63-year-old 'Bayou Bob' Popplewell, a rattlesnake and turtle rancher from Santo, TX and proprietor of Bayou Bob's Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch, is facing charges of selling alcohol without a license. He was arrested on Monday after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
"obtained arrest warrants on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell."
Popplewell says he has every intention of fighting the charges and defends that his brew is a healing tonic and not an alcoholic beverage. He says of the elixir, "It's almost a spiritual thing," and states that he has customers of Asian descent who believe in the tonic's medicinal value.
Although Popplewell's mix is made by submerging a rattlesnake into inexpensive vodka to preserve it, which, in turn, ultimately creates a sweet tasting liquid that he compares to cough syrup, he says, "I've honestly never seen a person drink it".
The Alcoholic Beverage Commission is not seeing it as an elixir but as an alcoholic beverage, and has confiscated 429 bottles of snake vodka and one bottle of snake tequila. They figure that at $23 a bottle, the confiscated cache holds a value of nearly $10,000 worth of alcohol. But, even with Popplewell's tonic claim, he is still required to hold a state permit because of his use of vodka.
If convicted, Popplewell will face up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.