So, it's late, you're not totally sure where you are, and your friend is ordering some drink you've never heard of for you. He's insisting that he was told by someone, who heard from their uncle, who read it somewhere that you absolutely have to try this particular tipple before you die. But being the sensible creature you are, you're more interested in the chances of said brew actually contributing to your death instead. Here's ten of the world's deadliest drinks for you to revise for just that occasion.
10. 'The End of History' - Scotland
Aberdeen based micro brewery Brew Dog have been locked in a bitter battle with German brewery Schorschbrau over bragging rights to the World's strongest beer. For many years Schorschbrau's Schorschbock 31 held the record at, naturally, 31% ABV. Brew Dog cheekily took the record with the launch of their Tactical Nuclear Penguin beer which clocked in at 32%. This so enraged the German brewery that they set about producing a higher grade Schorschbock 40. Not to be outdone, Brew Dog responded with a beer insolently titled Sink The Bismark which weighed in at a Kraut-baiting 41%.
Not content with resting on their laurels and mindful that the German brewery were working on a new weapon, Brew Dog launched what they believed to be the final word in strong beer: 'The End of History'
Named after right-wing American academic Francis Fukuyama's philosophical justification for Capitalism, 'The End of History' is produced by a revolutionary dry freezing method. The beer is fermented and then frozen at sub-Siberian temperatures until the water content forms crystals that are removed before thawing, re-fermenting and then refreezing. This process goes through several cycles until the required level of 55% ABV is achieved.
Always with a keen eye for a controversial marketing stunt (the promotional films on YouTube for Sink The Bismark are wilfully politically incorrect and very, very funny) 'The End of History' was produced in a limited run of twelve bottles sewn inside a dead animal and sold at £500 each. Seven dead stoats, four squirrels and a solitary hare were used, each skilfully stuffed and preserved by a taxidermist, much to the horror of animal rights groups who accused Brew Dog of cruelty and exploitation. Brew Dog responded to the criticism by claiming that they only used road kill for their macabre packaging stunt and have given each dead animal a name (albeit slightly daft ones like Bernard and Brian) in order to dignify their death and immortalise them in art. Either way, the stunt worked as 'The End of History' sold out within minutes of becoming available.
9. 'Start The Future' - Netherlands
Sadly, 'The End of History' proved not to be the final word in the European beer wars as within weeks of its launch, Dutch micro brewery 't Koelschip' (The Refrigerated Ship) trumped Brew Dog with a 60% ABV beer which they have aptly titled 'Start The Future'. Brew Dog, having trounced the Germans, have finally conceded defeat and claim they aren't going to go any further with their experiments but are exploring new challenges instead. This decision is thought to be more for economic reasons however as the brewery hired a medical cryogenic freezing unit to produce 'The End of History' and simply can't afford to pay for the rent. 'Start The Future' can be bought on-line at around £40 a bottle. It is not intended to be glugged like normal bottled beers but to be drunk a little at a time like a fine whisky or cognac. A unique bottle stopper system enables the beer to keep for several weeks if refrigerated. Beer hunters the world over are waiting to see what will happen next in this increasingly bizarre game of brewery one-upmanship.
8. Spirytus Rektyfikowany - Poland
Spirytus Rektyfikowany translates as rectified spirit, a very high grade form of ethanol produced by multiple distillations of base grain alcohol used in vodka production. Farmlands in the north western regions of Poland cultivate high quality rye which contains abnormal levels of starch. This allows the distilleries to produce a base alcohol for production which can reach ABV levels of around 95%. Although used mostly for medical and industrial purposes (in solvents, literally 'paint stripper') it is also drunk neat in small shots as a toast to the dead at Polish funerals. There have been several reported cases of spontaneous human combustion that have been linked to the consumption of Spirytus Rektyfikowany, although it is unclear if the victims actually combusted or inadvertently set fire to themselves by accident.
Several cases of spontaneous human combustion have been linked to Spirytus Rektyfikowany, although it is unclear if the victims actually combusted or inadvertently set fire to themselves by accident.
7. Bacardi 151 - Cuba
Banned in over half the states of the U.S, Ron Bacardi's flagship over-proof rum is a force to be reckoned with. Weighing in at almost twice the strength of conventional rums (75.5% ABV) it is best used in certain flaming cocktails where a proportion of the high alcohol content can be burned off (such as The B52) whilst retaining it's lovely orangey oaky finish. It is not advisable to drink it neat without first diluting with water as the gag potential is very high indeed.
