A woman in northern China has recently been hospitalized for a snake bite after a snake jumped out of her bottle of rice wine. The woman, who lives in Shuangcheng, Heilongjiang Province, purchased the snake in June to preserve in wine as a cure for her rheumatism. Three months had passed when she decided to add more wine to the bottle, and the snake pulled a miracle from nowhere and bit her.
This is not the first case of dead snakes supposedly preserved in wine coming back to bite their drinkers. In 2009 a resident of Hubei Province was hospitalized for two months after trying to create the same type of wine. Another man in Guangxi Zhuang A.R. was less fortunate: he died the day after receiving a snake bite from his wine in 2010.
The mind boggles with questions – and not only the obvious ask of how the snake managed to survive. Why would people want to drink snake wine? Would the wine not be poisonous from the snake venom? How do you make snake wine?
Snake wine was first made in the Western Zhou dynasty and is believed to be a restorative, a cure for rheumatism, a possible aphrodisiac, and a booster for male virility. The reason people didn’t keel over from a single shot of snake wine is that when the venom interacts with the wine, it is slowly broken down. Since the snake venom is protein based, it’s eventually inactivated by the denaturing effects of the ethanol in the alcohol.
The wine is not only limited to poisonous snakes, but scorpions are also welcome ingredients, as well as centipedes, bees and lizards. The process of creating wine containing poisonous creatures is relatively simple: take the critter of your choice, put it into the bottle and proceed to pour rice wine in, effectively drowning the creature. After a couple months, the poison from the animal will be canceled out and the beverage safe to drink.
If you’re not prepared to make your own, its relatively easy to purchase in Southern China, Vietnam or even from unique online boutiques.
But there are drawbacks to purchasing snake wine or any type of wine containing endangered species, even if you don’t get bitten. If you take the wine with you on a trip back from Southeast Asia, or have it mailed to you, you could be stopped by customs (in the US) for transporting an endangered species without an export permit. So even if the snake is thoroughly killed off, it may not be the best plan to head back from your travels with snake wine in tow.
Image courtesy of Khương Việt Hà on Wikimedia