Snake Bile Wine, one of world's weirdest drinks

Among Hong Kong and other countries’ culinary offerings, snake wine is definitely one of the most unusual. Made from venomous snakes and alcoholic rice wine, Chinese snake wine has has been consumed since the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BC) and is traditionally thought of as a medicinal liquor.

Sought after only by the most adventuresome visitors, snake wine is something even most locals have never tried.

What is snake bile wine?

Snake bile wine is made by mixing the alcohol with the snake's gall bladder and bile, and snake heart wine is made by putting the still-beating heart of the slaughtered snake into a bottle of alcohol.

What does it taste like?

The rice wine is a strong alcohol with an earthy, faintly sweet taste, while the snake’s presence brings a fishy or chicken-like flavor to it. Sometimes, the addition of extra herbs or spices will give the drink a medicinal flavor.

How is snake bile wine prepared?

A live snake is killed on the spot and its blood and bile are then mixed with alcohol, which is consumed immediately by the customer in the form of a shot, according to Theculturetrip.

Snake Bile Wine, one of world's weirdest drinks

Is it safe to drink?

Yes. Although snake wine is made from venomous snakes, it is safe to drink because the ethanol in the rice wine denatures the snake’s venom.

However, those looking for snake wine in Hong Kong or China should avoid suspicious or unknown vendors, as well as homemade snake wine. Snakes are known to hibernate, and in rare cases may still be alive even after being steeped in wine for several months. In 2013, the story of a woman who was bitten by a snake that was still alive despite preserved in wine for three months was widely shared on the Internet.

Snake bile wine's benefits

Snake and scorpion wines are also known as a natural medicine used to treat different health problems such as back pain, rheumatism, lumbago and other health conditions.

These rice-based liquors are also considered to be a strong natural aphrodisiac. While you might baulk at the idea of giving your other half a bottle for Valentine's Day, the drink has been touted as one of the most manly beverages ever made.

Snake wine has been considered an effective curative for thousands of years but is also widely thought to increase male virility. There are thought to over 100 forms of 'Ruou thuoc' or 'medicine wine' available in Vietnam, many of which are infused with the remains of wildlife, with even endangered species included in the distilling process, stated by

The downside of the snake bile wine trade

Although the money from the trade brings much needed revenue into local economies, it does have some serious downsides.

The major obvious downside of the snake wine trade is that many millions of snakes (including some endangered species) are killed every year, only to be drowned and infused in alcohol in order to make a beverage of dubious medicinal benefits. This could have unintended consequences such as increases in rat populations, which could in turn damage rice crops.

The process used to prepare the concoction is also very cruel; drowning the creatures in alcohol presumably causes some degree of suffering even to a snake or a scorpion. It seems morally wrong to use snakes as a cash-generating commodity, but then, the world is not seemingly driven by high moral values these days.

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