Pick Your Poison: The Snakebite

by Elliot Adamson 3 months ago in cocktails

A punk rock cocktail reimagined for summer 2020

Pick Your Poison: The Snakebite
Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

A cocktail love child born from gothic British pubs and raised by Mediterranean summers.

The hardcore name of this beverage may come across rather polarising, but if you enjoy a casual tipple of cider or beer in the sun, this may be the fresh summer recommendation you've been looking for. Commonly known as a snakebite, this cocktail is a traditional session beverage crafted with two alcoholic staples: beer and cider.

This surprisingly simple and refreshing concoction was born out of the 1980’s Punk Rock scene in the UK city of Leeds. If you’re imagining a dark-tinged beverage served across the wood by a brooding English bartender, you're not entirely wrong. But don’t let this moody depiction poison your notion. Contrary to its counterculture infancy, this wonderful beverage has come full circle and is gaining popularity with drinkers worldwide.

From the English Pub to the Portuguese Sun...

Earlier this spring I found myself running a hostel bar in Portugal. Our patrons were young and the afternoon sun was warm, creating a thirst which beer or cider could not quench. Unfortunately, our spirit shelf was dwindling––I had to create a unique cocktail using a small selection of tap refreshments and simple condiments.

Thinking back to my student days at Otago University in New Zealand, the solution quickly became apparent: the snakebite would be our drink du jour. As the nights went on more guests arrived requesting the infamous snakebite. Its rapid gain in popularity soon made it a heavy hitter on the Happy Hour menu.

To give this fine cocktail justice I am going to provide two recipes. Firstly the traditional snakebite followed by a modern creation. I hope this gives an insightful taste of how this drink has flourished.

The OG Snakebite


- Heineken Lager (stout beer is also commonly used)

- Bulmers Cider

- Blackberry Cordial


1. Fill a pint glass halfway with cider.

2. Fill the remainder with beer––either lager or stout––carefully pouring the beer down the side of the glass to create two distinct layers.

3. Add a dash of blackberry cordial and serve.

Modern Mixology: Snakebite Modifications

If you want your snakebite to really live up to the name, add hard liquor. Tequila and white rum are both great choices, but cachaca, a strong liquor we served in our Portuguese bar, is ideal. Cachaca is a Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane. It has a rather unique flavour which blends the fresh fruity attributes of tequila and mild spices from rum.

The addition of lime and ice really lifts this beverage from the depths of a seedy-underground-dungeon-mead to a rather tropical beverage fit for the summer months. From my experience these simple modifications really give this cocktail credibility.

Modern Snakebite


- Pabst Blue Ribbon

- Redd's Apple Cider

- Raspberry Cordial

- Lime or Lemon Juice

- Cachaca, Tequila, or White Rum


1. Fill your glass to a little under halfway with large ice cubes. I prefer a 12oz glass over a pint.

2. Add a single shot of cachaca, tequila or white rum.

3. Pour 1 part PBR and 1 part Redd's Cider.

4. Squeeze 1 quarter of a lime into the beverage and stir.

5. Finish with a quick flick of raspberry cordial, enough to give the glass some vibrant red veins. (The raspberry cordial doesn't darken the beverage like the traditional blackberry cordial does but still provides the sweet fruity flavour.)

Bartender's Tips: For a less-sweet snakebite, use Redd's dry apple cider to dull down the sweetness. Fresh lime is an ideal garnish but lemon will also suffice.

Sundays, bloody Sundays.

The beauty of this drink is its consumable nature. When you are feeling rather second-hand and need a hangover buster to blow the cobwebs off this drink fits the bill. The snakebite is quickly assembled and provides a karate kick of sugar. Plenty of ice and a generous squeeze of fresh lime really does make this alcoholic beverage all the more refreshing on the laughing gear after a hefty night out. For that reason, it's my Sunday morning saviour.

Elliot Adamson
Elliot Adamson
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