Take a look at the differences between the Beninoise liquor, Sodabi, and locally made Palm Wine.
Sodabi and Palm wine are popular local drinks sold in communal areas of tropical Africa.
They are both gotten from tree sap, from African Palm trees. To tap tree sap, harvesters climb enormous palms or set up ladders. They make careful cuts at the crown of the tree and place plastic containers at the base to catch dripping sap. The wine gotten immediately begins fermenting from yeasts in the air and from this, the drinks are packaged and processed, as the case may be.
West African Palm wine is a cloudy, whitish fermented sap tapped from raffia palm. It is collected by tapping the top of the trunk. It is a sweet alcoholic beverage with a very short shelf life of only 1 day. In a few hours, it can go from sweet unfermented to sour, fermented, and mouth-puckering vinegary.
Palm wine as a beverage can be dated as far back as 16,000 B.C. due to the abundance of trees and ease of the fermentation process. It is probably one of humanity’s oldest libations. Palm wine remains largely local thanks to its countdown-clock fermentation and its tendency to explode when left in tightly sealed plastic or glass bottles. With pasteurization, however, it can have a shelf life of up to two years.
West Africans drink palm wine at birthdays, funerals and weddings. In Igbo culture, Palm Wine is used to indicate marriage interest to a woman's family and subsequently, engagement.
Sodabi is a traditional West African liquor distilled from fermented palm tree sap. Known as Sodabi in Benin and Togo, it takes a different name in other West African country — Ondotol in Cameroon, Koutoukou in Ivory Coast, Akpeteshie in Ghana and Ogogoro in Nigeria.
Prepared traditionally, Sodabi is fermented and distilled in rudimentary stills heated over a wood fire to give a clear, transparent liquid. After the base, palm wine is gotten from harvest of African Oil Palm, it is sometimes allowed to rest for up to three days, for the fermentation to increase the percentage of alcohol to 3 to 6 % .Then, it is heated in a pot. The alcohol vapours are carried by a pipe that passes into a container filled with cold water, where the condensation takes place. The alcohol becomes liquid and can be collected.
Unlike Palm wine, Sodabi is a very potent liquor and a shot can make one tipsy.
In the villages, the producers add roots or macerated fruits, to give taste or improve the medicinal properties.
Sodabi has an important place in daily life and voodoo religious ceremonies, where it is supposed to give strength and endurance, and increase divine protection against evil spirits. It is often used for libation during voodoo festivals and rituals — poured on the earth as an offering. It is also common to see sodabi at celebrations of births, weddings, first communions, burials and yam festival.