Drinks

What Is a Snakebite Drink?

Half lager, half cider... find out why we love this hybrid drink
Snakebite Beer Cocktail
Photo: Tasting Table

The snakebite is a matter of dispute: Is it half lager, half cider? No, not lager, but Guinness? Is it supposed to involve black currant juice? Is it even legal in the UK and Ireland? And what in the hell is it?

Put simply, the snakebite is a beer cocktail, similar to a shandy but with hard cider in lieu of lemonade or another carbonated mixer. I personally stand firmly in the camp of equal parts lager and cider with a splash of black currant juice (or créme de cassis). Some call that a Snakebite & Black or Diesel, but I just call it delicious. I distinctly recall the first I had ever heard of it: In high school, my best friend came back from visiting her brother in London and, thrilled over having been able to sneak some drinks at the ripe ol' age of 17, gushed over the magical magenta pints.

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So when 2007 rolled around and I moved to Galway, Ireland, for a semester abroad, it was four months full of snakebites. There isn't a tremendous amount to do in the West of Ireland (swimming in the frigid Galway Bay in October is a thing that happened), so come 5 p.m., we'd settle in the pub for some trad music (traditional, for the uninitiated) and good craic (pronounced like "crack," but referring to fun, not drugs). There were many a bartender who flat-out refused to make the drink, hiding behind the whole "it's illegal" excuse if I persisted long enough.

As for that pesky legality debate: No such law exists on the books, and the most popular theory as to why bartenders sometimes refuse to serve snakebites is because of how damn sloppy people get on them, an excuse that has some holes, given the relatively innocuous ingredients. The controversy has been around for a while but was reignited when Bill Clinton attempted to order one at a pub in North Yorkshire and was turned down by the bartender.

But for the most part, a flash of a smile and simple "please" results in that trifecta of goodness. And a hearty slainte to Taaffes's Liam, who never turned down a request—something for which I, for one, am eternally grateful.

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