What are the weirdest alcoholic spirits you know of?
October 14, 2014 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to give someone a bottle of strange/rare/gross booze (it will be appreciated, I promise!). Do you have any suggestions? I'm NOT looking for unusual versions of standard spirits, like rare vintages of bourbon or gross-flavored vodkas, but rather liquors or liqueurs that are themselves weird or unusual. The recipient is very well-versed in booze, so things like genever and Fernet are not quite weird enough. I'm in a major US city and willing to go through some effort for this, so don't hold back!
posted by rhiannonstone to Food & Drink (116 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
posted by capricorn at 4:55 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

We call Slivovitz "a hard drive wipe."

Because that's what it does to your brain.

After one shot. *shudders*
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jeppson's Malört.
posted by xil at 5:00 PM on October 14, 2014 [17 favorites]

Jeppson's Malört. It is...pretty nasty in traditional shot form, but I know people who claim to make it into drinkable cocktails.
posted by Charity Garfein at 5:01 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about a liqueur?
posted by mono blanco at 5:01 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Snake Wine.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:01 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you want to get really out there you could always get nonalcholic booze. I'm willing to bet it's super gross.
posted by lucasks at 5:01 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by J. Wilson at 5:04 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by rhizome at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

A proper, historically correct absinthe such as Ted Breaux's Jade line. Unusual, fantastic taste, and a great story behind it.
posted by exogenous at 5:06 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Raki? - tastes like black licorice, turns from clear to milky white when you add water.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:07 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thirding Malört. It's so very very odd. Check out the fun Malört Face you make after drinking it!
posted by Arbac at 5:10 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Makgeolli is a Korean alcoholic beverage made from rice that is milky and white, very weird, kind of sweet. I recommend it!

I also like chartreuse, although I am not sure if it is unusual enough, as an alternative to absinthe that I personally had never heard of until recently.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:10 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A gift of Malört is what inspired this, so they already have it--otherwise it's an excellent suggestion. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:14 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Unicum, the national drink of Hungary.
posted by popcassady at 5:18 PM on October 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm a fan of Pulque. You can probably find a canned version of it in a Mexican grocery store.
posted by Arbac at 5:19 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like the rich world of Amari is worth some research if they don't already know it. They're all herbal liqueurs with sometimes dozens of ingredients. The already mentioned Cynar is one of them, with the popular Fernet Branca also being included. There are a bunch from Italy, and more from all over the place. They're all quite bitter, but still drinkable.
posted by clockbound at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Riga Melnais Balzams/Riga Black Balzams can be hard to find, but I think that this is what you're looking for. It's thick, almost black, esoteric and, um, challenging. But, a taste for it can eventually be acquired. You may have better luck tracking it down online.

Latvians claim that it will cure any and all ills.
posted by quince at 5:22 PM on October 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Raki? tastes like black licorice, turns from clear to milky white when you add water.

I haven't heard of Raki, but there's literally dozens of different anise flavored liqueurs that cloud up when you add water (anethole is the flavor compound from anise/licorice, and it's much more soluble in alcohol than it is in water). Ah, actually, one I have heard of is Arak, which I bet has the same etymology.

Kümmel is a pretty good idea.

Zirbenz is an alpine liqueur that tastes like pine trees (not juniper).
Becherovka is not that "weird" but its a really great Czech tonic liqueur thing that tastes like warm winter spices.

