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The Sodabi brothers

Formerly known as the kingdom of Dahomey, Benin was a reluctant participant in World War I, predominantly through the armed force of the French Colonial Administration. Thousands of Benin's brave sons fought amongst the French in European battlefields.


Among these Beninese soldiers was a man named Bonou Kiti SODABI. While marching through the European countryside, Bonou took a strong interest to the distilling methods he observed. Upon news of the Armistice, he was shipped back to Benin with the idea of applying the European distillation methodologies on the tropical ingredients of his homeland. He teamed up with his brother Gbehlaton, and together resolved that the West African delicacy palm wine made the perfect raw material for a true West African spirit.


Through their efforts, sodabi was born.

A popular drink

National Drink of Benin

Very quickly, the notoriety of sodabi grew beyond the borders of Benin. Its influence has spread to even the most remote areas of Benin, where it plays an important role in special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, or funerals. But no special occasion is necessary; It’s a popular aperitif before meals, as well as a digestif after meals, or simply enjoyed amongst friends and family. More elaborate infusions are often used to kick off business negotiations as a sign of good faith and camaraderie. It is a tradition that has endured for generation after generation.

From palm wine

It’s made by distilling the fermented palm sap of the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), the raffia (Raphia vinifera) or the rônier (Borassus aethiopium), which are indigenous to the West African region. The sap is a very light, sweet, and vitamin-rich liquid that carries natural yeast to ferment. This sap is a safe and delicious drink as-is in its raw form. Due to the naturally-occurring yeast within the sap, it quickly ferments in the warm West African climate, usually over the span of 3-6 days. Once this alcohol is present in the sap, it’s now referred to as Palm Wine, and can be consumed as-is. After distilling to condense the alcohol, the drink becomes sodabi!

Medicinal Powers

Sodabi is also used for medicinal or spiritual purposes based on the type of ingredients that were infused into it. Specific ingredients and their respective curative affects vary greatly depending on the regional, cultural, and familial tradition. Thousands of traditional recipes exist in each region. Despite its reputation for its curative effects, sodabi is often made in small villages with rudimentary and unsafe distilling equipment, which leaves harmful chemicals and heavy metals in it that pose a health risk to those that consume it.

In the heart of voodoo

Sodabi plays an important role in the voodoo religion and represents the element of fire. Worship ceremonies and voodoo practices are rarely done without sodabi. It is believed to have unique powers enabling voodoo practitioners to summon spirits, to unify them, and to ask them requests. It's versatility and power make it essential in a wide variety of voodoo practices in the region.


Quietly persisting outside Colonist surveillance

In 1931, the Colonial authorities outlawed any and all production, sales, and consumption of sodabi throughout their colonies. Though official records site health concerns as the reason for the ban, many experts believe that the true reason was due to the percieved threat to European liquor imports. Dissent was dealt with strictly, and the Sodabi brothers were imprisoned for their role in sodabi production.

Pride of Benin

Alcohol that brings people together

Sodabi is the national spirit of Benin, where its produces as much as 2 million liters each year. Despite prohibition, the sodabi tradition persisted quietly outside of the colonists’ surveillance, and had become a symbol of resistance. It is renowned for its everlasting role in society. 


In Benin there is a saying: Sodabi is the alcohol that brings together the country.

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Tambour Original is proud of the history and heritage of sodabi, and works tirelessly to elevate this traditional drink and share it with the world. Tambour Original combines the traditional craftsmanship with high-quality, modern, and safe distillation techniques to present to you the world's best sodabi.

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