If prohibition taught us anything, it’s that drinking is so much fun that people will risk their lives to continue doing it. Literally. During prohibition, you weren’t simply facing the risks of bathtub gin and moonshine; the federal government actually poisoned industrial alcohol to prevent it from being diverted into human consumption.
The CDC warns one alcoholic drink equals .6 ounces of pure liquor. Depending on the proof of the alcohol used in making your cocktail, you are probably over the single drink limit with one. They also consider binge drinking to be more than five drinks in a single night. The CDC is a real buzzkill (because they want to keep us alive).
Below, you will find a collection of cocktails that would probably barrel past the binge marker before they were half-poured. Don’t lick your chops, though. These cocktails come with a body count and are more likely to make you consider the #teetotalerlife than convince you to play Russian roulette with a shot glass.
The Aunt Roberta
The “Aunt Roberta” falls into the extremely potent category of deadly drinks. One sip isn’t the flirtatious wink that gets the Grim Reaper all up in your business, but drink a full one and you might think you see him waiting in the wings. Named after a bootlegging former prostitute who supposedly poisoned 34 of her moonshine customers, the Aunt Roberta is crafted with absinthe and a melange of other strong liquors that equal eight and a half ounces of straight liquor. Yep. Here are some “fun” facts about alcohol poisoning.
Any home-made liquor venture is fraught with perils. Ask prisoners and moonshiners, and especially ask people who are both. In India, the term tharra refers to any moonshine whipped up and distributed. But, typically tharra is liquor created with sugarcane, making it a rum of sorts. The deadly sort. But, what do you expect from a drink that smells so badly it has to be buried as far as possible from heavily trafficked parts of the community? Fresh from the plastic baggie — oh, yes, plastic baggie — it can land your ass in the hospital or kill you. Bootleg Indian liquor often kills hundreds of people at one time.
When a drink’s name literally translates into “kill me quick,” you should think twice about swilling it down. You had better run when it is made with fecal matter-heavy water and methanol, and potentially augmented with pilfered jet fuel, dead rats, and underwear. A mere 10ml of methanol can burn your optic nerve (“blind drunk” is a real thing) and 30ml can kill you.
So integral to society is this Kenyan homebrew that the government chose to lift a prohibition on Chang’aa in an attempt to regulate production. More oversight should equal less dead rats per ounce and, we hope, less death.
You know you have invented a potent drink when a city council steps in and bans it. The Evil Eye Lounge in York, UK received such a ban and they proudly display a plaque relaying the information. Although different sources report different measurements and proofs, the Hellshot was made with unfiltered vodka and absinthe. Most estimate 80 percent vodka and 20 percent absinthe. In addition to their killer drink, the Evil Eye is known for being a favorite of Johnny Depp while he filmed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Chinese Alchemy Elixirs
In European alchemy, the most well-known focus is on transmuting base metals (like lead) into noble ones (like gold). That idea alone has captured the imagination of many artists, leading to epic stories and art. Hudson Hawk is an arty epic, yeah? Chinese alchemy was similarly obsessed with creating gold, but they weren’t trying to get rich; they were trying to get immortal.
Drawing from Taoism, alchemists celebrated the opposing forces of the Yin and the Yang. The more a person could take in elements rich in Yang, the longer they could hope to live. Well, in theory. In practice, Chinese alchemy made some sizable missteps. Take for example, Quin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China. Dead set on living forever, he maintained a steady intake of a magical elixir. The main ingredient? Mercury. He didn’t make it to 50.
Although this cocktail is best known because it is a tiki staple, it predates the ’50s by a couple decades. Nevertheless, it is chock full of rum and fruit juice, so a tiki drink it will remain. In addition to being a sweet treat, The Zombie will knock you on your ass. Depending on the recipe, you are looking at least four kinds of rum, at least three ounces of that rum, and a few teaspoons of fruit juice. In most bars, you get a two Zombie limit, but New York bar Cienfuegos imposes what may be the only one drink limit in the city. This is a drink that lets the liquor sneak up on you and you can easily find yourself without the use of your legs. When recounting his first experience with the cocktail, comedian Billy Connolly recalled it was the only drink to get you drunk from the bottom up.
The Sourtoe Cocktail
This drink will technically pose no threat to your life because it isn’t that high in alcohol and you won’t drink enough of them to get substantially wasted. Why? Because there is a f***ing toe in it. Oh, sorry. There is a human toe that has been amputated and preserved and dehydrated in salt. Initial members of the Sourtoe Club — uh huh, if you drink it, you are part of a club and get a certificate — had to down a beer glass filled with champagne and the toe. Now, you can have the toe placed in any drink. You must, however, follow the single rule of having your lips touch the toe while you imbibe. You may be looking at some of the more lethal drinks on this list a little kindlier all of a sudden — although they might wreck you, at least you won’t collapse with a stranger’s old toe pressed to your mouth.