Green’s Dictionary of Slang

sneaky pete n.

[the effects ‘sneak up’ on the consumer]

1. (also pete, sneaky) cheap, rotgut wine; also attrib.

[US]A. Lomax Mister Jelly Roll (1952) 242: That same boy [...] started hanging around, full of that cheap wine they call ‘sneaky pete’.
Asheville Citizen Times (NC) 20 Nov. 8/3: Tne guests [i.e. hoboes] were warned to show up [...] unaccompanied by bottles of a cheap but highly potent wine ‘sneaky Pete’ or ‘sweet Susie’.
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 98: Pepe [...] seemed to get real pleasure from drinking Sneaky Pete (a vile mixture of beer and cheap wine).
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ ‘Pretty Boy’ in Tell Them Nothing (1956) 121: I want some Pete and reefers.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 98: He was pouring a jug of wine into the cocoa. [...] ‘A little Sneaky Pete’—he motioned for Janet to come out of hiding with a quart bottle of brandy—’and a little Sneaky Joe’.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 82: They smoked and drank wine from soda bottles. That’s the way Crutch sold his sneaky pete.
[US]I. Freeman Out of the Burning (1961) 130: The only weapons we had were our shivs and four empty pete bottles. [Ibid.] 134: We knocked off a pint of pete each.
[US] in S. Harris Hellhole 175: Bleary eyes and mottled skin from all the sneaky in them. [Ibid.] 177: The whiskey and the sneaky. [...] I can’t leave them alone.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 25: He held up his fifth of Sneaky Pete, drained it in three gulps.
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 72: You can never judge when wine will hit you – no wonder the Yanks call it ‘sneaky Pete’!
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.

2. (US drugs) marijuana mixed with wine.

[US]H. Braddy ‘Narcotic Argot Along the Mexican Border’ in AS XXX:2 88: SNEAKY PETE, n.phr. Marijuana mixed in wine.
[US]Abel Dict. Drug Abuse Terms.

3. (US) a form of spirit distilled from household chemicals.

[US]‘Paul Merchant’ ‘Sex Gang’ in Pulling a Train’ (2012) [ebook] He knew how to filter after-shave lotion and anti-freeze [...] making Sweet Kucy or Sneaky Pete to sell to the wet-brains on the Bowery.