Ògógóró (Ogog') is an Urhobo word of a West African alcoholic drink, usually distilled locally from fermented Raffia palm tree juice and is most popular in Nigeria, where it is known as the country's homebrew. It is a distilled spirit originating from the oil or raffia palm tree. Initially tapped in the form of palm sap, the spirit is consumed not only throughout Nigeria but across the entire West and Central African region (as well as in the diaspora). Since prior to colonial times, ‘palm wine tappers’ have continued to refine their techniques converting the fermented palm sap into its more potent form, known as ‘ogogoro’, ‘kaikai’, etc. Today, there is a misconception that Ogogoro can be ethanol, but traditionally, it had to come from the palm tree and then be distilled from this source.
It is also known as akpeteshie (especially in Ghana), sapele water, kparaga, kai-kai, Sun gbalaja, egun inu igo meaning The Masquerade in the Bottle, push-me-push-you, and/or crim-kena, sonsé ("do you do it?" in Yoruba language). In the Igbo language it is known as Akpuru achia.
Properties and preparation
Ogogoro is distilled from the juice of Raffia palm trees. An incision is made in the trunk and a gourd placed outside it for collection, which is collected a day or two later. After extraction, the sap is boiled to form steam, which subsequently condenses and is collected for consumption. Ogogoro is not synthetic ethanol but it is tapped from a natural source and then distilled. As a direct result of colonial suppression of the once burgeoning industry, ogogoro - now referred to many as ‘local gin’, has continued to be produced as a form of subsistence farming, catering only to local communities in rural environments. Outside of these settings and with an exception of very specific tribes, adulterated versions of ogogoro, watered down and mixed with harsher synthesised spirits, are infamously consumed by either the very poor, seeking a quick high, or those who consider themselves traditional enough to appreciate the medicinal/natural benefits of such a drink. Because of this, the once-reputable craftsman's spirit, has been priced out of the market, by cheaper alternatives – notorious for hospitalising its imbibers, which in many cases, has resulted in headline-grabbing fatalities across the country.
As drink and commodity, respectively, ogogoro carries substantial cultural and economic significance within Nigeria. It is an essential part of numerous religious and social ceremonies; Burutu (Ijaw) priests pour it onto the ground as offerings to contact their gods, while fathers of Nigerian brides use it as a libation by which they provide their official blessing to a wedding.
The economic facets of ogogoro have been equally salient throughout recent Nigerian history. Many poor Nigerian families homebrew the drink as a means of economic subsistence, many of whom sell shots of it on city street corners. The criminalization of ogogoro which occurred under the colonial regime is also believed to have been largely economic; while the public justifications for the law regarded public health and Christian beliefs regarding alcohol, it has been argued that colonial officials were also seeking to suppress local economic activity which might draw money or labor away from the colonial system.
Recently, some companies dedicated to introducing a premium and refined ogogoro into the market are springing up in Africa. These brands are spearheading a naturally distilled and original ogogoro without the negative cultural significances believed about ogogoro and its consumers in the past. They are rebranding ogogoro and introducing a sophisticated and well filtered ogogoro, which is becoming more marketable to both the old and the youth. One of these brands is Pedro's ogogoro Pedro's Ogogoro is a brand committed to selling real ogogoro tapped from its natural source in the Niger Deltan region of Nigeria.
Methanol poisoning incident
- Simon Heap (2008) '“Those that are Cooking the Gins”: The Business of Ogogoro in Nigeria’, Contemporary Drug Problems, 35(4): 573-610.
- Heap (2008) ufofop Calabar, robirobi Abeokuta, baba erin Ilesha, eyinbo gò (white man is not smarter), majidun, etonto Pidgin English, wuru Ijaw, and Agbakara Bini and Aka mere,“Those that are Cooking the Gins”, 599-600.
- Solieri, Lisa; Giudici, Paolo (2009), Vinegars of the World, Springer Milan, pp. 1–16, doi:10.1007/978-88-470-0866-3_1, ISBN 978-88-470-0865-6
- Olupayimo, Dolapo (June 2017). "The Illicit Production of Ogogoro in Coastal Yorubaland and the Niger Delta". Portuguese Studies Review. 2(No. 1 Fall 2017): 195–208 – via ResearchGate.
- "66 Die Of Ogogoro In Rivers State".
- Winsor, Morgan (21 April 2015). "Nigeria's Mysterious Epidemic Linked To Contaminated Alcohol And Methanol Poisoning, Not Ebola". International Business Times.
- "Nigeria: NAFDAC - Methanol Responsible for 'Ogogoro' Deaths in Rivers".