Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.
Thanks to Andrew Zimmern and countless YouTube videos, most so-called “bizarre foods” don’t have the gag factor and genuine novelty they once did. But there are plenty of cocktails around the world that even locals will tell you are downright strange. Here’s a handful of our favorites.
Dawson City’s Sourtoe Cocktail has become a tradition for travelers passing through northern Canada’s Yukon Territory. Just head to the Sourdough Saloon and ask for Captain River Rat. Order any shot you like and pledge the “Sourtoe Oath”. The bartender will add an actual dehydrated human toe to your drink. Down the shot as slowly as you like, so long as your lips kiss the toe. It’s a simple recipe, but most would argue that actually downing one isn’t so easy.
Found throughout China, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia, snake wine is as simple and disgusting as it sounds. Steeped snake wine consists of dropping a large snake, and often a handful of smaller ones, into a glass jug filled with rice wine. The potion is fermented for months and typically consumed as a shot. The mixed variety of the wine involves slicing open a snake to-order and draining the raw (and often still-warm) fluids into a shot glass that’s immediately downed. Like many natural remedies and elixirs in ancient Asian medicine, the wine is said to have restorative and reinvigorating powers.
While the other booze on this list is steeped in history, the Gunpowder Plot from Australia’s Zeta Bar is a distinctly modern beverage. Sydney bartender Grant Collins devised this concoction that’s equal parts cocktail and chemistry experiment. It consists of gunpowder-infused gin, spiced gunpowder syrup, and herbal bitters, all served on a bed of twigs and smoke under a cloche. Collins gets points for originality and possibly being the first person ever to consider gunpowder has a beverage ingredient.
Another gem from China, the aptly named Tezhi Sanbian Jiu (literally “three-penis liquor”) is exactly what it sounds like. With rice wine as a base, a penis each from a seal, a deer, and a Cantonese dog are added then the entire concoction allowed to ferment for at least a month. Naturally, it’s said to not only reinvigorate the imbiber but increase a man’s vitality as well. While it may be bizarre to Westerners, it’s readily available in markets throughout Shanghai and China. (Note: we clearly don’t condone the manufacturing process on this one. We’re just reporting the facts.)
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