Lao Snake Whiskey is a traditional beverage in Laos made by infusing the local style of rice whiskey with a snake which is left in the bottle of whiskey for several months.
About Lao Snake Whiskey
The consumption of spirits infused with snake is a tradition that has a documented history in Asia going back to the Western Zhou Dynasty of China (1,045 BC to 771 BC). The snake infused drink is believed by some to have medicinal qualities which can cure a wide range of ailments. The term ‘snake-oil salesman’ in America is reference to the snake whiskey of China, which like the products of the snake-oil salesman has dubious and unproven benefits. The most common medicinal quality ascribed to rice whiskey is to improve sexual performance. Snake whiskey is in effect the Viagra of ancient Asia and it’s still drunk today for the same reason all over South East and East Asia, although not in India or Nepal where snakes are generally revered as holy creatures.
In Laos snake whiskey is made using the ubiquitous local spirit, known as Lao Lao (or Lao Khao in Thailand). Lao Lao is made by fermenting dried rice with yeast and sugar, which is thereafter distilled. The process is basically the same as the traditional process for making moonshine although the ingredients vary, as do the exact details of the production process, and the quality of the results. Lao Lao is made commercially and is very cheap. Locally produced Lao Lao is even cheaper but sometimes dangerous to drink. One place that is popular to try Lao Lao, including Lao Lao infused with snake, is Ban Xang Hai near Luang Prabang, which is often referred to as ‘Lao Lao Village’. In Ban Xang Hai the Lao Lao is made locally but the local producers use a refined method and have enough experience to produce a product that is reasonably safe to drink. They also bottle snake whiskey in this village and if you drink Lao snake whiskey anywhere in Laos it will more often than not display a label saying its the produce of of Ban Xang Hai village (the name is often written as Ban Fung Hai on the bottles). Ban Xang Hai village is about 30 minutes along a badly maintained road from Luang Prabang, although most foreign visitors who come here do so as a stop on the way to, or way back from, the Pak Ou Caves which are a little further upriver from Ban Xang Hai.
Location of the Ban Xang Hai Village
Ban Xang Hai is located 22.2 km by road from the centre of Luang Prabang.