If you can find Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal, it's basically a bitters version of the well-known liqueur. It's made by the same folks who make the liqueur (Carthusian monks I guess?).
posted by aubilenon at 5:23 PM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Suze, or some other gentian. I'm not sure if I like it yet, but it is definitely unusual. Sorta like a cross between chartreuse and an Italian bitter.
posted by gregvr at 5:24 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh oh oh! Imbue cellars in Oregon makes a vermouth or aperitif or something called Petal and Thorn. It's not especially challenging or aggressively weird or anything, but its flavors are reasonably unique and it's really yummy.
posted by aubilenon at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

My sister developed a taste for Amarula milkshakes while working in Zambia. The taste itself is not harsh or scary, but it is an unusual liqueur and one I'd never have tried if it were not for my sister.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:29 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

When Memo came to stay with us, he brought two bottles of what I think was Pisco. It's like 80 proof and the bottle has a tree in it. Or a branch. Or... there is foliage involved. It's an unparalleled drinking experience.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:29 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a coca based liquor called Aqwa. It's kinda getting trendy now, but still fairly unusual in the US. It smells and tastes like cheap cologne. I couldn't swallow even a sip
posted by fshgrl at 5:35 PM on October 14, 2014

From here, a 16th Century recipe for a drink called a "cock-ale", prominently featuring a dead rooster as one of its main ingredients:
Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar until his bones are broken (you must gut him when you flaw him). Then, put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put to it five pounds of raisins of the sun-stoned; some blades of mace, and a few cloves. Put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has been working, put the bag and ale together in vessel. In a week or nine days bottle it up, fill the bottle just above the neck and give it the same time to ripen as other ale.
The link mentions that the Boston Beer Company (brewers of Sam Adams) whipped up a batch "recently" (the article was written in 2000). So maybe you could get in touch with them about it. I kind of doubt they still make it or make it upon request, but hey, who knows.
posted by Flunkie at 5:35 PM on October 14, 2014

posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Danish Black Pig.

The candy used in making Black Pig is available via Amazon.
posted by wwax at 5:39 PM on October 14, 2014

Terva. Pine tar liquor.
posted by tippy at 5:41 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Searching around the web a little more, I've seen references saying that Willmantic Brewing Company has also made cock-ale. I don't see it on their current list of beers, but again, maybe it would be worth it to ask them about it.
posted by Flunkie at 5:46 PM on October 14, 2014

Salmiakkikossu, which you can emulate with a bottle of vodka and a packet of crushed Tyrkisk Peber.
posted by holgate at 5:48 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Amarula is a good suggestion.

Drambuie is excellent if "the recipient" likes scotch — mix the two to make a rusty nail.

Ransom Dry Vermouth. (Protip: make a Martini with this and Death's Door gin.) It's made with an unusual array of botanicals, including fennel, anise, and wormwood — making it seem kind of like absinthe. I don't know if this fits your criteria...

Chartreuse is wonderful, but probably too well-known for your friend. If you do get it, get the green rather than the yellow kind. The yellow is sweet and more versatile, but I'd recommend the green kind for your friend — the perfect liqueur to enjoy simply, on the rocks.

Strega is pretty good — kind of like yellow Chartreuse, though, frankly, not as good.

I don't recommend Suze. Some people love it, but I absolutely hated it. It's the only liquor I've bought and then just poured down the drain — a waste of money. (I didn't notice any resemblance between Suze and Chartreuse.) Even if it has the potential to be good as an acquired taste, Suze seems to be so divisive that it would be a risky gift.
posted by John Cohen at 5:49 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

My sister served Malort last Christmas and I will never forgive her.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:50 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Moutai! Your friend will be impressed by its potency and revolted by the taste, and it will be a fantastic addition to their collection.
posted by bewilderbeast at 5:51 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Riga Black Balsam is a great choice.

Also Samane (Lithuanian grappa, essentially--the most eye opening stuff I've ever tasted) and Bobeline (a fruity Lithuanian liquor that still packs a hell of a punch).
posted by Go Banana at 5:53 PM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Gammel Dansk: an entirely revolting "morning" bitters from Denmark. Vile and sticky.
Mainstay: South African cane spirit. Technically a rum, but pure ethanol burn. An acquired taste, best acquired by someone else.
Any of the Scottish "working man's" whiskies, like Red Hackle or Old Mull. These are not designed for sophisticated sipping, these are for getting out of your skull as quickly as possible. Very harsh.

