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A Distilled Spirit Made Using Black Koji Has A Long History in Okinawa

No carbs


Awamori is the oldest distilled alcoholic drink in Japan, which is believed to be the predecessor of shochu (another distilled Japanese spirit). It is said that the manufacturing method of awamori hasn’t changed much for over 500 years. It has no carbohydrates and low calorie. With 15% alcohol content, awamori only contains 59 kcal per 100 ml, whereas sake contains 103 kcal per 100 ml.

Unique attributes of awamori

What makes awamori so special?


While yellow koji is used for making sake and white koji is mainly used for making shochu, "black koji" is used for making awamori. Black koji produces a large amount of citric acid, which has a great feature of suppressing decay caused by germs, making it ideal for producing awamori in Okinawa where the temperature and humidity are high and bacteria can easily multiply. It is rare in the world to find a region that only uses black koji for making alcoholic beverages.

kurokoji .png
Black Koji

Awamori is made from long, thin, hard rice (indica rice).* Compared to the sticky Japanese rice (japonica rice), indica rice is hard and smooth, which makes it easier to work with after being converted into komekoji (rice malt).


*With the exception of some products

Rice (indica rice)

General shochu goes through two steps of preparation: the first preparation, in which rice koji or barley koji is made and then water and yeast are added for fermentation, and the second preparation, in which the main ingredients, such as potatoes, barley, and rice, are added for further fermentation. Awamori, on the other hand, is made by "whole koji preparation" in which all the rice is made into rice koji and water and yeast are added for fermentation.

Whole koji preparation

"Kusu" is an awamori that has been aged for more than three years. Pouring alcohol in a clay pot or bottle for aging is often referred to as “letting it sleep” in Okinawa, and the longer you let awamori sleep, the more it becomes sweeter and smoother.

Matures into "Kusu"
Unique Attributs of Awamori
Origin of the name "awamori"

How did it come to be called awamori?

The origin of why it came to be called "awamori" is still unclear, however, there are four theories that have been proposed so far.

Millet theory

Long time ago, millet, which is pronounced as “awa” in Japanese, was used as an ingredient instead of rice, therefore, it came to be called awamori.

Sanskrit theory

The name awamori came from the ancient Sanskrit word for liquor “awamuri”.

Satsuma Domain theory

The name awamori was given by the Satsuma Domain, a domain in Japan during the Edo period, in order to distinguish awamori from Kyushu’s shochu when they presented it to the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Bubble theory

Bubbles, which is pronounced as “awa” in Japanese, were made in order to measure the alcohol content. Therefore, “awa wo tateru (produce bubbles)” became “awa wo moru (build up bubbles)”, which then became “awamori”. 

​Information provided by Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association

Origin of theName "Awamoi"
History of awamori

The story of the oldest distilled spirit in Japan

15th -16th century 

Okinawa Prefecture was once a kingdom called Ryukyu. The Ryukyu Kingdom actively traded with China and other southern countries from the 15th to 16th centuries. With the introduction of foreign liquors, distilling techniques and tools, it is said that the production of awamori began in Ryukyu in the late 15th century at the latest.

17th – 19th century

During the Edo period (1603-1867), awamori was used as a tribute from the king of Ryukyu to the shogun of the Shogunate and also as a liquor to entertain the envoys from China. As such, awamori was indispensable for diplomatic use. From the 18th to the 19th century, distillation of awamori was limited to three locations in Shuri by royal decree, and its production, sale, and consumption were controlled by the government. On the other hand, awamori had become indispensable to the common people for festivals and daily enjoyment, and as a result, bootlegging ran rampant. 

Late 19th century - present

When the Ryukyu Kingdom, which lasted for about 450 years, was disbanded in the late 19th century and became Okinawa prefecture, production of awamori began to liberalize. However, the production was halted during WWII. It recovered in the post-war period, and through the efforts of the awamori industry and those who love awamori, awamori has become a popular alcoholic beverage not only in Okinawa but also throughout Japan.

