Beer bottled in a dead squirrel. Gin infused with ants. More beer, brewed with whale testicles smoked in sheep dung. And you thought you were an “adventurous” drinker.
The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden, delighted and repulsed us with frog juice and maggot cheese when it opened two years ago, and now comes word it’s devoting an entire new exhibition to, erm, challenging alcoholic beverages.
“We conducted intense research for several months, online and in books, to find the most interesting and thought-provoking alcohol types,” museum director Andreas Ahrens told Unfiltered. “Some of them, we were able to get from their manufacturers,” like the whale-genital beer, an ale called Hvalur 2 from the Steðji brewery in Iceland. “Others, we had to make ourselves, such as the South Korean poo wine, ttongsul,” he said, helpfully adding that “that one is not commonly drunk anymore and was always a medicine, not something drunk for intoxication.”
Ahrens elaborated, maybe a little too much, “Ttongsul is made by putting the feces of a child between 4 and 7 years old in water and fermenting it overnight,” followed by an addition of rice and yeast. “During production, the smell is absolutely horrible, but the finished product only has a faint poo odor.”
The permanent collection, likely the most vomited-in museum in the world, already subjects visitors to bat soup and fermented shark, so what inspired this odd and intoxicating foray into fermented drinks that includes prison toilet wine and Ugandan war gin?
“We wanted to explore the strange and sometimes desperate relationship with alcohol that humans have. We have always been very inventive and creative when it comes to creating alcoholic beverages, especially at times when we can’t outright buy it,” said Ahrens. “We have been fixated on getting intoxicated for millennia and it seems that desire will never stop.” He personally tasted all of the disgusting drinks—even a cinnamon-flavored whiskey called Fireball that is a delicacy in the United States—except the feces wine. Were any … good?
“I really like chicha de muko,” Ahrens said, of an ancient South American drink made from pre-chewed corn meal. (“The enzymes in the saliva can start a fermentation process,” he explained.) The drink has been made that way for some 7,000 years, and sake was historically prepared the same way in Japan.
Some of the drinks are actually prized by modern tipplers. Anty Gin, distilled in the U.K. and infused with botanicals and the “essence” of roughly 62 red ants per bottle, sells for $258. The squirrel beer has changed hands for thousands of dollars. The End of History, as it was dubbed by BrewDog brewery in Scotland, clocks in at 55 percent alcohol, is brewed with juniper and nettles, and packaged in a bottle stuffed into a taxidermied animal, “mostly” squirrels, said Ahrens. “The name comes from the philosopher [Francis] Fukuyama, because this is to beer what democracy is to history. It’s as far as it’s possible to go.”
But only one can be the most gross, and it’s not Fernet-Branca (though the amaro does get a nod in the collection). “Fishky is the most off-putting,” declared Ahrens. “It is a whiskey aged in a herring barrel, and it has been described as the worst whiskey ever made.” The exhibition runs through the end of November, if you’re looking for holiday gift ideas.
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