When in Okinawa, drink (or eat!) awamori!

If you’re a fan of trying liquors from around the world, you really ought to try Okinawa’s awamori at least once in your life. Distilled from a type of rice known as long-grain indica rice, this liquor is usually very high-proof and is known to get you sloshed very quickly, whether you dilute it with water, have it on the rocks, or drink it straight. That doesn’t stop it from being a popular liquor in Japan.

Our Japanese-language reporter Kouhey would never miss an opportunity to have awamori, and when he heard about a place that makes “Awamori Jelly” during his recent visit to Ishigaki Island, part of the archipelago southwest of Okinawa known as the Yaeyama Islands, he just had to check it out.

How does it taste compared to regular awamori? And more importantly, how strong would awamori-infused gelatin be? How many would it take to get him nicely tipsy? These were the burning questions Kouhey sought to find the answers to.

Kouhey found the Awamori Jelly at Awamori Jelly Honpo, a liquor shop and bar located in the center of Ishigaki Island near a shopping arcade called “Euglena Mall”.

▼ Inside, different kinds of Awamori Jelly were lined up in neat rows.

These jellos contain actual awamori, so they’re considered alcoholic. As such, they should not be consumed by minors or those planning to drive afterward.

▼ “Warning: These contain awamori.”

There were 11 different kinds of jelly, each made from different awamori brands, including Tamanotsuyu, Yaesen, Miyanotsuru, Seifuku, Omoto, and Shirayuri, which are all distilled locally in Ishigaki.

The owner of this bar is actually a YouTuber who manages the channels Jelly Otoko Channel and Ishigaki Island Live Camera. The Jelly Otoko (“Jelly Man”) himself, and his partner Kimitan, helped Kouhey select his jello and told him all about the product.

The two produce the Awamori Jelly in-house, including inspecting each product themselves to make sure no shiikwasa peels or other byproducts remain in the final product.

▼ They even place each and every label on the products with great care.

They also box some of them up in souvenir sets, which are apparently very popular, especially with women. Everything is done by hand, which gives these jellies an exceptionally special feel.

The Jelly Otoko even helped Kouhey select the order in which to eat his six Awamori Jellies that would give the best Awamori Jelly experience. Since Kouhey was in Ishigaki, he selected the six jellies that use awamori distilled locally in Ishigaki.

The shop also offers an eat-in space they call “Yuuchu Bar”, so Kouhey settled in there to begin his experiment.

He started with Miyanotsuru.

The cup was packed so tightly with jelly that he had to be careful to keep it from bursting out when he opened the lid.

Kouhey is not someone who gets drunk quickly, but after just one cup, he was already experiencing redness in his cheeks. It was as if he’d drunk a glass of awamori itself.

So if you’re wondering how many cups of jelly it takes to start feeling the effects…the answer is just one.

But it was definitely delicious! Awamori has some idiosyncrasies in terms of alcoholic bite, depending on the brand, that some people don’t like, but in jelly form, Kouhey felt like those hurdles to enjoying awamori became much smaller. It was more like a very fragrant jelly than an alcoholic drink, he thought.

But Kouhey wasn’t there to review the flavor. He was on a mission to find out how many he needed to consume before feeling intoxicated — for safety’s sake. “Must not forget,” he told himself as he peeled open the next one.

His second jelly was made with Shirayuri awamori.

This one was also pretty delicious! Shirayuri has a really quirky aroma, enough that locals either love it or hate it.

But when infused into jello, it was really light. Kouhey finished it off in a flash and moved on to number three, Yaesen

…which he also devoured.

At this point, after three cups of Awamori jelly, Kouhey was approaching tipsy and feeling pretty darn good.

▼ Kouhey’s cheeks were becoming slightly redder.

Next up was the Seifuku Awamori Jelly…

Then Tamanotsuyu

And lastly Omoto.

And then he had eaten all six!

At this point, Kouhey’s face had turned red as a lobster, but he wasn’t dead drunk. He was only a little bit drunk, or perhaps just very tipsy. (By his own account, anyway.)

So, at least for Kouhey, he’d say three Awamori Jellies is enough to get tipsy, and six will make you feel drunk. Naturally, everybody has a different level of alcohol tolerance, so please use this as a reference and not an actual guide, and please drink (or in this case, eat) responsibly.

Awamori Jelly Honpo also has lots of ways to enjoy awamori as part of a senbero, (literally “1,000-yen drunk”), the term used for a cheap night out drinking. For example, with the Awamori Senbero, you can get four glasses of awamori for just 1,000 yen (US$7.04), which is an absolute steal, given that in this bar, one glass sells for at least 500 yen.

Plus, the restaurant has an unbelievable selection of rare brands, which you’d probably never find on the mainland, so it’s like a dream come true for awamori fans.

With so many to choose from, it would be hard to pick just four, but if you tell the Jelly Otoko and Kimitan your preferences, they’ll kindly create a flight for you and even tell you what order you should drink them in.

Kouhey likes the ones with relatively unique flavors, so they selected these four for him:

Of course, his awamori was served in the way he likes best, on the rocks.

After drinking those four, Kouhey was feeling pretty good, so he went for round two. This time he asked Jelly Otoko and Kimitan to select four high-value awamori that don’t normally fall into the senbero menu price range.

They were all so good! He ended up spending 2,500 yen for those, but that’s a price you would absolutely never find in mainland Japan, especially for those particular brands. On top of that, you can’t beat the amazing customer service! Kouhey had a whale of a time.

If you find yourself on Ishigaki Island, make sure to check out Awamori Jelly Honpo. And while you’re traveling, don’t forget to try out Ishigaku’s heavenly bread and tour the peculiar Yonekoyaki Shisa Garden. There’s plenty to do on the island paradise if you know where to look!

Bar Information
Awamori Jelly Honpo
Okinawa-ken Ishigaki-shi Okawa 280-7
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (may change depending on the day)
Closed: Thursdays (may change depending on the season)
YouTube: Jelly Otoko Channel

Images © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]