In Ha Noi, wine is not a daily beverage. It is only used to welcome guests, on death anniversaries, Tet holidays, or festivals. Wine is made from fermented and distilled sticky rice. Good wine is clear, sparkling and does not leave the drinker with a headache. In his Treatise on Geography written in 1437, Nguyen Trai wrote that Thuy Chuong precinct of ancient Thang Long (now Thuy Khue precinct, Tay Ho District) was famous for good wine.
Wine scented with lotus and daisy is called flower wine; wine mixed with medicinal herbs, animal glue, snake, or gecko is called tonic wine and is used to reinforce strength for the old and the ill. There is also sweet wine which is not boiled and distilled but made of fermented sticky rice called “nếp cẩm”. Wine was traditionally kept in glazed terra-cotta jars in poor families and in ornamental jars, china or silver phials in rich families. Now wine is usually put in glass bottles.
In his book Notes Taken on Rainy Days, Pham Dinh Ho wrote about a custom in Thang Long: “When inviting guests to drink wine, the host only uses small cups the size of the thumb and only drinks some cups then stops. If the host invites guests to drink too much, they may be criticized as being alcoholic”. Wine connoisseurs in Thang Long-Ha Noi had nice manners: when drinking wine with other people or when offering guests, they did not raise their cups higher than that of the oldest person, they drank in small gulps to enjoy delicious taste of wine, offered wine to show love and respect to each other, and never drank more than 3 cups to avoid getting drunk.
For a long time, knowing how to drink wine was one of the true manifestations of an ideal man: Nam vô tửu như kỳ vô phong (a man without wine is like a flag without wind” the old saying goes. Now, this old conception has changed, but the polite manner of drinking wine in Thang Long-Hanoi is always appreciated and regarded as a symbol of a polite lifestyle.