Rượu Đế

Rượu đế is a traditional Vietnamese spirit, typically distilled from rice or other grains with a high alcohol content.

Lastest Updated January 5, 2024
Verified by A-Z Cuisines Team
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  • Street Drink
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Home » Beverages A-Z » Rượu Đế

Fact: Rượu đế can be found at many street vendors for drinking, which is known as “quán nhậu” in Vietnam. And you don’t need to show ID to buy this spirit.

Basic Information

Rượu Đế: Basic Information

Pronunciation

roo-uh deh

Alternative Name(s)

Rượu trắng, rượu lậu, rượu gạo, rượu quốc lủi

Drink Type

Distilled alcoholic beverages

Mealtime

Anytime
Origin and Region

Rượu Đế: Origin and Region

Origin

Vietnam

Continent’s Region

Southeast Asia

Country’s Region

Nationwide Origin

Associated Region

Unspecified
Vietnam Map
Popular Variation
Popular Variation
Popular Variation

Popular Rượu Đế Variations

Ingredients and Preparation

Rượu Đế: Ingredients and Preparation

Main Ingredients

Glutinous or non-glutinous rice

Main Preparing Method

Fermenting and distilling

Preparation Process

Cooking ingredients, fermenting them based on various factors, distilling the mix, condensing the alcohol vapors, and collecting the liquor in stages.
A Deep Dive

Rượu Đế: A Deep Dive

Cultural Significance

A traditional Vietnamese distilled spirit, popular in used in celebrations

Taste

Bitter

Texture

Typically clear and crisp

Aroma

Smooth and strong scent, also depending on varieties

Color

Normally clear or slightly cloudy

Serving Style

Traditionally served straight in a small cup

Serving Temperature

At room temperature

Accompaniment

Often consumed alone or with other Vietnamese dishes

Occasions

On any occasions

Calories

Unspecified

Popularity

Vietnam

Popular Similar Drinks

  1. Rượu Cần
  2. Sake
  3. Soju
  4. Baijiu
  5. Lao-lao

Popular Dining Area

Eateries, restaurants, street vendors, or households in Vietnam

Rượu đế is a traditional distilled spirit of Vietnam, often made from glutinous or non-glutinous rice. The process of fermenting the yeast and distilling the liquor is very important, and it requires the skill, experience, and effort of the artisan.

Ruou De Overview

The alcohol content of rượu đế typically hovers around 40% by volume. This distilled spirit has a generally clear yet slightly cloudy appearance. Rượu đế is especially popular in the Mekong Delta region in the Southwestern region of Vietnam. In northern Vietnam, it is also known as rượu quốc lủi.

Historically, rượu đế was often distilled at home in rural areas, using local ingredients and traditional methods passed down through generations. This practice of home distillation led to its comparison with moonshine.

Moreover, the term “rượu đế” has a story behind it, which I’ll show you in the next part. Interestingly, the ingredients used in crafting rượu đế are quite varied, with rice or glutinous rice being the most common. Due to the diversity in ingredients and preparation methods, rượu đế manifests in multiple variations across Vietnam, and fortunately, it’s also available in the USA.

After knowing some basic information about rượu đế, you can discover both good and negative sides of this spirit, as well as some commonly asked questions relating to it. To wrap up, I’ll introduce you to drinks similar to rượu đế, broadening your scope of this traditional beverage.

Key Points

  • Rượu đế is a Vietnamese distilled spirit made from high-starch grains.
  • The fermentation and distillation process is very important.
  • It typically possesses an alcohol content of approximately 40% by volume.
  • It has a clear appearance with a slight cloudiness.
  • Its name, “rượu đế,” derives from the practice of concealing it within kans (đế) grass.
  • Various rượu đế varieties are manufactured in distinct regions of Vietnam with different ingredients and production techniques.
  • For those in the United States seeking to purchase rượu đế, SuTi Craft Distillery in Kennedale, Texas is the best choice.

Why Is It Called Rượu Đế?

“Rượu đế” is called so because of its unique historical and cultural context in Vietnam. The name translates to “Kans grass liquor,” implying the practice of secretly distilling this liquor during the early French colonial period in southern Vietnam.

At that time, people hid the liquor in fields of tall kans grass to evade the colonial government’s alcohol monopoly, which they only allowed the sale of “rượu Công Ty” (Company alcohol). The practice of hiding the liquor in đế grass is how it got its name.

In Northern Vietnam, it is known as “rượu quốc lủi,” translating to “liquor that slips away from the state.” This name reflects how it’s secretly made and sold, unlike the state-regulated alcohol. It emphasizes the secretive and rebellious nature of its production.

Rượu đế can be called by various names, and many names are based on where it’s produced. For example, rượu đế Gò Đen, rượu làng Vọc, rượu Bầu Đá, rượu Kim Sơn are some well-known local varieties in Vietnam.

What Are the Ingredients for Making Rượu Đế?

The key component of rượu đế is high-starch grain, for example, glutinous rice, plain rice, brown rice, barley, cassava, and even corn or grain sprouts in some regions in Vietnam.

Another important component to make rượu đế is a fermentation agent, like yeast and herbs, such as Chinese cinnamon, licorice, ginger, star anise, and more.

However, not only do the ingredients vary depending on the regional recipes but also how rượu đế is made, reflecting each area’s unique distillation traditions.

What Is The Process of Producing Rượu Đế?

