If you’ve never tasted awamori before, here’s your chance to try 10. Along with all the food, entertainment, shopping, displays and bon dance, for the first time ever the 2018 Okinawan Festival is featuring tastings of Okinawa's signature distilled liquor. You can buy straight-up pours of up to 10 labels on Sept. 1 and 2 and pairings of six awamori cocktails and small plates from local restaurants on Sept. 1, both on the third floor of the Hawaii Convention Center.
Awamori has been an integral part of Okinawan culture since the 15th century. It gets its distinctive flavor from a traditional process of distilling liquor from Thai long-grain rice and typically ranges between 30 to 60 proof in alcohol content. Similar to Champagne, which is exclusively produced in France’s Champagne region, awamori must be produced in Okinawa to be considered awamori, according to Japanese law. There are currently 47 awamori distilleries across Okinawa.
Here's the schedule of sampling:
Tickets are available for $5 each for two 1-ounce pours on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-3 p.m. You can purchase multiple tickets but remember: Awamori is potent! Ten labels will be featured:
- Kuba awamori
- Shaka awamori
- Aloha awamori
- Kura awamori
- Ryukyu Bijin awamori
- Alan Wong awamori
- Kumejima awamori
- Shimauta awamori
- Hanashimauta awamori
- Mizuho awamori
All are available at Marukai, Don Quijote and Tamura except for Alan Wong's awamori. Wong had his label specially blended, and it's only served at Alan Wong's restaurant and at private gatherings.
Awamori tasting + food pairing
Here's the lineup of awamori-paired dishes:
- MW Restaurant: Kakuni Pork
- AGU Ramen: Taco Rice
- Mariposa: TBA
- Senia: TBA
- Pagoda Floating Restaurant: Oysters
- Alan Wong's: Awamori Miso Beef
Wong's specialty awamori cocktail, 'Ghost of Okinawa,' is on his current restaurant menu.
Hawaii's liquor laws only allow licensed retail outlets to sell alcohol to the public, which is why Neiman Marcus at Ala Moana will the preferred retail outlet for eight awamori labels during the Okinawan Festival. Neiman Marcus will sell the Kuba, Shaka, Kura, Ryukyu Bijin, Shimauta, Hanashimauta, Mizuho and Aloha labels Sept. 1 through Sept. 15. Neiman Marcus will take your order and when the product is delivered, they will notify buyers when it is ready for pick up.
Aloha awamori is especially unique, since its recipe is from plantation days when Okinawan immigrants blended their own liquor with available Hawaiian ingredients. Because of this, it has a distinct sugarcane and ginger flavor and can be sipped in a cocktail or on ice. Aloha awamori is distilled in Okinawa and brought to Hawaii, where it's aged and finished with Hawaii botanicals. More flavors of Aloha awamori will become available as recipes from the original plantation-era distillers are sorted out by their descendants in Ewa, Waipahu and other communities.
Fun fact: Aloha awamori chili pepper is an elevated version of Hawaiian chili pepper water. The chili pepper awamori flavor is used with Okinawan soba, soups, poke and anything that chili pepper water is used for. If you think chili pepper has a kick, wait until you try the awamori version.
For more details about this weekend's Okinawan Festival at the Hawaii Convention Center, visit their website.
1801 Kalakaua Ave.