Snake Wine Crawls into Your Brain

Okay, this wine doesn’t literally crawl inside your brain, but you’ll certainly have nightmares just looking at it. The drink has been around for thousands of years, hailing from Bama County in Guangxi Zhuang of China (just above Vietnam).

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This region has the greatest number for centenarians in the world (okay, fourth, but that’s still pretty good). Some say is the climate and air quality. I say it’s the snake wine.

Fangs for the memories: The cobra's potent poison is negated by the ethanol used in the rice wine. Found from the article at the Daily Mail.

Fangs for the memories: The cobra’s potent poison is negated by the ethanol used in the rice wine. Found from the article at the Daily Mail.

Although the snakes (and sometimes scorpions) bottled in the brew are certainly poisonous, the ethanol takes care of that. The venom is protein based and breaks down in the alcohol. Want to make some yourself, just slip a snake into a bottle of ethanol and wait a few weeks. Bingo, you can call yourself a master of spirits.

Picture captured from Dangerous Minds article.

Picture captured from Dangerous Minds article.

Want to order some? Then visit the Thailand Unique.

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They also have Thai spider whiskey and Giant Centipede Whiskey. Both have a bite (pun intended).

Want to up your ante from the worm at the bottom of the bottle of tequila? Go for some snake wine. Who knows, it might make you live longer.

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 1: How to Pacify Your Vampire

Learn how knots, dead dogs, and excrement can deter a vampire.

As a lover of all things vampire, my wife purchased me The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires. As I strolled through the expansive volume, I noticed that despite it’s generous supply of information, some details were scattered. I was immediately drawn to Aprotropaics. This is a term coming from the Greek word apotropai, which is something that averts evil.

This is four part series summarizing the four ways to combat evil (specifically vampires): Pacificaiton, Countering, Restraint, and Lethal Aprotropaics.

The goal with pacification was to remove the vampire’s urge to kill or drink blood. Generally this meant feeding the vampire something else to quell his thirst. This is old school vampire lore (non of that Twilight stuff). The kind of stuff Romanians still believe in.

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I discovered this with an article about vampires on the loose in Serbia. The date was December 1, 2012. Drinks are left on the grave of a deceased man, in the village of Zarozje, near the Serbian town of Bajina Basta

People thought the world of the dead was similar to that of the living. That means eating. All sorts of food were left in the grave to prevent that person from rising as a vampire. Seeds were common. In Germany alone, folk used to bury or scatter poppy seeds, mustard seeds, oats, linen seeds or carrot seeds. Some of this is related to eating, but it also went back to the believe that vampires were seriously OCD.

Many beliefs in vampirism (Eastern European and Chinese) felt that the undead were compelled to count. Therefore if there were seeds in the grave or sprinkled outside, the creature would have to count them all before rising. Now you might think this a task that could be accomplished in a day or so. Oh no. The Kashubs (in Poland) surmised that a vampire could only count a seed a year, thus keeping him busy for centuries.

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Although not strictly food, knots were also used as a delaying tactic. The obsessive vampire would stop to count all the knots (or possibly untie the knots). Nets were often buried with corpses to provide them with years of entrainment.

The Macedonian Folklore by G.F. Abbot (1903) a story tells of how a hunter lured a vampire with a pile of millet grains. The vampire was so obsessed with counting that it didn’t resist when the hunter nailed him to the wall.

The OCD aspect of vampires is highly underused. This reminds me of an excellent episode (Bad Blood) on the X-Files where the FBI agent Mulder pacifies a vampire by strewing sunflower seeds. The vampire, aware of his own compulsion, states, “Ooo, I’m going to get you when I’m done.” This gives time for the agent to escape.

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he's a vampire).

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he’s a vampire).

A similar practice to pacify vampires was to lay a dead dog or cat on your doorstep. Yeah, I know. A bit macabre. The idea was that the undead must count all the hairs on the animal. I’m not sure how long you could pull off this particular protection. Seems a last minute thing to me.

My favorite pacification technique came with the belief in holes. In Eastern Europe, people thought vampires exited the grave via holes in the ground. In Bulgaria villagers would place bowls of excrement near grave holes (and you thought the dead dog was bad). The vampire would eat the excrement. I’m guessing this has to do with the undead being a foul and smelly creature. In any event, the vampire was sated and no longer longed for blood.

