There’s no denying humankind’s passion for alcohol. Residue discovered in ancient pottery suggests that people were fermenting beverages as early as 10,000 B.C. It’s not hard to imagine how one of our ancestors may have discovered the intoxicating effects of a decomposed batch of grapes left in a container for too long. But how do you explain such oddities as baby mouse wine or three-penis liquor?
Origins: China and Korea Feeling under the weather? This Asian health tonic is thought to be a cure-all, including aiding in respiratory and liver disorders. All you need to do is take a handful of newly born mice (yes, they’re still alive) and drop them into a bottle of rice wine to ferment for approximately a year. And you thought drinking the worm at the bottom of a mezcal bottle was intense.
Origins: China, Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia This slithery libation involves fermenting a dead venomous snake, such as a cobra, in either rice wine or grain alcohol for several months. The idea is the ethanol will dissolve the venom, leaving a beverage that promotes health and vitality in the drinker through the essence of the snake. Want to go for the jugular? Opt for the “mixed” version, which entails slicing open the snake so that the blood infuses the alcohol.
Origins: China Having a hard time raising the ole flag? Long before Viagra hit the market there was a little something called three-penis liquor, which consists of rice wine infused with seal, deer and Cantonese dog penises. This cocktail of animal appendages is believed to increase potency and virility in males, giving a whole new meaning to “drinking the hard stuff.” Just make sure you chase this one down with a breath mint.
Origins: Central Asia Unless you’re the Dude, a milk-based beverage probably isn’t going to be your drink of choice most nights. Not so for the horsemen of central Asia. A traditional dairy drink that’s been made for centuries, kumis is fermented mare’s milk that contains low amounts of alcohol. Some have compared it to a thin, drinkable yogurt. When kumis is distilled it’s called arkhi, which has around the same alcohol content as wine.
Origins: Canada Remember those old “What’s grosser than gross?” jokes? Well, here’s one that that’s actually true. The Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, has made a name for itself with the Sourtoe Cocktail. The hotel’s signature drink consists of a lowball of Yukon Gold whiskey that contains an actual mummified human toe. To get the full experience, patrons are encouraged to let the toe touch their lips as they finish the morbid beverage. Unfortunately, an overly eager drinker swallowed the toe in 2013, incurring a $500 fine. Have no fear though, the bar has a few backup toes donated by accident-prone fans—and are always on the lookout for more. Have a fallen-off toe to spare? Check out the bar’s website for ways to donate it.
Mixing your cocktail