I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
Travelling the globe and experiencing other cultures is a mind-expanding experience, but sometimes it's best to leave the local hooch unsampled. Some truly offbeat drinks have been concocted for which it may be a case of drinker beware.
Kopi Luwak Coffee (Indonesia)
Let's get the party started with an eye-opening cup of Kopi Luwak coffee. It started out in Indonesia and has, inexplicably, spread to other Southeast Asian countries.
To make this pick-me-up you're going to have to get yourself a civet cat and feed it coffee cherries (that's the coffee bean and its outer layer). Then, you'll have to wait a bit as the cherry passes through the kitty's digestive system. Are you sure you want to continue with this? Okay.
The next step is to gather the cat poop as it passes out of the bowels. It's in the bowel that the coffee cherry breaks down and the best flavours are imparted. The beans are then washed (thank goodness), roasted, and ground. Now, we're ready to make a nice mug of cat poop coffee.
If you don't like the idea of raw ingredients for you cup of joe coming out of a cat's bum, other critters have been brought into the production process, such as elephants, bats, and monkeys.
Panda-Fertilized Green Tea (China)
In China, Sichuan University lecturer An Yashi has been developing a special type of green tea. It's fertilized with panda crap. Pandas spend most of the day stuffing their faces with bamboo but they have inefficient digestive systems so much of their lunch passes through and is loaded with vitamins. Having the tea plants grow in this nutrient-rich pile of poop is supposed to produce a beverage with wondrous medicinal benefits.
Now, we are going to Iceland and you have probably figured out what we are going to find there. Hvalur is said to have come from the Middle Ages; beer drinkers might be forgiven for hoping it had not learned to time travel. Why so? The list of ingredients includes such succulent items as whale testicles and sheep's dung.
Fin whales donate their nuts, each weighing 15 to 18 pounds, which are then chopped up and put in a large sausage case. This is smoked over a smoldering pile of dried sheep's dung. Then, the bag of smoky gonads is plopped into a vat of fermenting beer.
Curiously Flavoured Wine
It's often quoted that there are 10,000 different varieties of grapes from which wine is made. That ought to be enough to satisfy every taste requirement, but no, some people can't resist trying to fix something that isn't broken. So, some rascals have dumped wine with flavours such as chocolate, maple, rhubarb and others on an unsuspecting world. As yet, there is no evidence of rutabaga-flavoured wine; so, until that comes along, and it will, there are other exotic mixtures to tempt the curious palate.
Penis Wine (China)
From traditional Chinese medicine we have been handed three penis wine. Seals, deer, and dogs provide the naughty bits that are brewed into a rice wine base. The tipple, of course, is sold as an enhancement for male potency and virility—Viagra in a bottle? Various uncomplimentary descriptions of the flavour have been offered for this “cock”tail. (Forgive me).
Baby Mice Wine (China)
Still in China, here is baby mice wine. As with three penis wine, there is no deceptive marketing going on here; it's wine with dead baby mice in the bottle. The rodents are less than three days old when they are drowned in rice wine and left to ferment for about a year. Their little white bodies are hairless because if they had grown hair it might be—umm—gross.
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Snake Bile Wine (Asia)
Before we leave Asia we have to try snake bile wine. We don't have to try it? That's a relief because it's made by killing a snake, slitting it open and squeezing its bile and/or blood into rice wine.
It's supposed to do wonders for the constitution and it's usually safe to drink. The word “usually” should raise alarm because an article in The Journal of Emergency Medicine tells the story of a man who ran into serious blood coagulation problems after drinking snake wine.
Seagull Wine (Inuit)
North to the Arctic where wine makers have noticed good quality grapes don't thrive too well. Never mind. The Inuit who live in this inhospitable clime have created seagull wine. Put bits of dead seagull into a bottle of water, set it out in the sun, and wait for it to ferment. Pairs excellently with raw seal blubber, we are told.
