When a fierce, trophy-collecting warrior wants to be practical, he won't just make the remains of his enemies into a fetish. He'll make them into something useful. Like a cup.
If you want to make somebody threatening or as a sure sign of villainy, this is a way to suggest that a person is so cold they are unaffected by drinking from the remains of their dead enemies, as well as it being a grand form of humiliation and a warning to other foes. The use of someone's skull as such may also be a threat used during a Badass Boast.
The beverage in question may be blood, but is typically wine or some sort of elixir that may necessarily need to be imbibed from an enemy's skull. Other situations in which this trope commonly occurs include proposing a toast to the defeat of the enemy in question or intentionally wrong Shakespeare parodies.
- In the Sengoku Basara anime Oda Nobunaga is depicted drinking from a skull, which leaks from the eye sockets.
- In Drifters, Nobunaga admits to Olminu that he enjoys drinking in his spare time using mugs fashioned from the skulls of his dead enemies. Needless to say, this admission left Olminu scared of him.
- In Asterix and the Normans, the skull cups are used by said Normans.
- Rex Mundi: The Holy Grail turns out to be the skull of John the Baptist.
- In the DC Comics Crisis Crossover Underworld Unleashed, when the major villains are gathered round a table in Hell, the Joker is drinking from a skull in a domino mask. With a crowbar for a stirring rod.
- The Fall of Deadworld gives a variant: when Casey Tweed seizes control of Justice Department, he uses Judge Death's skull as an ashtray and waste bin.
- Played for laughs in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure. To establish that Queen Celesia is evil, the very first sentence of her very first scene reads:
"Celesia was sitting on her I throne n Ponyland Castle, drinking blood out of a skull. (Don't worry it's not a pony skull.)." [sic]
- In "Cuphead: The Musical" ("We're Gonna Kill Off Cuphead"), the Devil's personal threat to the title character is to, if screwed with, "take my tea from your skull like cheap chinaware".
- The Thuggees in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom have a skull filled with "The Blood of Kali". They force their prisoners to drink it and it immediately induces a FaceHeel Turn.
- Drive Angry: Anti-Hero John Milton drinks some booze from the skull of the deceased bad guy to make good on a promise he made him earlier in the film. He then takes it with him as a souvenir.
- Blues Brothers 2000: After the title characters rudely interrupt the funeral of a Russian mobster's nephew, an associate assures that they will become this. Filled with vodka, of course.
- Older Than Feudalism: The Histories of Herodotus report that the Scythians made cups from the skulls of their vanquished enemies.
- The Chinese historian Sima Qian, writing in his Records of the Grand Historian about 350-400 years after Herodotus, reports that the Xiongnu nomads who frequently fought China during the Qin and Han eras, observed the custom of drinking out of skulls.
- The late Roman historiographer Ammianus Marcellinus (4th century AD) writes about the Scordisci, a Celtic tribe inhabiting a region of Thrace (now Serbia), and which he describes as "a people formerly cruel and savage", that in former times they used to sacrifice their prisoners "and from their hollowed skulls greedily to drink human blood" (book 27).
- In the Our Dumb Century article "Christian Right Ascends To Heaven," Carl Sagan's eternal punishment involves having his skull made into Satan's drinking gourd.
- In the X-Wing Series novel Iron Fist, a reference to Skull Cups is used as a Last-Second Word Swap. Undercover as a Space Pirate, Face Loran is about to wish his comrades "May the Force be with you," but thinks better of it.
Face: And may... we drink from the skulls of our enemies tonight!
- In The Fifth Elephant, Detritus has the cranium of a human's skull as an heirloom from his grandmother, which he shows to Vimes after they arrive at an embassy with a troll's head on a trophy wall. Evidently she used it as a bowl to keep small items in.
- In the Latin translation of the Old Norse "Krákumál" a.k.a. "The Death-Song of Ragnar Lodbrok" made in 1635 by the Danish antiquarian Ole Worm, Ragnar Lodbrok expresses his belief that after his earthly demise, he will drink beer "from the curved hollows of skulls" in Odin's hall. In his commentary, Worm elaborated that the heroes of old "believed that in Odin's hall they would drink from the skulls of those they had slain". In reality, Worm's translation is wrong, as the Old Norse text actually means "from curved trees of the skull", which is to say, from drinking horns (because they grow on a bovine skull). As early translations of "Krákumál" into English were based on Worm's Latin version rather than the original, popular wisdom in Britain and elsewhere maintained far into the 19th century that Vikings used to drink from skull cups, or hoped to do so in the afterlife (they did neither).
- Amos Cottle's 1797 translation of the Poetic Edda was prefaced with a dedicatory poem by Robert Southey, which claims that the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, having put King Ella to death to avenge their father, believed they would drink mead from Ella's skull in the afterlife ("in the shield-roof'd hall they thought / One day from Ella's skull to quaff the mead").
- In the narrative poem Balder Dead by Matthew Arnold (1855), the gods and heroes in Valhalla are so shocked over the death of Balder, they desist from their usual habit of drinking wine from "horns and gold-rimmed sculls".
- The Wheel of Time: Banner-General Furyk Karede's eccentric manservant owns a drinking bowl made from the top of a skull. Karede finds it pretty creepy. Nonetheless, when he gets a surprise visit from State Sec and has to offer refreshments, he realizes it's the only other drinking vessel at hand and forces himself to act nonchalant while using it. The agent is a bit perturbed.