As previously mentioned, gentian is one of those "why would anyone make this?" drinks. I think it's made from distilled grannies, but only the nasty ones.

They're not spirits, but some of the UK fortified wines are amusing. Crabbie's Ginger Wine is surprisingly good, especially as a mixer for dark rum. It's mostly made from raisins. Buckfast, on the other hand, tastes like they pre-mixed Benyllin with cheap port to save teenagers the bother of going to two stores. Has a similar effect to cough medicine and wine, too.

Wait, hang on, do you like this person? Don't get them any of these, unless you want to pay for carpet cleaning too.
posted by scruss at 5:54 PM on October 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

2nding pulque, although some varieties will be actually pretty tasty.
posted by cobain_angel at 5:57 PM on October 14, 2014

Look into Bärwurz...
posted by The Toad at 5:58 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Possibly too well-known, but Icelandic Brennivin is one I haven't seen mentioned. Also, seconding Hungarian Unicum.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:58 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ransom Dry Vermouth. (Protip: make a Martini with this and Death's Door gin.) It's made with an unusual array of botanicals, including fennel, anise, and wormwood — making it seem kind of like absinthe. I don't know if this fits your criteria...

I haven't had Ransom Dry Vermouth, so I can't speak to how unusual its flavor profile is, but I'm pretty sure wormwood on its own is nothing special for a vermouth. The word vermouth derives from the German for wormwood - "Wermut".
posted by aubilenon at 5:58 PM on October 14, 2014

You will need a Dutch friend or someone flying into the US through Schiphol for this, but Beerenburg is a genever-based amaro kind of thing. It is cheap and boozy and odd.
posted by holgate at 5:58 PM on October 14, 2014

This is maybe a bit on the weird flavors of vodka side, but... Salmiakki Koskenkorva? If you're adding black liquorice and ammonium chloride to your vodka, I think that goes beyond 'weird flavor' and becomes something.... horrifyingly unique.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:01 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unicum is an excellent suggestion.
Becherovka from the Czech Republic is a perfect fall spirit.
If you really want to work hard sourcing this, you could get some real rural American white dog (moonshine). And sadly, I do not have any leads on where to get the real stuff. A good batch is much better tasting than you expect it to be.
posted by littlewater at 6:02 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For one they might actually like, but very probably have never tried: Alisier. It's an eau de vie made from service berries. Fleeting, almost almond flavour. Tastes like nothing else. Delightful.
posted by scruss at 6:04 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: One last thing to add: it doesn't necessarily have to be gross, just unusual. Lots of great suggestions, keep 'em coming!
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:04 PM on October 14, 2014

I had Icelandic Moss Schnapps while in Iceland. It was...weird. Not bad though!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 6:10 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

No idea where you would get such a thing, but fermented mare's milk is supposed to be very unusual. It goes by several names and is the traditional drink of steppe nomad's. So you may end up conquering the world if you make it into a habit...
posted by bartonlong at 6:13 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding Unicum, with the warning that the thing labeled as "Zwack liqueur" in America is the inferor, sweeter product sold in Hungary as "Unicum Next".

I'm fond of the peculiar earthy flavor of ng ka py, a.k.a. wujiapi jiu. I have never seen it for sale except at Ranch 99 Supermarket in California, and even there it's chancy. I've asked about it before.

Clear brandies are fun, highly lethal, and surprisingly uncommon. Slivovitz, recommended above, is a plum brandy. They're variously titled eau-de-vie (if French), pálinka (if Hungarian), or ţuică (if Romanian). The best ones are homemade and if you're lucky won't make you go blind, but stateside you can generally find acceptable cherry and pear brandies in the Zwack Pecsétes product line.
posted by jackbishop at 6:17 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Ooh!! For something that is actually delicious (and I only discovered existed when I inherited half my grandfather's liquor cabinet when he died), what about Finnish Cloudberry Liqueur? It's quite tasty.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 6:18 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Recent FPP on Baijiu.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:24 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

several brands of tequila have dead things at the bottom of the bottle, worms, scorpions, etc. i don't think it affects the taste much, but they'll get +1 from friends watching the scorpion being eaten out of the glass.
posted by bruce at 6:26 PM on October 14, 2014

