Rice Wine

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Rice Wine: I invite you.

I invite you to learn a little something about one of Vietnam’s favorite pastimes: drinking rice wine.

In my experience, dinner in Vietnam always includes two default items: a rice bowl full of steamed rice, and a water bottle full of… not water. When your bed for the night is located at a homestay (i.e. a local family’s home), this “not water” is a rice wine concoction that your host most likely distilled personally. You look down, and before you have food on your plate, you have rice wine in your glass.

Một hai ba dzô!

A classic Vietnamese cheers (“1, 2, 3, cheers!”) rings out, and everyone downs their glass. Then, like some ancient sorcery, you look back down to find your glass is already full again! You frantically try to shovel some food into your mouth before the next cheers, but it’s too late.

Một hai ba dzô!

Another glass gone. This pace continues throughout dinner. You think to yourself, “Hell, I went to a public college and I’m larger than these locals; I’m prepared for a little competitive drinking (…right?)”.

It’s right at this time that you learn a new drinking custom in Vietnam. We’ll call it: I invite you. This is where you pick one other person to take a drink with you, and say to them “I would like to invite you”. Once invited, it’s not polite to refuse your invitation. You hesitantly refill, make eye contact with your inviter, clink glasses, and

Một hai ba dzô!

down the hatch. Quick breath out to palate the alcohol. Now you look your inviter in the eye again as you shake hands with the right and place your left hand on the back of their right to make a sort of four-handed-handshake-hug.

Now you’re all done, right? Wrong. During that handshake hug, your glass mysteriously filled itself again!

Một hai ba dzô!

Thirsty yet?

TL;DR - The Vietnamese love to drink rice wine. It’s not super strong, so you can consume more than you think (but look out, the locals will put this to the test).

- Embry