Habushu: Why is Snake Sake for the Courageous?

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What is snake wine?Looking to Buy Habushu Snake Sake Online?

It’s a Snake in a Bottle of Liquor! What’s There Not to Like?

This craze called Habushu ハブ酒 is flooding across Japan, China, Philippines and South Korea like wildfire. This oddity of a drink originates from Okinawa, and the fellow inside the bottle here on the left is a Trimeresurus flavoviridus, or simply a pit viper snake, which is also pretty similar to the western rattlesnake.

These snakes are not to be trifled with, a bite from one of these guys has the potential to kill!

This oddity is first mixed with honey and herbs, which is the reason it has its yellow tint. Then one these magnificent reptilian beasts are lowered into the liquid so they can look their most dashingly self for the rest of time, that is if it remains in the bottle. But of course, there are many ways to get them there.

Sending Habushu through the mail to many countries seems to be illegal, if you’re interested in something similar I found these guys here.

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Some brewers of habushu at times take the snake out before selling it (people buying habushu online mostly), but some, daring brewers leave the little buddy inside the bottle for all to see. But we’ll have to go the extra mile and admit, some of these creatures are not dead when they arrive in their capsule. Some brewers will submerge the snake in the liquor and seal the bottle, this way inebriating the snake while at the same time drowning him.

Some brewers know the unique alchemy to creating the vicious striking viper in a bottle. What’s required? Sticking our little guy in an ice locker until it blacks out and kind of goes into a hibernation, then the snake is gutted like a fish and bled out, then it will be sewn back up. Once our friend the pit viper wakes up to realize his kidneys have been ganked he’ll immediately get super pissed, strike out but die shortly afterward, leaving him in a state of constant rage as you can see here on the right.

Habu Sake is it Poisonous?

The Brewers will then put the body of the snake in an ethanol tub for a month or more to make sure its preserved.

From this point forward the Brewers will then take the pit viper and stick it in a 60% alcohol mix fHabusake Is it poisonous?or a little over a month, then it will be added to an awamori combination (herbs and honey). It is said that by removing the intestines of the snake help to avoid a very unpleasant smell that happens when it’s left inside the snake.

Some of the major brewers of this liquid oddity end up using around 5,000 pit viper snakes per year. And for those concerned about the poison, well the alcohol helps the venom to become inert by dissolving it making it safe.

There are many different types of this kind of viper wine:

  • Sake (rice wine)
  • Shochu
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey
  • Moonshine (equivalents like Everclear)

This radical drink is nothing new to Asian countries, although it is catching fire once again through major populaces. It’s a very ancient alcoholic beverage and is believed to have medicinal traits.

Habu sake side effects:

Many say it has the most effect on male libido. The pit viper snake can get it on for over 24 hours, which has made it a drink of those with sexual dysfunction. Does it work? Of course, it does, why wouldn’t it?

Do I have proof? Absolutely not. But until then, let’s just pretend for those courageous souls out there that do drink this stuff, that all the superstitions about habusake are real!

If I happen ever to get a chance to try some of this snake wine, then I’ll be sure to update you and let you know if I become a sexual god! So for those with the courage to do it, you can purchase snake wine, but many places in the world will not let you buy habushu sake with the snake still in the bottle (like the USA). So be sure to check your local rules (customs) to see if you can import some viciously looking snake sake from online!

Purchase Snake Sake Here.

Update 2019:

I just learned about a gnarly drink called BABY MOUSE WINE from China. I’ll stick with my Habushu. Also, I did happen to get some concentrate of habushu from a friend that came back from Okinawa. I didn’t like it, it tasted like really bad cough medicine. I still want to try the sake straight from the bottle with the snake in it and NOT concentrated! Muri DESU!

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Want to bring snake wine or
habu sake from Asia into the U.S.?

Can I bring back snake wine or habu sake from Asia?

While all imports of alcoholic beverages are subject to certain restrictions, snake wine is also subject to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulations.

The main concern for bringing snake wine into the U.S. when a snake used in the wine that are endangered species, and therefore inadmissible.

The wine would have to be inspected by an FWS specialist to determine if the snake was an endangered species. If a FWS inspector is not available, the wine would be detained until it can be inspected, and you would be responsible for making arrangements for its forward shipment if the snake were not an endangered species.

For more information, please contact the Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-WILD.

If you wish to receive automatic updates to this Q&A, select “Subscribe to Updates” on the left side of this screen.  (You can read about this here)


You can however get some snake sake from these guys, I’ve periodically looked online and there are very few options, these guys are the cheapest and it’s pretty much the same thing overall if you still want to try it (or something even weirder).

Try Thailand Unique

アンフィル 『Lamplight=melody』

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About the Author

Nihon Scope

I've been interested in Japanese as a language and as a culture since I was about 15 years old. In April 2017 my wife and I moved to Fukuoka, Japan to go to school for 2 years. We've since returned to America and now are looking to expand Nihon Scope further for future visitors of Japan to get in touch with the best school they can. We're also here sharing our experiences of Japan and the culture. Get in touch with us on Facebook for the quickest response!

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  • VampyLil says:

    I just bought a bottle here in Misawa. Still has the snake inside the bottle. Fingers crossed I don’t get stopped at the terminal on base. I think I will be fine considering it’s a military flight.

    • Nihon Scope says:

      Wow, I hope they’re cool with that… I read a couple places that you can bring alcohol with you as long as it’s yours. I guess it comes down to it being illegal mostly to purchase alcohol from places online and have it shipped to you… something to do with licensing or something. So I’d expect you to be okay from what I’ve been learning.

  • Paul Smith says:

    I tried this when in Tokyo in 2011. I came across it in a bar in Kabukicho. I asked the bar owner about it and he told me the story behind it. It was a brand new bottle and he didn’t want to open it. I paid for two shots, one for me and one for him. I made him drink it first of course. I ended up having three shots that night. Went back two nights later for another couple of shots 🙂

    • Nihon Scope says:

      I’m gonna check down the street from where I’m living in Fukuoka there is a decent sized shochu and sake liquor store there… might get lucky and have some to try.

      • Brandon Quaal says:

        Did you not mean you might have to try some and get lucky? haha
        I’ve tried it and loved it. I’m a lover of whiskey and gin and up until I visited Okinawa, Shochu was my Japanese drink of choice. After visiting Okinawa, I now love Awamori most and Habushu might be a close 2nd (but in moderation).

        • Nihon Scope says:

          A buddy that lives with us here at Sharely Style Verde (in Onojo, Fukuoka) is from Thailand. But he went down to Okinawa and brought back Habuball… of course it’s not totally the same thing, it tasted kinda of like cough syrup but they did recommend using soda water with it though. So I’m still hoping on trying the real thing in the future.

          • Nihon Scope says:

            Oh.. SSV is shared house just to clarify a bit more on that.

          • Brandon Quaal says:

            Oh okay! Cough syrup eh? I guess it does have quite a aromatic sweet flavour because of the honey so maybe depends what kind of medicine you had as a kid! I generally like to enjoy my alcohols in their native forms (neat). I hope you like it when you try it. It’s… interesting to say the least. Once the bottle’s been shaken up a bit there tends to be some floaties (snakeカス) in the bottle so there is a little mental preparation necessary going into it the first time haha.

    • Kether1985 says:

      Yeah it’s tough stuff finding it around in Japan at times unless you’re in Okinawa. But sounds good for sure.

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