Tequila Rose. Disgusting and low class. Offend his taste in more than one way!
posted by asockpuppet at 6:33 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: It is rumored that Sri Lankan Arrack is now available in the US, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere here in Boston. According to David Wondrich, this is the stuff for making an 18th century punch.
posted by mr vino at 6:33 PM on October 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Underberg! Gross, but you can trade the caps for a little truck to hold your little bottles of vile stuff.
posted by mkb at 6:33 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Calisaya Is a wonderful liqueur from Oregon, with a base of cinchona and Seville orange. Similar to other bitter liqueurs but oh so tasty.
posted by RobotAdam at 6:36 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hot Rose I'd put firmly in the "gross" category. I'll drink anything and I had to dump it down the sink.
posted by frontmn23 at 6:38 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Maybe something with a bit of class.
Clement Creole orange Shrub rum liquor.
posted by adamvasco at 6:45 PM on October 14, 2014

Amarula is pretty tasty. My husband took a mixology class years ago and had to create a cocktail. He did Amarula/Goldschlager/chocolate ice cream in the blender and it was tasty (and very potent - there may have been some vodka due to the amount of alcohol required per drink). We never bought the stuff again but we're more wine/beer/scotch drinkers these days.
posted by melissa at 6:46 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't had Ransom Dry Vermouth, so I can't speak to how unusual its flavor profile is, but I'm pretty sure wormwood on its own is nothing special for a vermouth.

OK, that's valid point, but it might be more common in Europe than the US — see this article. Anyway, I've tasted Ransom Dry Vermouth and can tell you it's pretty unusual.
posted by John Cohen at 6:56 PM on October 14, 2014

I made Cherry Bounce two years ago. I still have almost all of the batch left. You didn't say you wanted it to taste good, so, you might give that a try.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:59 PM on October 14, 2014

A couple possibilities: Aquavit, a Scandinavian spiced liquor (usually with cumin and a few other things), and for something less potent, mirto. Both are unusual and actually enjoyable to drink.

Slivovitz is also great, though.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:02 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would offer up Elisir Novasalus Vino Amaro up as the absolute worst amaro I have ever had. I say that as a person who generally enjoys amari. A negroni with Amaro Sibilla instead of Campari is great and Varnelli Amaro Dell'Erborista is delicious on its own, but the Elisir Novasalus is revolting.

There is also a variety of mezcal called pechuga, (literally breast in Spanish), in which the mezcal is infused with lots of fruits and then redistilled. During the final distillation a chicken, duck, or turkey breast is hung in the distillation chamber, ostensibly to trap the heads and tails. All the fruit in the final distillation put it on the eau de vie/ brandy spectrum, but it keeps the smoky mezcal flavor. It is delicious, and I know of no liquor weirder, but it is EXPENSIVE.
posted by clockwork at 7:03 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Douglas Fir eau de vie.
posted by zamboni at 7:04 PM on October 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Salers is also tasty and grassy and pretty good for mixing with gin.
posted by clockwork at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2014

Balkan Rakija (different from Turkish raki) comes in a variety of varieties, including quince and apricot!
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:10 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Douglas Fir eau de vie.

