At the beginning of the movie, Black Mamba aka The Bride (Uma Thurman) is retelling us the story in soliloquy form. We are formally introduced to the man responsible for sending the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad to assassinated her groom to be, her friends, the preacher, the piano player and leaving her for dead at the chapel in El Paso, Texas: Bill (David Carradine) aka The Snake Charmer. After the flashback scene to the Massacre at Two Pines, we see a conversation between estranged brothers Budd (Michael Madsen)and Bill. Bill has made the effort to go see Budd who seems to be living a reclusive existence in some remote part of California, working as a bouncer at a strip club. As he's warning Budd about what has happened up to that point, I see Budd take a swig from a bottle of liquor.
At first thought, I figured that Budd was drinking a bottle of Scotch. Maybe a Glenfiddich as per the bottle. But upon closer look at the label, I noticed that he was drinking something else. It was called Black Death Icelandic Schnapps. I thought to myself "What The Fuck is that". Now, knowing how Quentin Tarantino and his co-hort Robert Rodriguez work, they have fictional products littered throughout their films. Two examples of these are Red Apple Cigarettes and Chango beer. But upon further research I find that Black Death Icelandic Schnapps is an actual spirit. Here's what I found out about it.
Black Death Icelandic Schnapps aka Brennivín is the signature liquor of Iceland and translated means "Burning wine". According to the article Iceland’s signature liquor Brennivín vs. Vodka: what is the difference? from the Iceland Magazine website dated April 24, 2014, Brennivín is:
A distilled brand of schnapps that is considered Iceland’s signature liquor. It is sometimes called Svarti dauði, meaning Black Death. It is made from fermented potato mash and is flavored with caraway seeds...Is similar to Scandinavian akvavit. The steeping of herbs in alcohol to create schnapps is a long-held folk tradition in all Scandinavian countries...has an alcoholic content of 37.5% or 40%...It is almost solely drunk dry, or neat, as an experienced bartender might say, and usually frozen, to take the sting out of the strong taste...is only produced in Iceland and only by one distillery. It is a novelty drink not consumed regularly by locals. It is however the traditional drink for the mid-winter feast, Þorrablót, especially after eating putrefied shark flesh or hákarl. Some say it helps to mask the taste of the fish.Well ok. That adds some depth to the Black Death. Looking for a description of what Brennivín tastes like, I came across the article Drinking the Black Death by Kelsey Osgood from the Vice website dated January 16, 2014 that described the author's experience drinking the Black Death:
“Want to drink some Black Death?” he asked.
“What the fuck is that?” one of our friends blurted.
Without waiting for the answer, the four people huddled in the kitchen unanimously agreed that we did. Visions of my Nordic former-roommate staring at his computer screen licking flecks of dried fish flakes off his fingertips flashed before my eyes while he opened the bottle. It seemed unlikely to me that anything out of Einar’s homeland would be delicious. I recalled too, the urban legend—I could only assume it amounted to as much—of fermented slabs of shark served for dinner. I don’t remember what we drank the Black Death out of—glasses, shots, or swigs from the bottle perhaps—but it tasted like licorice. I later learned that it is known as Brennivín, an unsweetened schnapps made out of potato mash that is flavored with caraway seeds, cumin, angelica, and a slew of other herbs native to Iceland. What I do recall from that evening involved hightailing it out of the party and into a cab back to my house in Northern Manhattan where I, inexplicably invigorated, spent the next two hours trying to master the complicated clapping rhythm that begins around 4:26 of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” Einar never explained why it’s locally referred to as the “Black Death” amongst Icelanders, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the name, Brennivín, translates into “burning wine.” The beverage tastes more like mild rye licorice than liquefied bubonic plague.Right before I ended this post, I remembered that I needed to find out from someone who I know has intimate knowledge of Brennivín. I reached out to my friend Mike aka the Wolf who bartends at The Grand Victory, 245 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (347) 529-6610 and at Local 138, 138 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002 (212) 477-0280 among other places.
I'm waiting to hopefully hear back from him with his thoughts on Brennivín and maybe he has some handy that I can taste. I'll get back to you all soon enough.
If you notice the title of this post, it is entitled Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) Part I. So Part II will showcase the titular character who is to be killed, Bill and the spirit that he partakes of near the end of the movie. Keep an eye out for it.
Until Then Happy Drinking,