Rattlesnake Tequila? The Venomous World of Tequila Con Vibor
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Rattlesnake Tequila? Inside the Venomous World of Tequila Con Vibor

Tequila Con Vibor

Tequila con Vibor packs a full-grown rattlesnake minus the venomous bite. It has to be seen to be believed. (Photo: Greengos Cantina)

Known varyingly as “Tequila con Vibor” (viper tequila) or “Tequila Cascabeloso” (rattling tequila), there exists a strain of agave spirits in which a live rattlesnake is drowned, imbibing the alcohol with venom and delicious reptilian flavor.

Or so the folklore goes.

Tequila con Vibor is a centuries-old technique said to have originated with the Aztecs, who considered snakes a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Nowadays, this viperous brew comes in many forms, some more authentic than others.

At local establishments dotted throughout Mexico, you’ll find giant vats of tequila and mezcal containing coiled snakes of all varieties sitting snugly at the bottom.

This concoction, which many agave spirits enthusiasts have traveled the globe for, is for all intents and purposes “the real deal.”

Traditionally, Tequila con Vibor is made by drowning a live rattlesnake in a jug of agave spirits. It is said that the dying viper releases a variety of medicinal chemicals and poisons that infuse the cocktail with a potent healing strength.

The dead snake is subsequently removed, disemboweled, and re-added to the jug for our viewing pleasure.

In case you’re wondering; Tequila con Vibor is completely safe to drink (most of the time, at least). Since snake venom proteins are broken down by ethanol, the brew may taste like a snake but does not contain its lethal bite.

The drink has seen varying interest over the years and has been made with everything from tequila to mezcal to sotol. In fact, back in 2002, the Los Angeles Times even published a recipe for Tequila con Vibor courtesy of Tijuana’s own Francisco Dario:

  • Tequila con Vibora
    Specialty of the house, Rancho Agua Caliente, Ensenada, Mexico
  • 1 gallon (or so) of cheap white tequila
    1 small rattlesnake (red diamondback preferred)
  • Catch the rattlesnake with a “special stick”. Place the rattlesnake into a gallon jar, then fill with the cheap white tequila. As the snake drowns, it (allegedly) emits “minute amounts of compounds with certain medicinal properties.” When the snake is dead, remove from jar, gut snake, then put back in jar. Put the jar in the sun for three months, then in the shade for three months. Serve as shots. “It calms the nerves,” says Francisco, “and is a fine remedy for arthritis, kidney problems and cancer.”

Suffice it to say, this is a recipe that should probably only be replicated by the experts.

The practice of submerging a once-feisty critter at the bottom of a spirits container is hardly new.

In the world of mezcal, the tried and true agave worm can be found at the bottom of many a budget-friendly bottle. Though oftentimes alleged as tradition, the sunken mezcal worm has been proven a clever marketing ploy invented in the 1940s, one thought up to add a certain machismo gusto for those bold enough to drink it.

Similarly, you’ll find tequila, mezcal and even vodka containing a long-dead scorpion floating in its midst.

But Tequila con Vibor is something different.

Whether you believe its centuries-old origins or not, there is something uniquely non-mass marketable about submerging a 5-foot-long rattlesnake in alcohol.

Maybe we’ll be proven wrong; in time, these agave-soaked rattlesnakes may just begin appearing on liquor store shelves near you.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.