From the linked article:
This eau de vie is made from an infusion of the springtime buds of Douglas fir picked by hand into clear brandy

Oh! I've read about that (in the delightful book The Drunken Botanist). When they say "picked by hand into clear brandy" they mean they carry the brandy with them while picking the buds and put them in it immediately because that was the only way they could get the flavor to come through. I've been on the lookout for that! Which reminds me I have a file of notes of things that sounded interesting from that book! Unfortunately I only started writing them down halfway through. Here is what it says:

Liqueur de Pain d'Épices (cinnamon) by Paul Devoille
Douglas fir eau-de-vie clear creek distillery
Mud puddle cacao infusion (new deal distillery from Portland... OR?)
Amer Picon bitter orange aperitif
Solerno blood orange liqueur
Orange-rie orange & scotch based liqueur
posted by aubilenon at 7:11 PM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Becherovka is excruciating, though my ex (somehow, shudder) liked it. An even more painful herbal like Chartreuse. It's also possible to find some really weird Czech absinthes. You will need sugar for those, though. Says the girl who refuses to let the bartender dump anything other than water in the popular US brands.

On a less frightening note, Hungarian Palinka is pretty fantastic when you add a bit of cold water. (The Hungarians looked at us funny, but I learned it from Steven Brust, who was absolutely right.) It comes in a lot of fruits, and all of them are both wonderful and very alcoholic.
posted by Because at 7:13 PM on October 14, 2014

It's also possible to find Akvavit which doesn't hurt too much, which I learned at the Viking funeral of a friend who was actually quite fond of the hurty kind.
posted by Because at 7:15 PM on October 14, 2014

Salmon Flavored Vodka from Alaska. Makes a mean Bloody Mary!
posted by fshgrl at 7:18 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want something that is not what I would call "good" at all, but is unusual in America, throw in some baijiu. It's a liquor made of sorghum, and it's all I really drank in China. It is terrifying. They make plain versions and versions infused with Chinese medicinal herbs.

Arrack is also a non-USian liquor that you should try to hunt down.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:31 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Now, if you can somehow get your hands on snake wine...
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:33 PM on October 14, 2014

I'm partial to Żubrówka (bison grass vodka) paired with cold apple juice. Delicious.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:36 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jeppson's Malört. Seriously amazing. It tastes a bit like hair spray. If you can get it its the weirdest you'll find. Nthing all those who have said it.
posted by Carillon at 7:50 PM on October 14, 2014

Bäverhojt is a variety of schnapps flavored with beaver anal glands.
posted by Wavelet at 7:51 PM on October 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: How about Batavia Arrack? Definitely very unusual, but can also be found as an ingredient in some rarer cocktails and punches, including Swedish Punsch.

Note that it is not related to Lebanese arak or Sri Lankan arrack, despite the similar names. The former is made from anise, the latter from coconut. Batavia Arrack, on the other hand, is a Dutch-Indonesian spirt distilled from sugarcane, making it closer to rum than anything else.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:55 PM on October 14, 2014

Can't believe no one's mentioned Singani 63.
posted by blueshammer at 8:48 PM on October 14, 2014

I live in the Philippines and recently had the pleasure of trying lambanog. I had the unflavoured type, and though its incredibly strong (and has a reputation for making people go a bit crazy), its very smooth and easy to drink, and doesn't feel strong until about 5 minutes after you drink it. Really unique experience.
posted by Admira at 8:48 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, it's not exactly weird or rare any more, but Goldschlager is always a good choice for a quirky and interesting drink that is actually tasty. Plus, if you've never killed a bottle of Goldschlager with a friend or lover and then woken up with a Goldschlager hangover, you've never done a) drinking or b) hangovers correctly.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:51 PM on October 14, 2014

Or if you are timing this for around Xmas, the Chilean Xmas drink Cola de Mono for which you will need Chilean aguadiente is nice to drink.
posted by Admira at 8:53 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: Cloudberry liqueur is amazingly delicious, and the taste is a little bit strange mainly because cloudberries aren't common in the US.