Depending on the region, the making process of rượu đế can be altered. But here, I’ll introduce the five most basic steps to make this distilled spirit.

Step 1: Cooking Ingredients

Primary ingredients are cooked, fluffed up, and mixed with finely ground wine yeast while still warm.

Step 2: Fermentation

The mixture is then fermented in a warm, sealed environment. The duration depends on factors like weather, ingredients, yeast type, region, and the brewer’s experience. This process, lasting a few days, transforms the starch into alcohol.

Step 3: Distillation

The fermented product is placed in a distillation pot and heated. Alcohol vapors are collected through a small pipe at the pot’s top.

Step 4: Condensation

The pipe extends into a cold water tank, where alcohol vapors condense into liquid, dripping into a container.

Step 5: Collection and Subsequent Runs

Initially, the “first-run” liquor, or the foam liquor with the highest alcohol content (often 64-65% from 15 liters of rice yielding about 5 liters of alcohol), is collected.

Additional water is added to the pot, stirred well, and further distilled for “second” and “third” runs. These are then mixed with the first run to achieve a moderate alcohol concentration.

Next, let’s check some famous varieties of rượu đế in this Southeast Asian country.

What Are Well-known Rượu Đế Variations in Vietnam?

Here are four popular choices of rượu đế variants across the country.

Ruou De Go Den

Made from rice or glutinous rice using traditional methods. Notably high in alcohol content, up to 50%.

Ruou Bau Da

Named after the water source used in fermentation and distillation, ‘Bàu đá’. High alcohol content, over 50%.

Ruou Kim Son

Fermented from a type of sticky rice known as ‘nếp cái hoa vàng’.
High alcohol content, clear.
Traditionally stored in earthen jars with dried banana leaves.

Ruou Mau Son

A liquor made by the Dao people living on Mẫu Sơn peak
Made from rice, pure water from streams, and forest leaf yeast made from over 30 rare herbs.

Now you might wonder, where can you buy this Vietnamese distilled spirit in the USA, right? Read on the following section for more insights.

Where To Buy Rượu Đế In America?

To buy Rượu Đế in the United States, you can visit the SuTi Craft Distillery in Kennedale, Texas. It’s the only traditional Vietnamese rice liquor distillery in America, offering a unique experience with its tasting room and range of products.

Run by two Vietnamese friends, Mr. Sui and Mr. Tien, the distillery produces two main products:

  1. Lion 45, which is a 90-proof rice liquor known for its sharp and sweet flavor.
  2. Old Man (aka rượu đế Ông Già), which is an 80-proof rice liquor.

In the next part, it’s essential to have a balanced perspective on rượu đế positive and negative aspects.

Pros and Cons of Drinking Rượu Đế

Before choosing rượu đế, let’s take a look at the table below that outlines its merits and limitations.

Pros

  • Cultural Meaning: Rượu đế is deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture, especially in rural areas.
  • Social Bonding: Consuming rượu đế in social gatherings can strengthen community bonds.
  • Diversity:  Thanks to diverse regional recipes and ingredients, rượu đế variants are abundant.

Cons

  • High Alcohol Content: Rượu đế generally has a high alcohol percentage, which can lead to intoxication and other risks if consumed excessively.
  • Quality Variation: The quality of homemade or locally produced rượu đế can vary greatly, sometimes leading to health risks from improper distillation.

Continuing on, you’ll examine the frequent concerns people often express about this traditional Vietnamese distilled spirit.

Rượu Đế FAQs

Its distinct flavor profile, which can vary based on local distillating methods and ingredients.

Generally, yes, but quality varies due to different making practices. Some homemade versions may contain higher levels of aldehydes (organic compounds contributing to aroma and flavor), so moderate consumption is strongly advised.

Traditionally, aging (hạ thổ) or storing in banana leaves or dried gourd helps improve quality by allowing the liquor to ‘breathe’ and reduce harmful compounds.

You should look for reputable brands or distilleries. Plus, please consider the alcohol content and clarity of the liquor.

The final, weaker batched of rượu đế normally has a low alcohol content, which can be used to make vinegar or ‘nước bỗng rượu’, a kind of seasoning for making sour soups like fish soup, clam soup, and various hotpot dishes.

Similar Beverages of Rượu Đế

Ruou Can

Rượu cần is an indigenous Vietnamese wine fermented in jugs for a month and enjoyed through a long straw.

Adam Sam

Adam Sam

Senior Food and Drink Editor

Expertise

Food Writer & Recipe Developer, Recipe Tester, Bartender, Cooking-video Maker, Editor In Chief

Education

  • University of Gastronomic Sciences – Pollenzo (Italy) (MA Food Culture, Communication & Marketing)
  • Johnson & Wales University (US) (Baking and Pastry Arts)
  • Professional Bartender at HNAAu School (Vietnam, International Joint Training Program)

Adam Sam, an experienced food writer and recipe developer, is passionate about blending diverse culinary traditions, national dishes, and innovative beverages, showcasing his proficiency in both traditional and modern recipe testing.

As the Editor-in-Chief, he elevates culinary content from street food to fine dining, focusing on Western cuisine and types of drinks at azcuisines.com, and is professional in creating engaging cooking videos that simplify complex dishes and ingredients.

His passion for food is evident in his writing, where he uniquely merges various cultures, traditions, and contemporary trends, skillfully combining classic recipes with modern cooking methods.

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