Medicinal Wine: This Ain’t One For the Kiddies!


That’s right! One of our Traditional Chinese Medicine professors recently invited us to his home to make medicinal wine. TCM has many types of medicinal wines (including wines with snakes in them!), but the wine that we prepared was made from fermented rice. This wine is used for overall health, rather than for treating a specific condition. I’ll take you through the steps of making this wine, but as with any fermented product prepare at your own risk! 🙂 (Many thanks to my friend Therese for having the foresight to copy down this recipe!)

Our professor’s apartment complex:

Begin with about 500 grams of glutinous rice (the sticky kind). You can prepare the rice one of two ways: either (1) soak the rice overnight and steam for 20 minutes, or (2) steam for 1 hour. Our professor chose (1) because it is more energy efficient – and it was hot as Hades in the apartment already without steaming rice for an hour.

Our professor draining the soaked rice:

At the same time, steam a handful (about 1/2 cup) each of goji berries (for your immune system) and dried gyrophora (for strength) for 5-10 minutes. This steam serves to both soften and sterilize the ingredients.

After steaming:

Add 1/3 packet of yeast to steamed rice and stir. Add just enough room temperature water to moisten rice (about a cup):

Pour rice into storage container (e.g. Tupperware). You can either separate the rice into two different containers and add goji berries to one and gyrophora to the other, or you can combine everything together into one big container. We went with the former option.

Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients, flatten the rice and make a well in the middle. Cover and store in a room temperature location. After 1-2 days, you can start tasting the liquid. If the wine is too strong, dilute with water. The rice mixture should smell pleasantly of alcohol. If it just smells BAD, don’t drink it! According to the Chinese, if your mixture is too strong or has toxic ingredients, it will kill the yeast and your wine is no good. Fermenting the mixture for 1-3 days will give a mild wine with a sweet flavor, while fermenting for 7 or more days will yield a strong alcohol.

Our professor prepared some medicinal wine ahead of time so that we would be able to taste it.

Prior to pouring off the liquid:

The medicinal wine:

The wine tasted really good! Our professor fermented this batch for only a few days, so the taste was light and sweet. Notice how the wine is cloudy? If you distill it or just let it sit for a while until the solids settle out, you have sake 🙂 I’m definitely trying this at home sometime.

Q: Have you ever tried to make your own, ahem, “spirits”?

P.S. By the time this post is up, I’ll be in Hong Kong visiting my aunt. I don’t have Internet there, so if I don’t respond to emails right away, that’s why! Talk to you all soon!


  1. Very cool!! I’d be very interested in trying that out.

    Andrew used to brew beer all the time, but he hasn’t since we moved into our house… that was almost 2 years ago! He really needs to start it up again b/c it was a hobby he really enjoyed and was really good at.

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time with your aunt in Hong Kong!! Does she speak English? I feel kind of dumb, ok really dumb asking this, but how much chinese do you speak? I feel like I should already know this??

  2. VERY interesting!!! I like to think that my daily glass of red wine is medicinal in a sense. I mean, I’ve read so many great things about red wine and the heart (inflammation) and even other spirits!
    So the wine looks gross, but you say it tasted good?? Very interesting!

  3. Wines with snakes in them?! AHHHH.

    Well, my Mom and Dad looove to drink fermented rice wine. Growing up there’d always be this mason jar with rice somewhere in the back corner of our fridge and my brother and I would just kind of glare at it because we hated the smell of it. I think the wine is pronounced, “Geoh Niang” in Chinese, or something. I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as koji.

    Anyways, I’ve made my own white wine from scratch before, in Fermentation Biotechnology lab (a course I took as part of my specialization in Microbiology). I later found out that everyone in that lab basically only signed up for the course for that purpose alone (Aka to make and drink wine). I actually have never drank before, so I just gave my batch of wine to my parents, who thoroughly enjoyed it. 😀

    Have fun visiting your aunt in Hong Kong, Jessie!!

    xo Aletheia

  4. That is so cool that you got to learn how to make that. I have never tried that kind of wine before. The procedure looks very interesting. At first I thought you were going to make this Vietnamese rice wine dessert called com ruou.ơm_rượu?wasRedirected=true
    I’m not a huge drinker but I do like to try different wines and “drinks”.

    Looks like this trip was quite the learning experience for you. So happy for you that you got to go to China and experience true Chinese culture. I’m sure you made many new friends and memories along the way as well. Now a whole new experience awaits you in HK. Enjoy!

  5. That is so interesting! I had no idea it was so easy to make this at home. And the medicinal benefits are a total bonus. 😉

  6. This is so cool! I’ve never made my own spirits of any sort…nor have I ever thought to ferment rice to make wine. The process is very interesting. Do you feel healthier after drinking it?? 🙂

    Hope you’re having a great time in Hong Kong!

  7. My husband has made his own spirits in his home country all his life… about 3000% proof. Very interesting read!

  8. Wow, how cool! And nope, I’ve never tried to make my own spirits. My grandma used to make some kind of bread w/ alcohol fruit in it, and I remember she kept a jar of it under her sink.

  9. wow this is amazing! I have never tried to make anything of the sort and am extremely impressed at 1. medicinal wine in the first place 2. making anything so the combo of the two is just overwhelming.

    my grandparents have muscodine grapes in their backyard and my mom used to squish them with my aunt in big barrels and their grandfather tried to make wine (I don’t think it worked too well)

  10. Awesome post. Thanks for sharing about this. Cool experience and I bet you have a great professor. As for making our own “spirits”, I just bought Ryan a make your own beer ket, so look for this in the future on my blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *