A guaranteed buzz, but at what cost?
For as long as human beings have walked upright, we’ve fermented things in order to get drunk, and for as long as we’ve been fermenting things, we’ve been selecting ingredients that no one has any right to expose to the twin demons of microorganisms and time. We’ve all had a friend’s vile “home-brewed mead” that tastes like something Beowulf would have yarked up, and even partaken of Blue Hawaiian Boones Farm, which, as we know, is made from gently yeasted Windex. Here are ten liquors from around the world whose backstories are best left unexamined.
Baby Mouse Wine
You might be looking at a phrase like ‘baby mouse wine,’ thinking “I’ll bet there’s more to it than that, right? I’ll bet they don’t just cram a whole bunch of dead baby mice in a bottle of wine and let it ferment for a year.” But if you did think that, you’re wrong. Some believe that baby mouse wine contains invigorating medicinal properties, which is the thing I would also tell people if it would help me sell some fermented baby mice.
If you really want to see what it looks like, here is a link (warning: graphic).
Whale Testicle Beer
Iceland, known primarily for experimental pop singers and having ‘ice’ in the name, is responsible for beer brewed with the testicle of a fin whale that’s been smoked over burning sheep dung—it reportedly imparts a meaty flavor reminiscent of fin whale testicles that have been smoked over burning sheep dung–and then put into beer. The water used in the fermentation process is reportedly some of the purest water in the world, produced by a glacier in Western Iceland, which is a huge relief. I can’t imagine drinking whale testicle beer brewed with subpar water.
Ethyl alcohol is good at a lot of things–from creating essential oils to creating horrifying karaoke renditions of Piano Man–but one of its best qualities is its ability to neutralize the toxicity of snake venom. In Vietnam, the discerning tourist can find a bottle of snake wine, which is made by putting a whole snake in a bottle of rice wine and just letting it sit for a few months. Make sure the snake is dead, though–snakes can apparently stay alive for months within the alcohol before jumping out and attacking someone. Nothing like a little hair of the snake that bit you.
WHERE: United States
Listen, I get it. We all like pizza and we all like beer. But it’s possible to like something without needing to make a booze out of it. Tom and Athena Seefurth are responsible for Mamma Mia! It’s beer brewed with a whole, entire pizza: basil, oregano, garlic, tomato and all. The pie is dipped into the mash during the fermentation process, producing, you guessed it, beer that tastes like pizza. I’ve just googled “fried oyster beer,” “buffalo chicken beer,” and “macaroni and cheese beer” without any results, and thus I can sleep tonight safe in the knowledge that we don’t live in hell yet.
WHERE: Arctic Circle
You thought we were done with the weird dead animal liquor, didn’t you? Had a fun stop in pizza town and everything. Well, surprise: Seagull wine is made by cramming parts of a dead seagull into a bottle of water and leaving it to ferment in the sun until it produces a vile and powerful booze with top notes of dead seagull and base notes of regret. Originally developed by the Inuit, this avian nightmare is at least easily brewed at home as long as you have one (1) dead seagull. This is something that the thing from the movie The Thing would make at the Antarctic base to pass the time while waiting for a rescue team to arrive.
Stag Semen Beer
WHERE: New Zealand
I think we’ve all been there–you’re enjoying a tall, frosty glass of beer at the bar, and you end up thinking “But what if it could taste more like the emissions of a woodland creature?” Wellington, New Zealand’s Green Man Pub has you covered with Stag Semen Stout, which is made with “export-quality semen” and served to guests who, I guess, get to brag to their friends about this experience. They’ve since stopped serving the frothy brew, but don’t fret–the Green Man has also served apple-infused horse semen shots, so it’s not unlikely that it’ll wind up back in the mix again someday.
Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout
WHERE: United States
Remember when I googled “oyster beer” and nothing came up? I didn’t look hard enough. The Wyncoop Brewing Company, based in the Denver area, brews with sliced and roasted bull testicles to produce a “meaty, foreign-style stout” to be “enjoyed” by “people who I guess are into this.” This started out as a joke–Wyncoop Brewing Company released an April Fool’s Day video touting the beer in 2012. Then they decided to make the actual testicle beer due to popular demand. There is virtue in knowing when to stop committing to a bit.
There must be a certain method used to produce things like scorpion vodka–you find a dead thing, you stick it in some grain alcohol for a few months, and you hope for the best. Scorpion-infused vodka, which apparently dates back to the Western Zhou dynasty, was touted as a healthy and smart thing to drink for its alleged health benefits. One of the premier purveyors of the modern-day arachnid-centric liquor is Skorppio Vodka, an English company that distills the vodka five times in order to denature the scorpion venom and make it safe for human consumption. They also encourage you to eat the scorpion. Because of course they do.
The Sourtoe Cocktail
Visitors to the Yukon’s Downtown Hotel can enjoy a rite of passage for weird booze ghouls: the Sourtoe Cocktail, which is a shot of whiskey with a mummified human toe jammed into it as a grisly garnish. In order to become a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, you must let the preserved appendage touch your lips during the drinking of the cocktail, and there is a $2500 penalty for swallowing the toe. Journalist Joshua Clark slugged down the toe on purpose in 2013 and was run out of town on a rail. You have to toe the line in order to stay welcome in the Yukon. (Sorry.)
Dairy and alcohol have a tenuous relationship at best when they arrive to the party separately, but when they come from the same place, all bets are off. Kumis, which is popular in Central Asia, is made from fermented mare’s milk, and it produces both a strong odor AND a strong taste. Because it’s fermented from sugars as opposed to starches, this makes it more of a wine than a beer, but it’s consumed chilled because “warm horse wine” sounds like something you consume in order to scourge the flesh and repent for what you’ve done. The quality of kumis varies greatly, so make sure you get yours from a skilled horse brewer.