6. Feni - India
Made from a distillate of macerated cashew apples or the sap of coconut trees, Feni is particular to the Goa region on India. Notorious for its pungent smell and atrocious hangover potential, many a fresh faced backpacker on the hippie trail has fallen foul of its malevolent charms. With a bouquet akin to that of a damp stray dog that has been playing near an open sewage pipe and a paint-stripper after-taste, Feni has few redeemable virtues. Furthermore there has been a spate of Feni related deaths in recent years due to unscrupulous producers attempting to cut corners and up the alcohol content by adding industrial alcohol and, in some cases, car battery acid during production.
5. Karsk/hjemmebrent - Norway
Also known as "hjemmebrent", which translates as 'Home Burnt', although it is unclear if this refers to the tendency of Karsk drinkers to torch their houses or if it relates to the widespread practice of domestic distilling in rural areas of Norway. Essentially a form of home-made vodka of extremely high alcohol content, "hjemmebrent" is usually mixed with luke-warm coffee to make Karsk. Lemmy, the late lead singer of heavy rock band Motorhead, attributed the distinctive warts on his chin to drinking Karsk whilst on tour in Norway in the late 1970's. "That stuff is bad news" he told a Norwegian Radio Station, "not even our road crew will drink it anymore".
4. Counterfeit Stolichnaya Vodka - Russia
In October 2006, President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency in six Russian territories due to a startling rise in alcohol related deaths. The local hospitals in the identified regions were unable to cope with the number of patients admitted with severe alcohol poisoning. With a death toll equivalent to that of a fair to middling armed conflict, mobile army hospital units were called in to ease the pressure. The cause of this alcohol related death epidemic was attributed to batches of counterfeit Stolichnaya vodka that flooded the booze kiosks prevalent in most Russian towns and cities. Laboratory tests on consignments seized by police at an alcohol distribution warehouse in the city of Voronezh revealed the corrupted vodka contained (amongst other unidentifiable substances) lighter fuel, industrial window cleaner and cheap aftershave. In true Russian fashion, the sudden rise of counterfeit vodka was attributed to a severe shortage of genuine brands such as Stolichnaya due a bureaucratic cock-up at the State Department for Customs and Excise.
3. Everclear 190 Degrees - USA
Manufactured by the Luxco Corporation of St Louis, Missouri, Everclear is a neutral grain based spirit that is produced in two head-crunching strengths of 75.5 ABV and 95.6 ABV. The higher strength Everclear is banned in large parts of the U.S but available in California where it has a cult following on west coast university campuses. Of Everclear's many other commercial uses, the most alarming are surely the fact that certain brands of camping stove recommended it as a fuel substitute and that carpenters often use it with shellac to produce high-grade, durable wood sealants.
2. Bruichladdich X4 Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Scotland
The tiny Scottish island of Islay is the home of the Bruichladdich brewery who have recently revived the three hundred year old tradition of quadruple distilling. Aged for a minimum of ten years in oak casks before bottling, high grade "usquebraugh-baul" (Gaelic for 'perilous whisky') was described in the following terms by Martin Martin in his seminal travel log 'A Description of The Western Isles of Scotland' (1703) :"the first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life."
At over 96% ABV this sound advice from three hundred years ago remains the same to this day. The Earth isn't flat and God probably didn't create it but don't take more than two spoonfuls of (Ten Year Aged) Bruichladdich X4.
1. Waragi - Uganda
The national drink of Uganda is Waragi, a distilled spirit made from bananas, cassava, grains, sugar cane or a mixture of all four. Known during British Colonial times as 'War Gin', Waragi is also a generic term for any home-produced alcohol. Commercially produced Waragi is overseen by the state owned Ugandan Distilleries Limited and clocks in at around 40% ABV. This may not seem particularly eye-watering from the outset however, like Feni, the reason Waragi takes top spot is on account of the death toll attributed to drinking it. In April alone this year over eighty people died from drinking Waragi in a single weekend. The cause of the deaths was diagnosed as multiple organ failure due to ingesting poisonous methanol that had been mixed with the Waragi, either during or after the distillation process.
‘Slippery Tipples’ by Joseph Piercy is out now.