A Sting in the Tale: Drinking Snake Wine

Food Facts

Where it’s found: Mainly in Vietnam and some other countries in south east Asia
Uses: High class booze
Serving suggestion: Delicious to wash down a dish of snake meat
Taste: Like a bloody mary, but with real blood

If you’re looking for authentic Vietnamese snake wine there is no more obvious and better place to find it than Snake Village in Hanoi. Watching the drink being made is not for the faint hearted but if you’ve got as far as here then your curiosity will see you through.

In the restaurants and bars of Snake Village various lethal snakes are kept on show in cages for the customers to choose from. Once picked it usually takes two men to kill the angry reptile, one to hold it upright and the other to slice it open from head to tail. The blood is then poured into a vat to be mixed with rice wine. Not much goes to waste as the heart is cut out and the gall bladder is emptied and mixed with wine in shot glasses. After the drinking is done the snake is fried and served up over several hours.

If you don’t want to see all of this there is the option of a “here’s one I made earlier” drink. Other forms of the wine are left to ferment in vats for a few weeks after it’s been poured over the body of a dead snake. You can see these vats in some of the bars; big glass jars, some containing up to ten snakes coiled around in the bottom.

Problems have arisen due to the popularity of the drink with the Vietnamese. As the main culler of rats, snakes are now highly regarded. Hanoi has seen an endemic rise in the number of rats roaming the streets without their main predator there to bother them. As a result the government stopped the sale of snakes and cats to China and put a trade ban on many restaurants that serve the wine.

main image: Snake is one of Vietnamese varieties of rượu thuốc. The bottle on the left is a cobra wine (Rượu rắn)

More Information

Snake wine, anyone?
Photos of the snakes in vats ready to drink.

Some Snake Wine with My Snake
A man’s visit to Snake Village to try the wine.

By Jonny Wiles