For disgustingness, I will put up baijiu or moutai, as other people have suggested.
posted by astapasta24 at 8:56 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and these are "fun" too:

Mr Black (actually legitimately excellent, might be tricky to get)

Baumann Devil

Baumann Glacier
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:01 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: If you can get it, you MUST get mirto! I spent a month in Sardinia, and it's very popular but made from a plant species that only grows on the island. Red mirto is made from the berries, while white mirto is made from the leaves. Red mirto is much much preferred by the locals (I'd say 10 to 1 in terms of production and availability), and just better. Best when chilled. I brought a bottle back and had a couple mirto tastings, everyone thought it was delicious and flavorful, and I simply chilled it and people sipped it. It's a flavor almost like heavily herbed blueberries, yet absolutely distinct. It definitely falls into the "trouble to get" - I have yet to see it in a liquor store in the States, but I've also never tried to special order it.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:12 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Amarula has been mentioned here a few times without really explaining what it is. It's a really tasty and very sweet cream liqueur that has both fruity and caramelly notes. I find that you can drink it much the way one might drink Bailey's. If Bailey's were significantly more delicious.
posted by Night_owl at 9:42 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: I popped in to suggest Unicum and see that it's already been suggested a few times. Be sure to get the real stuff. It's especially interesting in between beers but is also pretty good as a swap for Campari with soda, if you like that sort of thing. Takes well to basically any garnish, because it's got so many different things in it to begin with. Sort of kind of Pope-approved.
posted by Mizu at 10:11 PM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've made a couple of batches of Krupnik/Medivka, which is unusual and hard to find.

A guy I knew from co-editing a poetry magazine in college now makes his krupnikas commercially! Brothers Vilgalys Spirits - they have a distributor who sells it online in the US. I haven't tried any, but it sounds really good.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:24 PM on October 14, 2014

Many years ago when I was visiting Lyon, a young lady served me something called Chouchen. Not quite a spirit, it's booze made from honey, similar to mead I guess. As I drank it, she asked if my tongue was tingling. Indeed, it was. "That's from the venom. There are bees in the honey when they make it, and the venom in their stingers makes your mouth tingle."

Wikipedia disputes that bees or their venom are used in modern production of Chouchen, but something in it numbed me out. Maybe it was spiked with Orajel.
posted by voodoochile at 10:25 PM on October 14, 2014

Bittermen's Amere Nouvelle is an available version of Amer Picon, the ingredient that makes a Brooklyn a Brooklyn. It's an herbal orangey liqueur, sort of Campari-ish but without the bitter taste. It's delicious, and mixes really well.
posted by drapatz at 10:27 PM on October 14, 2014

Best answer: I assume the Malört that started the exchange was the kind from Chicago. So how about getting a bottle of original Swedish bäsk in return? "Bäska droppar" is the only brand that's widely available in Sweden but it will be hard to find even in a major US city. Let me know if you are really, really interested. I might be able to get a bottle to NYC by Saturday.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 10:49 PM on October 14, 2014

I have no idea how you'd get hold of some but Purple Death would totally qualify. It's not actually terrible with some raspberry cordial but it's still quite an experience.
posted by shelleycat at 11:13 PM on October 14, 2014

SOHO Lychee Liqueur
posted by guy72277 at 12:49 AM on October 15, 2014

Best answer: Feni, found mostly in the Indian state of Goa. Distilled from cashews!

Seconding Żubrówka, which I sampled on a recent trip to Moscow.
posted by beijingbrown at 1:01 AM on October 15, 2014

Obscure but perhaps insufficiently weird: the marvellous Sicilian concoction Elisir dei Sette Potenti—with a bracing 68% alcohol content.
posted by misteraitch at 1:31 AM on October 15, 2014

Adding to the Baltic suggestions, what about Vana Tallinn, from Estonia? I guess spicy and rum based isn't that unusual, but the point of origin is. Nthing Riga Balsams and Krupnika (I have all three in my cupboard!).
posted by thylacinthine at 1:57 AM on October 15, 2014

I'll offer another suggestion for Becherovka*, but that depends on how obscure that is. Another idea is one of its Slovak relatives, Demänovka. Not quite as tasty, in my opinion, but a similar herby profile.

