Snake wine is, without a doubt, the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, or ever had in my mouth for that matter. At one time we had some friends who made regular trips to China & would bring back bottles of snake wine. As far as I know, folks aren’t allowed to bring bottles of snake wine back to the US… but our friends had ways. Oh yes, they did.
The bottles our friends always brought back had what appeared to be cobras in them. I actually know very little of snakes but I assume if it’s got a hood, it’s a cobra. My understanding is that when drinking this particular snake wine we are also drinking the snake’s venom, & I did notice immediate numbness on my lips the first time I tried it. That evening I didn’t feel any alcoholic effects, but I did have to call people & apologize the next day for saying things I shouldn’t have said (worse than usual).
I’ve shot snake wine whenever it was available, definitely not for the taste but mostly just to get someone else to have a shot of it with me because I really enjoy the look on their face during & after the swallow. And usually for a few minutes after swallowing. John here was a total sport about it.
A handful of us had all sampled the snake wine – Jason & I had done out virgin shots together & I have pictures of that — Jason handled it pretty well but I went running for a napkin. When John dropped in to the bar he agreed to try some as well.
John is so game. So trusting. He’s awesome.
The few of us who were there at the bar that evening (it was pretty early still) watched in gleeful anticipation as John bravely raised the shot to his lips. As you can see I already had the camera ready. Before John had even straightened his head, you could see the pain on his face.
John suffered very quietly for several moments. John is by nature a quiet, intelligent person, & as he concentrated on keeping his head from sloughing off his neck by force of sheer will, I doubt he was coming up with anything intelligent to say about his experience, but he was definitely quiet, unlike Mele, who had bellowed like a bull who just got his nuts snipped before the shot glass even got back down to the counter.
No one really said anything; we just let him experience the pain. Speaking doesn’t help it, anyway.
My favorite part of drinking Scotch is the exhale after swallowing. With snake wine, that’s probably the worst part. You just drank some super shitty 3rd world grain liquor mixed with decomposing snake parts & waste matter. Snake wine tastes so bad that the Vietnamese bootleggers have probably pissed in it to give it the right color & there’s no way you can tell. God help you if you need to burp.
John waited much longer than I did to grab the napkin. He did try to man it out, but I think that just as he thought he had stabilized the cells of his body… he exhaled & it all went to pieces again. When I’d taken my shot, before the snake wine was even completely down my throat I was already dashing for a napkin. Not because I needed to vomit or spit, but because I thought it might help me to keep my face from falling off of my head.
There’s really nothing like the first time you try snake wine. I understand there are other snake wines – the Okinawan ones, for instance – that don’t make you feel like you’re going to die. However, I haven’t tried them. I totally would though. I’ll try anything once. I think.
John suffered for several minutes, but he was quite stoic about it. He didn’t cry, although his eyes did water quite a bit. That’s not technically crying; that’s your body’s physical reaction to intense pain. Ok, maybe that’s crying. But anyway, he wasn’t sad or anything.
He was being celebrated & congratulated for joining the ranks of those of us who were dumb enough to drink a shot of snake wine.
You go John.