Victoria: “What’s snake juice? I don’t want to drink it if the snake had to be killed.”
Friend: “Oh no, it’s just the venom mixed with alcohol. You can extract that without killing the snake.”
Victoria: “Okay then, I’ll have a shot.”
After drinking the shot
Victoria: “How do you make the drink?”
Shanta (owner of the bar): I get a big jar of alcohol and put the snake inside.
Victoria: A dead snake?
Shanta (owner of the bar): No, it’s alive when I put it in the jar. The alcohol kills it instantly. Look, you can see it here…
Above is the image that greeted me, having unwittingly broken my vegetarianism. I was in Shanta’s, an excellent pizza restaurant and bar in Vilcabamba, land of conspiracy theorists. The bar is famous for its snake juice, a heady mix of sugar cane liquor (aguardiente) and coral-snake venom (and snake itself as I found out). Although normally poisonous, the venom is neutralised by the alcohol, bringing drinkers a buzz rather than death. The potency of the concoction means that Shanta’s serves no more than two shots per person. I didn’t go back for seconds, but did return for pizza and conversation with the awesome owner who sports an excellent handlebar moustache.
Shanta’s Bar can be found opposite Descanso del Toro on Vaca de Vega heading towards Río Chamba