What Is Snake Whiskey?

This isn’t for the faint-hearted

If you thought tequila with that cute little worm in it is a little icky, imagine downing some whiskey with a cobra in it to take the edge off (or put the edge on) your day.

Snake (or cobra) whiskey is a drink most common in Laos and Thailand, and it has been lugged back by Western tourists as a souvenir for quite some time. The gruesome drink is infused with a real cobra snake, often ginseng roots and seed pods. To make this, a cobra is trapped in a bottle and drowned in rice wine or sake. The dead snake then slowly begins to ferment and after a couple of months it gives the drink a unique flavor.

But there is more to this odd cocktail than its success at unnerving the most gracious of guests. According to folklore, the drink is said to be a very strong aphrodisiac and pain reliever. The use of snake wine has been documented as far back as 770 B.C. in China, where some believed the concoction could cure anything from hair loss to low energy.

Its popularity has led to steady attention on Instagram, with countless wanderlusters posing proudly with the drink.

"Neither of us tried it, and now I wish we had! If I get the chance again, I will be sipping some snake whiskey!" wrote Kenna Charbonneau in an Instagram comment.

I have not had the (mis)fortune to taste this mortal drink, but it’s said to have a fishy, smokey base with some hot notes towards the end. Apologies for not having first-hand experience with this one, but there are at least some (admittedly dubious) reports of snakes that remained alive and wreaked havoc.


Habushu, a similar liqueur from Okinawa, Japan, is made by soaking a pit viper in the distilled rice wine awamari; like its cousins, it is said to have healing properties. You don’t even have to travel all the way to Asia for this unique elixir, because the wine isn’t illegal in the U.S., although the cobras themselves are considered endangered. Lots of foods are banned in certain places, though — check out these 14 foods banned around the world.

In the video below, Author Fred Mennick and Makers Mark Legend Bill Samuels Jr. share the interesting history behind the classic bourbon.