Many travelers to the Sacred Valley in Peru will already have knowledge of Peruvian gastronomical delights such as grilled guinea pig, saliva-fermented chicha, and sautéed alpaca, but few are familiar with the fiery jungle liquor known colloquially as snake whiskey.
Much to the chagrin of curious drinkers, this spirit can’t be found in stores around Peru. Start off in Ollantaytambo, trek out to the small villages on the Inca Trail and, hopefully, a family will be kind enough to let you try their homemade hooch. Typically kept in a large glass jar and doled out in shots, this drink has an ingredient significant in the Inca culture: the snake. A common motif throughout Inca art, the snake represented wisdom and the underworld. It’s this revered reputation that leads some to believe the snake liquor has healing abilities.
While it might not have curative effects, many say that the addition of the snake gives this liquor a unique flavor, with hints of gaminess as well as spice from the addition of various herbs. Drinkers need not fret about venom, as it’s denatured by the alcohol, which can range from commercial rum to a home-distilled grain alcohol.