Sunday, March 9, 2008

Saké Sunday: Saké With a Snake?

oes the worm in a bottle of mezcal make you squirm? Would it make you squirm more to see a bottle of Saké with a snake curled up inside the bottle?

Such exists, well sort of. Habushu or Habu Saké is not really Saké though it does have a snake in the bottle. Habushu is made in Okinawa and contains an alcohol similar to Saké called Awamori. A significant different between the two is that Awamori is distilled, rather than brewed, from rice. Not many producers make Awamori and it is difficult to find in the U.S. Awamori, which can be harsh, generally needs aging to mellow. This is also unlike most Saké which is never meant to be aged. Awamori can be aged for over twenty years.

The Habu snake was famed in China for its alleged medicinal properties and it eventually spread to Okinawa. In Okinawa, the snake may be soaked in Awamori and herbs and spices. The poison is supposed to dissolve in the alcohol so there is no danger in drinking the unusual concoction. Though Awamori is normally clear, the herbs and honey added to the Habushu give it a yellow color. One problem though is that the Habushu can smell pretty bad.

There are different varieties of Habushu as well, with varying levels of alcohol, some drier or sweeter. Some Habushu, the more expensive brands, come with the Habu snake inside the bottle. From what I have seen, I do not think they can import Habushu into the U.S.

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