Since first discovering alcohol, humanity has been intent on getting as drunk as possible in a variety of inventive ways. The perennial quest for intoxication has inspired a few trailblazers to create some truly extraordinary booze. Some sound delicious, some sound intriguing and most sound horrible. Here’s our guide to the weirdest alcoholic drinks from around the world
Mongolia is a harsh landscape. Windswept steppes and an arid climate do not make for ideal brewing conditions, meaning that Mongolians have had to get more creative than most when it comes to alcohol production. The result is kumis - a traditional drink made from fermented horse milk. Said milk is placed in a large vat, which is padded with bread and sugar to aid the fermentation process, left for several days and subsequently strained. The result has a distinctly sour flavour of “apples, sourdough and salami”. Presumably, this is an acquired taste.
Many of the strangest alcoholic drinks have come about as a result of misplaced medical “wisdom”. A prime example is China’s baby mouse wine. Supposedly developed as a cure for liver, skin and breathing conditions, the preparation of this drink is as unwholesome as the name implies. Baby mice are dropped, live, into a vat of wine, where they are left to drown and ferment within the liquid for over a year. The flavour has been likened to drinking aftershave, and has been proven to be about as beneficial for your health.
Once the reserve of the upper classes in ancient society, you could be forgiven for thinking that pulque was just a harmless glass of milk (although, as we have just learned, milk is not always harmless). This traditional drink, which can trace its ancestry back to early Mesoamerican civilisations, is actually the fermented sap of the maguey plant. The result is a sour, viscous liquid, rich in carbohydrates, Vitamin C and Iron. It is almost certainly healthier than a jar of baby mice.
4. The Arctic
Living in quite possibly the toughest environment on the planet has forced the Inuit to come up with a host of unusual recipes. If their food is sometimes bizarre, what they wash it down with is downright alarming. Seagull wine is, unfortunately, exactly what it says on the tin. Preparation is worryingly straightforward. Find seagull. Put in bottle of water. Leave in sun. Ferment. Drink. The result is a spirit that tastes like gasoline and apparently gives you a worse hangover.
Some alcohol consumption focuses around the quest for prolonged vitality. The Vietnamese have come up with their own elegant solution to this medical conundrum: take a perfectly nice bottle of rice wine, and "improve" it by adding a dead snake. As the serpent ferments, the venom is supposed to impregnate the liquid with all kinds of vim and vigour, sort of like a rudimentary Red Bull. It also gives a whole new meaning to the drink “snake bite”.
Despite their eccentricities, all of the aforementioned drinks are at least made with things that are theoretically edible. Alas, the Korean tradition of Ttongsul dispenses with this rule altogether. This, perhaps least appealing of drinks past or present, is made with human poo. A bamboo stick is placed in a chamber pot and left to ferment for several days. The stick is then removed, the residue collected and used as the base for the drink. People really will go to extraordinary lengths to get wasted.
In a way, all alcohol production is a little odd. The idea of letting something rot before drinking it should go against all our natural instincts. However, as these beverages prove, there’s quite a gulf between a pint of lager and drinks at the extreme end of the spectrum. As ever, it pays to know exactly what you’re ordering.