Beer isn’t the only tipple of choice available in Vietnam. Here is a list of the best alcoholic drinks in Vietnam, where to find them and how to drink them!
To a new traveler to Vietnam, it can seem like the only alcoholic drinks on the menu are beers. For the most part that is true. Many local restaurants and bars only stock a range of Vietnam’s most popular beers due to the high demand from a beer-lover’s culture.
Vietnam is one of the biggest consumers of beer in the whole of Asia, drinking a whopping 4.1 billion liters of the stuff in 2017 alone. This figure will certainly rise to 5.5 billion in 2035. But don’t be alarmed. In a country that is constantly evolving and adapting to its visitors, Vietnam is not short on alcoholic drinks alternative to beer. So, if you’re new to Asia and want to know what is available besides beer then here are the best non-beer alternatives in Vietnam. And don’t worry, there are plenty to choose from.
For the wine drinkers
Vietnam actually has a great deal of imported wine. Most middle-of-the-range and high-end restaurants will have an extensive wine list to choose from. The import market for wine in Vietnam is dominated by France, followed closely by Chile and Australia. Whether you’re chasing an Australian Chardonnay or a French Bordeaux Merlot, you’ll find it somewhere in Vietnam. Although, you will have to be prepared that red wine in Vietnam is often served cold unless requested otherwise. Besides, the cost of imported wine is significantly more here in Vietnam due to the taxes placed on imports. If you’re feeling adventurous, Vietnam also produces a range of its own wine. It comes from the former French resort of Dalat in the cool southern highlands of Vietnam. Whilst there are other Vietnamese wine producers, Vang Dalat is the most popular in Vietnam.
If you’re a seasoned wine drinker with specific tastes, Vang Dalat is worth a try. But don’t expect to be blown away. For those looking for a glass of wine to simply hit the spot, you can find a glass of Vang Dalat for around 40,000 VND/$1.80 USD or 120,000 VND/$5.10 USD for a bottle – sometimes even cheaper!
Anyone for a Cosmopolitan?
Unlike imported wine, cocktails are reasonably cheap across the length of Vietnam. We can’t always guarantee that they won’t be made using cheap ‘local’ spirits. But we can guarantee you’ll have a good night! Generally, cocktails can be found in most bars in the big cities of Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Nha Trang, as well as many of the hot tourist spots across the country. You’ll usually find a cocktail to be around 80,000-150,000 VND/$3-7 USD, and even less during happy hours.
Most of the bars that actually serve cocktails will have a list of the usual crowd-pleasers. If you’re looking for a particular favorite, head to a top-rated cocktail bar in Vietnam where there will be a mixologist on hand to prepare you whatever you want.
Got a taste for Sake or Soju?
Vietnam’s large and ever-increasing population of both Korean and Japanese expats and travelers means that there are plenty of bars where you can enjoy these alternative alcoholic drinks too.
Typically consumed straight, Soju is a clear, odorless liqueur of Korean origin of which the alcohol content can vary from 16.8 to 53%. On the other hand, Sake is a Japanese rice wine which is made by fermenting rice with an alcohol content of around 18-20%. Sake is also consumed straight.
Eager to try Vietnam’s own rice wine?
Vietnam has turned rice wine into a ‘heal everything’ alcohol. Locals consume it at almost every party, celebration wedding, casual get-together, Tet, and of course, weddings. Vietnam produces three types of rice wine – the conventional distilled version known as ‘ruou gao’ or ‘ruou de’. It’s an undistilled version which is infused with herbs and served in a large ceramic jar. Locals name it ‘ruou can’. Finally, the ‘ruou thuoc’ is a medicinal version infused with plants and animals.
Vietnam’s rice wine: the distilled version
Rice wine in Vietnam is made by cooking white rice, mashing it, adding yeast and water then allowing it to ferment. The alcoholic rice wine is produced when the broth is distilled. Vietnamese men commonly consume rice wine at social gatherings and parties, but rarely women. This wine carries a certain risk depending on where and how it has been made. It’s due to the addition of rubbing alcohol which is sometimes used in the process to improve the appearance. Since it can cause blindness and death, drink with caution!
Vietnam’s rice wine: the party version
Unlike the above, this rice wine is not distilled which gives it a very different flavor. Instead, Vietnamese people mix it to a variety of herbs and bark among other flavorings. They are packed into a large jar with brown or black sticky rice. Before the celebration or party, which is usually a wedding or for Tet, they add beer to the mixture, sometimes soda or coconut juice and leave it to sit for a few hours. This type of wine is popular with Vietnam’s hill tribe minorities but makes a fun beverage for parties!
Vietnam’s rice wine: the medicinal version
There are over 100 kinds of this rice wine with different animals inside, all offering different medicinal benefits. They are often prescribed for various ailments including back pain, indigestion or following childbirth. Particular rice wines with animals such as snakes and scorpions inside are popular with men. Indeed, they believe it will make them strong and powerful. Little is known of their proven medical benefits but these types of rice wines in Vietnam continue to be used.
You can find these types of Vietnamese rice wine in souvenir shops. You will also see them on the stalls in the markets in Vietnam’s top destinations. This rice wine usually appears dark in color with a wild animal such as a snake, scorpion or gecko preserved inside. It is worth mentioning that this wine is almost always enhanced with rubbing alcohol or formaldehyde so should not be consumed. Rice wine is hugely popular in Vietnam and it’s not uncommon to see the locals playing cards while drinking from a plastic bag of amber liquid – yes, that’s rice wine in there. Unless you’re feeling particularly adventurous or are looking to live on the edge, we recommend sticking to wine, cocktails, and foreign liqueurs as alcoholic drinks alternative to beer in Vietnam.
Have you tried any of these non-beer alternatives in Vietnam?