Boozy Animal Secretions
Gomutra Ark (Hindu)
Cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis—they all whimper pathetically in the presence of the mighty Gomutra Ark, so claims its developer. It comes from a branch of traditional Hindu medicine and involves collecting the urine of virgin cows and formulating it into a soft drink, a golden soda if you will. Western medicine experts shed doubt on the libation's curative powers, so can it be long before Dr. Oz is peddling it as a miracle reducer of belly fat.
Koumiss (Kazakhstan) / Arkhi (Mongolia)
Understandably, many people will balk at the thought of chugging down a tumbler of cow pee. For them, there is a more traditional product found on the Asian steppes. Called koumiss in Kazakhstan, if fermented, and arkhi in Mongolia, if distilled, and it's made from mare's milk. It's distilled into a type of vodka that packs a punch and acts as an effective nightcap for herders as they bed down for the night in their yurts.
Chica de Jora Beer (Peru)
For something even more exotic chicha de jora beer is on offer in Peru. Step one is for people to chew up corn kernels and then spit out the ensuing mush. Saliva activates the fermentation process and traditionally it was women known as Virgins of the Sun who carried out this duty. This spit-infused beer is now only found in isolated mountain areas, sophisticated Peruvians having turned to beer made from malted barley.
Stag Semen Beer (New Zealand)
There's a pub in Wellington, New Zealand, called The Green Man that served a unique stout called stag semen beer. First thought: is this just a catchy name to attract the macho-man drinker? Please, please let it be that, but no. A local deer stud farm provided the active ingredient and a specialty brewer did the rest. But, for reasons not clearly explained, stag semen beer is no longer available. We can all be thankful for small mercies.
- In 2016, a craft brewer in Philadelphia created a highly carbonated pale ale with orange and pineapple flavours. The brewery went further into the realms of absurdity by attaching an iPod to barrels and playing the “music” of Wu-Tang Clan to the fermenting ale.
- Until 2011, anything containing less than 10 percent alcohol was classified as a foodstuff in Russia.
- A British Company called Master of Malt sells a brand of liquor named 250,000 Scovilles Vodka. The peppery heat comes from Naga Jolokia chillies (for comparison, jalapeños deliver 3,500 and 8,000 Scoville units of heat). The manufacturer says its vodka is “so horrendous we suggest you don’t even purchase it.” Such negative advertising will serve as an irresistible inducement to a certain breed of young males to purchase gallons of the stuff.
- In 2008 a New Zealand winery launched a Sauvignon Blanc named Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush. Rarely has a wine been more aptly titled.
- As a schoolboy on a trip to France I, along with fellow classmates, were doubled over with laughter at the buses in Paris that carried advertising for a pop brand called Pschitt. We were pretty basic back then.
- “Kopi Luwak: The Poop Coffee.” kopiluwakdirect.com, 2018.
- “The World’s Most Expensive Tea: Made from Panda Poo!?” Simone Press, ABC News, November 18, 2011.
- “This Icelandic Craft Beer Is Made from a Giant Whale Testicle.” Katie Lockhart, travelandleisure.com, August 11, 2018.
- “Chinese Alcohol Contains Three Kinds of Animal Penises.” Zoe Bain, delish.com, December 27, 2013.
- “9 Weird Brews from around the World: From Baby Mice Wine to Beer Made from Dung-Smoked Whales Testicles.” Julia Buckley, The Independent, January 24, 2017.
- “Severe Coagulopathy after Ingestion of 'Snake Wine.'” Jeong MiMoon et al., The Journal of Emergency Medicine, June 2016.
- “Udder Nonsense? Cow Urine Promoted for Health Benefits.” Marc Lallanilla, Live Science, January 13, 2014.
- “Chicha: The Infamous Saliva-Fermented Beer from Peru.” Maureen Santucci, amateurtraveler.com, undated.
- “Stag Semen Beer Set to Return – Minus the Stag.” Arabella Mileham, thedrinksbusiness.com, June 20, 2017.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Rupert Taylor