Snake wine

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A bottle of snake wine photographed in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou

Snake wine (rượu rắn in Vietnamese) is an alcoholic beverage that includes a whole venomous snake in the bottle. It originated in Vietnam and can be found around Southeast Asia. The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have the snake poison dissolved in the liquor. However, the snake venom is denatured by the ethanol; its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactivated.


There are two varieties of snake wine:

  • Steeped: A large venomous snake can be placed into a glass jar of rice wine, often with many smaller snakes, turtles, insects, or birds, and left to steep for many months. The wine is drunk as a restorative in small shots or cups.
  • Mixed: Body fluids of snake are mixed into wine and consumed immediately in the form of a shot. Snake blood wine is prepared by slicing a snake along its belly and draining its blood into a mixing vat with rice wine or grain alcohol. Snake bile wine is done through a similar method by using the contents of the gall bladder.


It originated in Vietnam and spread throughout the region of Southeast Asia and Southern China. Snakes are widely believed to possess medicinal qualities and the wine is often advertised to cure everything from farsightedness to hair loss, as well as to increase sexual performance. However, many of these claims are likely exaggerated to attract buyers. It is illegal to import snake wine to many countries including the United States because the cobras and other snakes killed in the production are often endangered species. A similar drink is made with a poisonous lizard rather than a snake. It is used in China and is believed to have medicinal qualities.[1]