History of Awamori
"Kusu," the aged awamori

Did you know that awamori matures as the time goes by?

What is Kusu?

“Kusu” is awamori

The longer it is aged, the sweeter the aroma becomes and the smoother it hits the tongue.

   that has been aged for more than three years.


Why Awamori Becomes Kusu?

Unlike western spirits such as whisky and brandy, which gain their aromatic compounds during the aging process from the wooden barrels they are stored in, the compounds contained in awamori undergo physical and chemical changes during the aging process that transform them into aromatic compounds. This gives aged awamori a mellow, sweet fragrance.



Scent of Kusu

Once awamori becomes kusu, it starts to smell like sweet vanilla. Others like brown sugar, caramel, fruity scent like apple and pear, rose like smell, orange and citrus smell, and some even smells like chocolate or coffee.


​Information provided by Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association

Awamori Distilleries
Recommended ways to enjoy awamori

Find ways to enjoy awamori that suit you the best!

Mizu-wari (awamori with water)

Water: appropriate amount
Awamori (30% alcohol): appropriate amount 


1) Add ice to the glass as desired.

2) Referring to the ratio in the "tips to make it tasty" section, add awamori and then water to the glass, and stir!

*Pairs well with dishes that use soy sauce, such as sashimi.


Tips to make it tasty

Before adding water to awamori, calculate the percentage of alcohol content after the water is added.

〈Prefer to enjoy it at a regular pace〉
* Dilute awamori to 10% alcohol content.
Awamori (30% alcohol) : water = 1 : 2 (10% alcohol content → it’s best when it becomes 8-9% alcohol content after the ice is melted)

〈Prefer to enjoy it at a slower pace with a meal〉
*Dilute awamori to 15% alcohol content.
Awamori (30% alcohol) : water = 1 : 1 (15% alcohol content → it’s best when it becomes 13-14% alcohol content after the ice is melted)

Remove the ice at the moment when you feel "it tastes good". By doing so, you can prevent awamori from becoming too diluted and you can enjoy the taste you like for a longer period of time.

Tansan-wari (awamori with sparkling water)

Sparkling water: appropriate amount
Awamori (30% alcohol): appropriate amount


1)  Cool the glass, awamori, and sparkling water in a refrigerator.
2)  Referring to the ratio in the "tips to make it tasty" section, add awamori and then sparkling water to the glass.
3)  Gently stir up and down with a muddler.
*Pairs well with dishes that are well seasoned, such as Okinawa bitter gourd stir-fry.


Tips to make it tasty

Before adding water to awamori, calculate the percentage of alcohol content after the water is added.

〈Want to enjoy a richer taste of awamori〉
*Dilute awamori with sparkling water to 7.5% alcohol content.
Awamori  :  sparkling water = 1 : 3 (7.5% alcohol content)

〈Want to enjoy a lighter taste of awamori〉
*Dilute awamori with sparkling water to 6% alcohol content.
Awamori : sparkling water = 1 : 4 (6% alcohol content)

It is important that the glass, the awamori, and the sparkling water are all chilled beforehand!
Keep the sparkling water chilled in the refrigerator to keep it carbonated. 
By not using ice, it becomes easier to adjust the flavor to your liking.

Be careful not to over-stir, as over-stirring will make the sparkling water to become less carbonated.

<More advanced way of enjoying it>
Garnish the Tansan-wari with a twisted piece of citrus peel to make it even more refreshing!

How to enjoy Kusu (aged awamori)

Kusu (aged awamori), especially those that are aged for more than 10 years, is best to be enjoyed neat, taking your time to savor its flavor and aroma.

1)  Pour a small amount of kusu into an Ochoko (a small Japanese sake cup) or glass.
2) Take a small sip at a time and roll it around in your mouth, and just take your time to drink it.


Tips to enjoy it even better

The longer it matures, the deeper, sweeter, and more expansive the mellow flavor of kusu becomes. Slowly enjoy the changes in the taste and aroma while resting your tongue with a chaser of water from time to time.