Finally, a pacification technique that works well with humans was wine. To keep a corpse happy, Romanians bury it with a bottle of wine. After six weeks, the bottle was dug up and drunk with relatives as a form of protection. Sort of the hair of the dog that bit you. One step further was to bury the dead with whiskey, believing that the vampire would become too drunk to find its way home and drink the blood of its relatives.

This is a detail of a work of art called 126 Whiskey Bottles by Tara Cooper

This is a detail of a work of art called “126 Whiskey Bottles” by Tara Cooper

On the next post, we’ll tackle countering apotropaics like garlic, lemons, and tar.

Tim Kane

A Clean and Darkened Place—When to Drink Whisky

Current Whisky Collection

I was watching James May Drinks Britain, the episode where he tries some ridiculously strong Scotch whisky that should make him blind. James made a comment about how drinking whisky took him to a dark place.

Now if you’re like me, you might be confused about how to spell this drink. I know that it’s sometimes whiskey and other times whisky. Apparently, this is an issue of great debate. The Scottish take the spelling of their honored drink pretty seriously. They omit the e, making it just whisky. American bourbon, and other like spirits, are whiskey.

I believe whisky to be a noble drink, right up there with the finest of wines. Apparently fresh distilled whisky is clear and very similar to vodka. It’s the aging in wood casks that gives the drink the amber color and distinct flavor.

That got me thinking. When would you really drink whisky?

If it really were just an aged vodka, you could toss it into any old concoction and have yourself a fine cocktail. But it’s not that easy. If you frequent pubs, I imagine whisky might be one of the many drinks in your arsenal, along with the various beers and liquors. Yet if you live in Southern California, and in my case, southern Southern California, then you really have few pub options. I think there are only three or four real pubs, and they’re about 30 miles north. Typically, Corona and Budweiser engage in a never ending war for converts.

I don’t imagine you’d order a glass of whisky with your average meal. It’s not that kind of drink. It requires commitment and a degree of reflection. I think this is what James May was after when he spoke of dark places. A good whisky will close in around you like a warm blanket, leaving you only with your thoughts. You wouldn’t interrupt this with a side of fries and a burger, would you?

But what about the Manhattan, you say? That has whiskey in it (notice the spelling). Yes. And also bitters and vermouth. It’s a standard cocktail. I really don’t think you’ve be mixing single malt with anything but water.

Okay, a quick aside. If you’re confused by single malt, this means that the whisky comes from only one distillery and is not mixed with any other whiskies (called a blended whisky). Single malts come in fancy corked bottles with those Scottish or Irish names that just roll off the tongue, like Caol Ila and Te Bheag (Kool Eela and Chay Vek respectively). The prices start at about fifty a bottle and easily shoot up to the two-hundred range.

So back to the Manhattan. Yes, you mix whiskey into the drink, but it’s a blended whiskey at best. Single malts are for solo drinking. And that leaves late at night, in the dark, where your thoughts can unravel into lumps of yarn and lose fabric.

My current list of single malts include the following:

Dalwhinnie 15 years
This is the first bottle I ever bought. I still have it.

Macallan 10 years
I haven’t had a Macallan I didn’t love. So sweet. Devoured almost all of this bottle.

Balvenie 21 years (Portwood)
Bought this after finishing my first middle grade novel. Great mix of peat and sweetness. Nearly drained after two years.

Ardbeg 10 years from Islay
From one of the islands off the coast of Scottland. Islay produces a very peaty bunch of whiskies. First I didn’t think I’d like the peat. But I’ve warmed to it. Bought this after finishing Tarot novel.

Caol Ila 18 years also from Islay
Bought this on my last trip through London, about six years ago. Most is still in the bottle. Super peaty.

As you can see, I tend to purchase bottles to commemorate finishing first drafts of novels. I admit that I rarely imbibe. That’s how some bottles stay around for so long. The reason is as I detailed above. Add to that the fact that I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime. I’ve even fallen asleep while reading. Out loud. So I typically drink caffeinated coffee right before I go to sleep. (No trouble going out. Head hits pillow and I’m gone.)

Only the occasional late nights, when I’m wide awake enough to last the drink, do I partake of whisky. When I do take the opportunity, the lights are dimmed and I sit in the dark with a small glass of amber liquid. Then the thoughts simply flow, clean and pure.

Tim Kane