What is Snake Wine and Will it Kill Me?

American drinkers- the great wide world of beverages stretches oh so far beyond lagers, Pinot Noirs and whiskey gingers! There are all sorts of concoctions that would be a crime to ignore or leave untasted. On the top of this list sits snake wine.

Snake wine is more or less the coolest looking (a villainous Kurt Russell in the 80’s kind of cool) drink ever, and is even said to give powers to those who drink it. But with great power comes great responsibility; it would behoove you to learn about snake wine before you dive right into it.

Without further ado, all your snake wine FAQ’s answered:


1) Is it poisonous?

If you drink too much snake wine, you will get sick. However, the same can be said of any alcoholic beverage.

Any venom your snake of choice may have in its system at the time of bottling will be neutralized by all that alcohol. That’s a relief, since ingesting active venom would probably be awful… worse than too many tequila shots, maybe.


2) Is the snake dead?

Animal lovers turn away now! The production of snake wine is neither humane nor ethically concerned. To produce snake wine one drowns the animal in grain alcohol and lets its carcass float around forevermore. In other words, animals were harmed in the making of this film.

However (and this is a big however), there have been documented cases of “snake wine’d” snakes that remained alive and wreaked havoc. Several media outlets reported that a woman from Shuangcheng was bitten by the pit viper inside of her snake wine as it leaped out of the liquid it had been sealed in for over three months. Apparently, pit vipers can hibernate?

So, is the snake dead? You better hope so.


3) Is it actually wine?

Nope. Not the kind of wine you’re thinking of. There are no grapes involved in the making of snake wine, which is a shame because a Cab Franc and Viper blend has a great ring to it.

Snake wines are traditionally made with rice wine (think sake) or grain alcohol (think ‘gross’). Sometimes the snake is simply steeped in rice wine or grain alcohol while other snake wine makers actually mix the bodily fluids of the snake into the liquid. Yum.


4) Will it give me powers?

The use of snake wine as a medicine dates all the way back to 770 BC. In China, snake wine is advertised as being able to cure pretty much anything: hair loss, eye problems, dipping energy levels- you name it. Many believe that the consumption of snake wine will enhance their performance in the bedroom, too. Hello, king cobra.

Whether or not you believe that something like the “essence” of a snake can really be transferred through a beverage depends on how you see the world. However, snake wine is alcoholic, which means all the superpowers alcohol can give us (misguided sense of confidence, desire to dance, ability to speak a foreign language like a baby) still apply.


5) Is it legal?

Snake wine is not only legal but a beverage of historical and medicinal repute in Vietnam, Korea, China and Southeast Asia. That’s where all the stuff is made and where all the snakes come from. However, you’d be hard pressed to find snake wine outside of Asia.

In the USA, the wine isn’t illegal in and of itself, but importing the snakes is. The cobras that typically end up in those bottles are considered endangered species by Uncle Sam, and as such, he won’t allow most of them into the country.

(As they say, where there’s a will there’s a way…)



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