43%. The bottle is wrapped in getto paper and the picket box can also be attractive. Additionally it is really helpful as a drink at a celebrations.

Beneficial brands of paper pack awamori

Higa Sake Brewery – Zanpa White Pack

This Awamori can also be generally known as “Zanshiro”. The fruity aroma that rises once you open the cap, and the clear taste that suppresses the peculiarity of awamori is absolutely attractive. It has a low alcohol content of 25%, so it is ideal for beginners to Awamori. For the very best drinking, we recommend drink on the rocks, with water, or with soda. In case you are searching for easy-to-drink sake in a paper pack, this may be among the best option.

Kumejima – Kumesen 30° Pack

That is awamori made on Kumejima, a distant island wealthy in nature positioned west of the fundamental island of Okinawa. A discerning brand that is ready using traditional methods using rigorously chosen southern hard rice and natural spring water. It’s characterised by a refreshing taste with a touch of sweetness.

We recommend drinking it in a straightforward style first, comparable to straight, on the rocks, with water, or with soda. Since it doesn’t have a robust peculiarity, you’ll be able to enjoy various arrangements comparable to making fruit wine with seasonal fruits and crystal sugar, or original cocktails mixed along with your favorite drink.

One other nice point is that it is comparatively inexpensive. In case you like refreshing awamori that brings out the unique flavor of the ingredients, or in case you are searching for a superb value brand you could casually enjoy along with your evening drink, please add this to your list.

Restaurants to enjoy Awamori

It will be great in case you could drink delicious awamori in Okinawa with its beautiful landscapes and beaches! But in case you don’t live in Okinawa, you can not easily go to the restaurants and luxuriate in this experience. If that’s the case, how about having fun with delicious Awamori and native cuisine at an Okinawan restaurant where you’ll be able to casually stop by in your way home from work? Today, we would like to indoduce some restaurants in Tokyo where you’ll be able to feel like travelling Okinawa.

Taketomi-jima (竹富島)

Awamori  (泡盛)

“Taketomi-jima” has a wide selection of colourful island fish you could not find in Tokyo. The lineup of awamori is centered on major brands of sake breweries on the fundamental island of Okinawa comparable to Usaki – a reproduction of black koji from before the war, and encompasses a sweet fruity aroma and mellowness or Okinawa Sake Brewery Cooperative, which inherits traditional old sake brewing and has a wealthy aroma and deep richness. There’s also rare brand comparable to the union “Uminokuni 10 Yr Old Sake 43 Degrees”.

Address: Daito Ginza Constructing B1F, 6-12-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: [Lunch time] 11:30-15:00 (14:30 L.O)
[Dinner time] Mon-Sat 17:00-23:00 (22:00 L.O)

Okinawa Dining Haisai (沖縄ダイニング・ハイサイ)

“Okinawa Dining Haisai” where you’ll be able to enjoy standard Okinawan cuisine in a restaurant that comes with the subtle atmosphere of Jiyugaoka. About 2 minutes on foot from Tokyu Line “Jiyugaoka” station.

The awamori menu has loads of brands really helpful for first-timers and girls. Nakijin Sake Brewery’s Utsukushiki Furusato 20 degree, which is characterised by the gentle aroma of awamori, and Tsukayama Sake Brewery’s Kokuka 20 degree, which uses yeast harvested from hibiscus and is paying homage to a southern country, are popular with women. Also, because it is served in a Ryukyu glass, you’ll be able to enjoy a special feeling of getting drunk with Okinawan culture.

Address: J front constructing B1F, 1-29-14 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: [Tuesday-Thursday] 17:00-24:00 (LO 23:00)
[Friday-Saturday] 17:00-24:00 (LO 23:00)
[Sundays and holidays] 16:00 – 23:00(L.O 22:00)
(close on Monday)

Tokyo Urizun (東京うりずん)

That is the Tokyo branch of the famous Okinawan restaurant Urizun, which has a store in Naha, Okinawa. You may enjoy a wide selection of awamori and authentic Okinawan cuisine. This restaurant is just 1 minute walk from Tokyo Station on the JR Line/Tokyo Metro.

“Tokyo Urizun” is a treasure trove of awamori, with brands from many of the breweries in Okinawa. There are special brands that may only be tasted at this shop, comparable to “Urizun Special Kusu 21 Years Old”, which is each strong and soft, and “Tokyo Awamori”, which is an original mix only available at “Tokyo Urizun”. Come to Urizun for a heavan of awamori!

Address: 1-5-1 5F Shinmarunouchi Bldg., Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Phone: +81 3-5224-8040
Opening hours: [Monday – Sunday] 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM; 5:00 PM – 02:00 AM


Awamori is the symbol and pride of Okinawan. With different brands for nearly every from the lightest to strongest, you’ll be able to select yourself an appropriate brand to enjoy this liquor. It’s such an idea sitting next to the gorgeous beach, having fun with awamori but in case you can’t, just try it at home and pair with some delicious food. Come on and luxuriate in the amazing taste of awamori!

Do you realize what food is best paired with awamori? Attempt to drink it and eat with fried foods, fatty meats, comparable to pork belly. Take a look at here for a recipe to mix with awamori!

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