Known locally as shima-zake or 'island sake', awamori is a distilled rice liquor unique to Okinawa. Inspired by the Thai drink Lao Khao, awamori has its roots in Okinawa's trading history, using ingredients and techniques introduced to the islands by Thai merchants in the 15th century.
Like its much-loved cousin, awamori is made using rice, though whilst sake is brewed, island sake is distilled, using recipes and methods refined over centuries. Made in a single fermentation using long-grain Thai-style rice and Okinawa's indigenous black koji mould, awamori is traditionally aged in clay pots, thrown using local earth.
More like whisky than wine, awamori is usually served with a carafe of water and bucket of ice, though some prefer it straight-up, and it makes the ideal base for an island cocktail.
For a taste of Okinawa's authentic awamori, try Chuko Distillery in Tomigusuku City, where sake masters continue to use traditional methods for the most authentic awamori possible – producing just 60 bottles of this unique liquor per batch.