*Aside for anyone who has tried it but didn't like it---first of all, you should drink it cold. Like, syrupy cold. Leave it in your freezer before you drink it. Trust me on this. Secondly, it mixes well with ginger beer, or egg nog. Also, trust me on this.
posted by vernondalhart at 2:38 AM on October 15, 2014

If there's a Dominican population in the area, ask around about getting your hands on some non-commercial Mama Juana from a friend-of-a-friend or similar. There's mass-produced stuff, which may be odd in itself depending upon your friend's tastes/experience, but it's really one of those home-made things that someone gives you a bottle of.

If you just feel like being mean though not "gross," maybe something from ArKay? (Non-alcoholic whiskey, tequila, etc.)
posted by Su at 2:57 AM on October 15, 2014

Schrobbelèr is a sweet herbal liqueur from the Dutch city of Tilburg. I don't think the taste is all that unique, but it's probably not something you see outside the Netherlands very often.
posted by neushoorn at 5:25 AM on October 15, 2014

I have no idea if it's available in the US, but how about Killepitsch? It's another herbal bitter drink, made in the Dusseldorf area. That wiki article says it's available worldwide, but I've only ever seen it in Germany. You can buy it at the store in Dusseldorf that only sells Killepitsch!

Since Christmas market season is approaching, you could also try finding some of the herbal liqueurs that are frequently sold at them (again, I've only really seen this in Germany). I have a small bottle of Aachener Domliqueur (Aachen cathedral liqueur) - I believe these are supposed to be spirits made by monks blah blah. Not sure if they're all like this, but the bottle I bought is syrupy sweet with a strong herbal kick to it. Probably would require traveling to a Christmas market in Germany to find one of these.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:34 AM on October 15, 2014

Best answer: Xtabentún is a Mayan anise-honey liquor which is typically sold in a fancy blue bottle. I've seen it at BevMo in California.
posted by blob at 6:01 AM on October 15, 2014

Rin Quin Quin a la Peche is a seasonal, small batch French peach vermouth that tastes like summer, but finishes dry on the palate. Very addictive.
posted by travellingincognito at 6:23 AM on October 15, 2014

Icelandic Moss Schnapps is the most weird and disturbing alcoholic drink I've ever tasted. I've had pure wormwood extract, and I genuinely think the schnapps was the more harrowing experience. It's not as much disgusting as "are you sure this is something you're meant to drink, and not use as a wood treatment agent?"
posted by Zarkonnen at 6:35 AM on October 15, 2014

Surprised nobody's mentioned sho-chu (Japanese) or soju (Korean). I'm personally partial to sho-chu. Note that because of weird and somewhat interesting liquor regulations, sho-chu is sometimes sold as soju.
posted by General Malaise at 7:16 AM on October 15, 2014

Chartreuse. Comes in both green and yellow. The old liquor store in your town should have a dusty bottle on a shelf in the back.
posted by Classic Diner at 7:29 AM on October 15, 2014

Response by poster: Shochu is common enough around here that there seem to be shochu bars on every other corner, and many of the Japanese restaurants that can't get hard liquor licenses serve shochu cocktails because they're allowed on a wine-and-beer-only sort of license (yes, this is hilarously illogical, but such are the ways of liquor laws).

This area is where the absinthe revival started, so you'd be hard-pressed to find a bar without absinthe on its shelf, and most halfway decent bars also have Cynar and Chartreuse--and Suze is starting to show up more, too.

Otherwise, I think I've got several years' worth of weird liquor gift ideas, so thank you all!
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:30 AM on October 15, 2014

This is lower key, but I find it truly odd in an uncanny valley sort of way: barrel aged gin, which tastes like gin and then whiskey, and then gin again, but somehow also delicious.
posted by yarrow at 9:52 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The oddest thing I have is Skinos Mastiha, which is Greek.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 5:18 PM on October 15, 2014

Best answer: I'm a regular drinker of Hungary's beloved Unicum. It's a very potent, semi-pungent bitters. It's actually really lovely on the rocks, alongside a nice espresso as an apertif. But the first time someone tastes it, they typically recoil in abject horror. I married into a Transylvanian family and developed a taste for it, but it's not for everyone.

