Ghanaians acquire Chinese taste for ‘snake bitters’ as reptile soaked in gin goes for sale
Originally restricted to Asian restaurants, ‘snake whiskey’ or ‘snake wine’ has gradually seeped into popular pubs and other drinking spots in the cities.
Accra-based Peace FM has reported that the alcoholic beverage is prepared by placing a medium-sized snake into a jar filled with gin, whiskey or any other form of alcohol.
A reporter with the radio station said he visited a pub in Osu in the Accra metropolis and found the jar publicly displayed on the counter.
The reporter, Isaac, said he has also learned a spot in Asamankese that sells snake bitters. At this particular place, the snake was alive in the jar of alcohol.
One shot of the drink goes for GHC 20, he said. The gin enjoys patronage among the youth and is mainly sold in Chinese restaurants.
The reporter also narrated that he found the product being sold at a local bar in Asamankese, the capital of the West Akim Municipal District in the Eastern Region.
The venom of the snake, entombed in the bottle, adds to the intoxicating effect of the drink. The reptile could be placed in the wine jar alive or dead.
The reporter narrated that the product is sold openly at the centers he visited. A Ghanaian consumer said he had been patronizing the snake wine for the past three years.
“What I observed after drinking was that it has different powers. It has the potential of energizing you to do many things. It can even light up your eyes like a snake. So as for the snake drink, the effect is many,” one consumer told the journalist.
They say ‘snake bitters’ also enhances sexual performance.
A vendor also told the journalist he had been cashing in on the drink for the past nine years.
About snake wine
The drink was first recorded to have been consumed in China during the Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1040–770 BC) and considered an important curative and believed to reinvigorate a person according to Traditional Chinese medicine. It can be found in China, India, Japan, Vietnam, and throughout Southeast Asia.
The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have their venom dissolved in the liquor. The snake venom proteins are quickly unfolded by the ethanol and therefore the completed beverage is considered consumable.
Snakes are widely believed to possess medicinal qualities, and the wine is often advertised to cure everything, from farsightedness to hair loss, as well as to increase sexual performance.
In Japan, the most common snake wine is Habushu, named after the habu snake. A habu snake is able to mate for about 26 hours, which causes some to believe that a drink of habushu may help sexual dysfunction in men. A common superstition is that these strengths are passed on to those who drink habushu.
A similar drink is made with dehydrated geckos, sea horses, scorpions and other poisonous animals or a cocktail of different creatures.