A Whole Lotta Snake

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I just came across a great AP story about a strange little government agency known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency, the AP writes, “collects taxes on booze and smokes and tells the companies that produce them how to do business — from approving beer can labels to deciding how much air a gin bottle can contain between lid and liquor.”

It also does a lot of product testing. It has a machine that sucks on cigarettes, looking for counterfeits, and determines which strange, imported liquors are safe for Americans to drink.

My regular readers will know that I’ve developed something of a mini-beat covering stories that involve the unlikely intersection of reptiles and alcohol. So I just wanted to pass along my favorite section of the story, which fits right into this small obsession of mine:

… Dr. Abdul Mabud found himself overseeing 26 chemists at a lab in Beltsville, Md., that tests hundreds of bottles, cigarettes and perfumes every year.

One afternoon, Mabud holds aloft a jar of pure, clear alcohol containing a coiled king cobra, its hood flared and forked tongue extended. Surrounding it are smaller green snakes that appear to be biting each other’s tails.

The snake liquor was submitted for consideration as an import from east Asia, where snakes are believed to increase virility.

“With that much snake in there, it’s probably not a beverage,” Mabud says, explaining why the shelves of America’s liquor stores and supermarkets are free of giant, gin-soaked snakes.

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