Snake whiskey of Vietnam

Downing a drink is accepted as a regular activity in modern society these days, as professionals, tourists and party goes enjoy a glass or two of alcoholic beverages. The reasons of drinking are many – to unwind, to relax or to forget the chaos and there is always that one drink that stands out in the list of others for each one of us. Whiskey, often touted as the gentleman’s drink, never goes out of fashion and it is said there is always room for some more.

In the countries of South East Asia, freshly brewed beer or wine is more popular. Found for as cheap as 80 cents per beer can, tourists and locals are often found enjoying these in most places.

But, if you fancy bizarre culinary adventures in a new country and want to tick off weird foods and drink off your list there is a special whiskey in Vietnam – The Snake Whiskey. Of the many things one could do with venomous snake, Vietnam infuses it with alcohol for a tasty snake poison alcohol mix. Snakes are widely believed to possess medicinal qualities and you can find this drink advertised for health all over the Southeast Asia.

If snakes are not your thing, you can choose a bottle of scorpions, geckos or even lizards in whiskey or rice wine. People of Vietnam and other South East Asian countries believe that the more lizards or geckos in one drink, the more energy you can absorb. It has also been widely believed that this drink prevents evil spirits from doing you harm. Alcohol doing all that, c’mon what else do you want?

On my recent trip to Ho Chi Minh city, I inquired about the preparation, storage procedure and ill effects from the venom. In a normal bottle of whiskey or wine, an entire venomous snake – sometimes still alive is inserted. The bottom of the bottle is later fixed so as not to spill the contents. The whiskey or wine is left there to steep for several months while the ethanol absorbs the “essence” from the snake and breaks down and denatures the venom.

It is later sold in malls, touristy roadside stalls and shopping centres. They are marketed as show-stopping centre pieces with full-hooded cobras with a scorpion tail in its mouth or other reptiles. A 200ml bottle of snake whiskey would cost approximately US$ 10-12. Be aware as you will probably not be allowed to carry these bottles home as souvenirs thanks to customs at airport.

Even if not sustainable, snake whiskey is certainly a bizarre bucket-list delicacy. Do you think the benefits are worth it? Will you try it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This article was originally written for and published by La Vida Travel Cafe, Ahmedabad.

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36 thoughts on “Snake whiskey of Vietnam

  1. Simply it was bizarre experience for you to try. 🙂
    I haven’t heard about this , i heard about bizarre eating in SE Asia but not about such whisky/wine.Good to know about this but not have guts to try in future.

  2. This is interesting I have never heard of snake whiskey or anything with scorpions in it hahha
    I don’t know if I will ever drink it, but definitely a “believe it or not” moment for me
    Hahha!
    Interesting post

  3. I’ll be honest, I didn’t try it when I was in Vietnam. I’m not a vegetarian or anything, but the thought of the snake in the whisky was too much for me!

    1. I can imagine. I had similar thoughts given the fact that I write for sustainable tourism and ethical travel. I only taste a spoon and that was, trust me the wildest thing I’ve done!

  4. I first learned about the snake wines from an old Leonardo di Caprio movie the Beach. He was backpacking in Thailand and chanced upon this in a local market. The image of the snake in the bottle never escaped my mind until now and I’m not sure if I can even drink this one. Interesting find, I should say.

  5. I spent a month in Vietnam and didn’t have enough courage to try to snake whisky. You are braver than I am!!

  6. I did see these bottles of alcohol during my trip to China and Vietnam. I did taste one of them, when I was having dinner with some locals in a village from China. It was so strong and it had no taste really. It’s good that you can’t get these bottles through customs though, as this is somehow putting a cap on the market. It’s so cruel to drown a snake in alcohol.

  7. It’s the first time I’ve heard about this and it’s fascinating! Although, I’m not so sure if I would have the guts to give it a try! Think I might stick to wine haha 🙂

  8. This is an awesome read but I don’t think a awesome drink. I don’t like whiskey and I sure don’t like snakes so them mixed together is not my cookie. Love reading these stories, but I am such a baby when it come to trying hard liquor or distinct animals.

  9. Never heard for snake whiskey, honestly not sure if I would like to try. I don’t understand how can a snake in the whiskey be better than whiskey itself. 🙂 🙂

  10. Oh wow such a cool experience. I love trying things that are typical for another culture. I am not a whiskey fan but I would probably try it in a heartbeat 🙂

  11. Gosh! What an experience to try, and probably not one to be repeated! I tried a suspicious whisky in Laos which I’m told had some kind of reptilian product… Even the tiniest sip was enough for me!

  12. Wow I had no idea this existed. And I can’t believe there’s scorpion and lizard whiskey too! I’m not a fan of whiskey at the best of times but I’d be tempted to try these just out of curiosity!

  13. Crazy drink. I wouldn’t dare. haha. just thinking it might live and bit the insides of me… like omg. 😀

  14. I believe someone mentioned this to me before and I kindly forgot about it. I will have to pass on the snake, lizard and gecko drinks. It’s making my skin crawl as we speak!

  15. Ok, I admit it. The very first thing I thought when seeing the title was, “omg” and then as the article continued with other creepy stuff that I could choose to have in my drinks I went from “omg” to “OMG” to “OMGOMGOMG”. LOL! There is just no way in the world I could drink it. I’m a total wimp. LOL! But having said that…it would be the coolest thing ever to see the bottles!! I’m wondering where those snakes come from? Are they farmed just for this?

    1. I asked those exact questions but the sellers wouldn’t say. They behaved as if they didn’t understand what I was asking. May be a more authentic research could say.

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