The older the awamori, the longer it takes for the aroma to open up. Kusu that has been “let to sleep (aged),” as Okinawans say, for a long time should be awakened very slowly. The aroma will be exceptional if you pour it into an Ochoko or glass and let it sit for more than 10 to 20 minutes to allow it to be exposed to the air before tasting.

Kusu is generally higher in alcohol content (usually over 40%), so even if it is left for a long time after pouring it into a glass, it will not lose its alcohol content and deteriorate in taste. After poring kusu into an ochoko or glass, the aroma of kusu can be further enhanced by slowly warming the cup in the palm of your hand. Also, if you take the time to drink it, a sweet aroma like vanilla or caramel will linger in your cup after you have finished drinking. This is another enjoyable aspect of drinking kusu.

Kusu aged for less than 10 years can be enjoyed on the rocks as well. Add large ice cubes and enjoy the changes in flavor as the ice slowly melts.

Shima-gria (awamori sangria)

Citrus fruits (shikuwasa/grapefruit/orange etc.): appropriate amount
Bitter gourd slices: small amount
Mint: optional

Awamori (30% alcohol): appropriate amount


1) Cut citrus fruits.
2) Slice a small amount of bitter gourd (*be careful not to put too much)
3) Add 1) and 2) into the jar. Add mint as you like. 
4) Pour awamori into the jar enough to completely cover the ingredients added previously.
5) Leave it for 2-3 days to let the flavors come out. 
It tastes great when the finished Shima-gria is mixed with tonic water, soda, or ginger ale in 1:3 ratio.

*Use a glass jar (a jar with a large opening/jam or pickle jar is also acceptable)


Tips to make it tasty

When making a fruit-based shima-gria (awamori sangria), adding citrus fruits can stabilize the flavor. 

When trying to make shima-gria without following this recipe, choosing a combination of vegetables and fruits based on a smoothie or soup recipe will result in a delicious awamori sangria.

Cut the fruits and bitter gourd in pretty shapes, as looks are part of the deliciousness. It is important to cut them in a way that makes people think "I want to drink it!”

If you want to enjoy the freshness, it is recommended to be finished in 2 to 3 weeks. If you want to soak the ingredients to let the flavors seep out even more, you can soak it longer (the standard storage period is about 6 months).

Coffee Awamori

. Grinded coffee beans: 10g
. Water: 100ml
. Awamori (30% alcohol): 50ml


1)  Add 100ml of water to 50ml of awamori to make Mizuwari (awamori with water) with 10% alcohol content.
2)  Add 1) to 10g of grinded coffee beans
3)  Soak for 6-12 hours, then take the grinded coffee beans out. 

*Use a cold brew pot to make it 


Tips to make it tasty

The flavor will stabilize if you keep it in the refrigerator for 1 day.

Finish drinking within 3 weeks.

Enjoy it like drinking a good cup of coffee. Venture away from the usual way of drinking awamori, such as using your favorite coffee cup.

Ice cream with awamori

. Ice cream of your choice (chocolate or vanilla flavor is recommended): 1 cup
. Awamori (30% alcohol): 30ml

1)  Wait for the ice cream to soften.
2)  Pour 30ml of awamori onto the ice cream.
3)  Mix well and enjoy.


Tips to make it tasty

It is recommended to use ice cream after it is slightly melted and softened so that  it is easier to mix.

Besides ice cream, it is also delicious with frappe or ice cream shake. 

You can also opt for kusu (aged awamori), which has higher alcohol content. 


<Advanced way of enjoying it>
If the ice cream is still frozen and hard, you can eat the ice cream first and then drink awamori to complete the cocktail in your mouth!
It is also good to mix it once and leave it in the freezer for half a day to allow the mixture to blend well.

​Information and photos provided by Okinawa Awamori Distillers Association (*excluding the photo in the "how to enjoy kusu" section)

Enjoy Awamori
Where to Find Awamori

Where to find awamori

Causeway Bay SOGO, YATA, AEON, Apita, City'super, Aragaki Tsusho's online store (

※Some branches may not provide this product.



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