Warning: real Hungarian Unicum is not currently imported into the United States through very many outlets. You will sometimes see a nearly identical bottle from the same manufacturers with the word "ZWACK" moved from beneath the cross logo to above it and with the word "Unicum" nowhere to be seen. This is rebranded Unicum Next, which is not at all the same thing. It's sweet and citrusy.

For reference:
-real Unicum l-looks like this
-the fake "Americum" stuff looks like this
Also, on the topic of Malort: it tastes like Off. Like the insect repellent. This is not some kind of "wow, it's horrible!" hyperbole. I'm being serious. It has the smell and flavor of accidentally sucking in a cloud of Off insect repellent.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:50 PM on October 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sorry one more note.

How to differentiate real Unicum, Zwack, and the sometimes seen in the US pseudo-Unicum:
-Hungarian Unicum - UNICUM in large letters above the cross, ZWACK in smaller letters below; black cap
-Zwack - identical bottle, except ZWACK where "UNICUM" should be, nothing below cross; red cap
-Pseudo-Unicum - UNICUM in large letters, "Herb Liqueur" smaller, all above cross; Zwack below; black cap

The pseudo stuff is inferior to the real Hungarian stuff, but is at least the same style. Zwack is an entirely different liquor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:01 PM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please let us know what you wind up getting (and how your friend likes it)! Also curious to know how you chose to mark best answers here—if there was any particular rhyme or reason, or just random stuff that appealed to you.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:45 PM on October 15, 2014

The other good thing about Unicum is that the bottle looks like a cartoon bomb. Also, ends in "cum", thus hilarious.
posted by holgate at 10:09 PM on October 15, 2014

This might be one of my favorite Metafilter threads ever! If only I lived in a state that allowed booze shipments!! :(

Just wanted to add "Eiliquor" which is an opaque egg-based sweet liquor from northern Europe. It's pretty tasty straight, but commonly had over vanilla ice cream or, in Germany, in vanilla pudding with red currants. Fab!! Only drawback is that it has a shortish shelf life because of the eggs.
posted by acm at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2014

Something I like on occasion is mead made with wildflowers. Specifically, Oberhof Texas Wildflower Honey Wine. It tastes very unusual but not unpleasant. It has an herbal taste that's hard to describe and it's not terribly sweet like most mead is.
posted by smashface at 5:12 PM on October 16, 2014

Something I like on occasion is mead made with wildflowers

OP, since you're in the bay area, if this interests you, you should head up to Point Reyes Station and check out the Heiðrun Meadery. It's maybe a mile from Cowgirl Creamery. All of their meads use exactly the same recipe except each uses different honey from different pollen. They have tastings.
posted by aubilenon at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2014

I don't know if this counts as the weirdest, but I can tell you that since moving to northern Spain I have enjoyed consuming and making Patxaran . Which reminds me, as soon as the first freeze comes, it's time to start collecting sloe berries for next year's batch!
posted by maca at 6:34 AM on October 20, 2014

Best answer: Eucalyptus liqueur made by monks at the abbey at Tre Fontane. I have a wee bottle, it's very… medicinal.

They also sell laurel liqueur and other interesting things.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:29 PM on October 20, 2014

Best answer: Oh man they sell olive liqueur. Come on your friends definitely need that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2014

What did you end up getting?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I know this post is old (and I'm curious too: what did you end up getting?) but I've been racking my brains ever since it was posted to remember the extremely weird liqueur I drank in France. I FINALLY remembered (or rather, spotted the bottle in one of our photos the other day): it's Arquebuse, a rather...medicinal liqueur produced by monks. The group of friends we were with tried it neat, all started coughing, then mixed it with hot water and honey. I'd describe it as "bracing." The website I linked to describes it as "invigorating." You may infer for yourself what that means.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:55 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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