- Background for The Princess Diaries, of all things. The founder of Mia's royal bloodline, Queen Rosamunde, was forcibly married by an invading general, who on their wedding night made her drink wine out of a cup made from her dead father's skull. She was so outraged by this that once he'd fallen asleep she strangled him with her long braid of hair. This impressed the General's followers so much that they accepted her as Queen instead.
- In the second Dr. Greta Helsing novel, self-proclaimed "king of the vampires" Corvin guzzles a blend of fine wine and blood from a cup fashioned from a human skull. Played with in that Corvin is a slimy edgelord wannabee who had the cup made from a random, centuries-dead skull from the Paris catacombs ... although it'd be entirely in-character if he were to pretend it was that of an enemy.
- Game of Thrones. Karl Tanner drinks from the skull of Lord Commander Mormont, whom he killed in The Mutiny.
- In Horrible Histories, the Vikings and Pachacuti songs both mention this.
- Near the end of the That Mitchell and Webb Look "Nazis" sketch, Hans moves for his ashtray and realizes it's skull-shaped, starts looking around and sees skulls everywhere in their fortification, including another soldier with a skull-themed mug, and with this it apparently sets in that his buddy is right about them (here, Nazis) being the "baddies".
- Wayland the Smith is imprisoned by a king to work only for him, having his hamstrings cut to prevent escape. As part of his revenge for this and other slights, he tricks the king's sons into visiting him, kills them, and makes their skulls into ivory goblets, which he gifts to the king and queen. (And as a nice bonus, Wayland set the kids' teeth into brooches which he also gifted to the royal couple.)
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon relates that the Lombard King Alboin, after killing the Gepid King Cunimund in battle, had Cunimund's skull turned into a drinking cup, then married Cunimund's daughter Rosamund whom he had taken captive. The marriage had already lasted several years when Alboin at a royal banquet, being somewhat tipsy, had Rosamund served wine in Cunimund's skull, inviting her to "drink merrily with her father". In revenge for this humiliation, Rosamund had her husband murdered in a palace conspiracy.
- According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, the skull of Grand Prince Svyatoslav I of Kiev was turned into a drinking cup by the victorious Pechenegs after they had killed the Prince in an ambush at the lower Dnieper.
- The Saga of the Volsungs has a uniquely dark example, in which Gudrun serves Atli wine in goblets made from the skulls of their own sons as part of a Familial Cannibalism Surprise.
- Classical Mythology had the Anthrophagi, a tribe of northern cannibals that were said to not only keep skulls decorated with gold, but also occasionally made drinking cups out of them. To add to the Nausea Fuel, they were also said to use human scalps as napkins.
- In Spelunky, gathering enough favour from Kali rewards the player with a kapala with which they can collect blood to restore Hit Points.
- In Deadly Premonition, there's an optional scene in which York regales his Sheriff's Department allies with the story of a case he worked on involving a perp who drank Cuba Libres out of the skulls of his victims. He does this nonchalantly over dinner.
- Suggested, though not actually displayed, from the memetic taunt "I will drink from your skull!" from Sea Raiders of Mount & Blade in battle.
- Crusader Kings II's Holy Fury expansion redoes personal combat. If you beheaded an enemy commander in a battlefield duel, you may get an event later where a soldier asks you if you really drink from the skulls of your enemies. Your character ruefully laughs it off and says something like "I'm never living that one down, am I?" Eventually, the inventory system was added so you really can get a skull cup.
- In Injustice 2, one of Gorilla Grodd's intros features him drinking out of a human skull. Uniquely, he holds the skull cranium-side down and drinks out of the hole where the neck would meet the skull. He also crushes it in his hand like a wineglass at the end of his intro.
- While nobody drinks out of it, you initiate battle against the titanic skeleton High Lord Wolnir in Dark Souls III by approaching what appears to be an ornate goblet with a skull set into it, prompting a wave of darkness to flow out of it before you're transported to the boss arena.
- In The Whiteboard one of the things Doc says he'd do to cheaters is "drink my wine from their sun-bleached skull".
- Played for laughs in the Oglaf strip "Skulls!". A king calls for the skull of an enemy to drink from. The wine runs out of the eye holes, so the king tries to find an enemy with no eyes. He eventually kills a giant worm that fulfills the requirement, but it turn out it has no skull either.
King: So... thirsty...
- In Stick in the Mud they are used by the demon lord.
- In a variant, Belkar of The Order of the Stick once turned the skull of one of the kobolds in the Linear Guild into a chip bowl. The next one became a litter box for his cat, while still alive.
- Parodied in Jägershots, a side comic to Girl Genius. A Jäger offers a "drink from the skull of an enemy" to Agatha, who reluctantly accepts... and gags when she finds out too late it wasn't cleaned out first. The Jäger doesn't see a problem.
- How to Survive Camping: The man with a skull cup carries one around, as his name implies. Drinking from it will leave one unable to eat or drink for the entire next day, but it is much preferable to what happens to those who refuse the drink.
- The Onion deconstructs this trope in the article Vanquished Foe's Skull Makes Surprisingly Bad Wine Goblet.
- The Other Wiki has an article about these here. They range from the classical "barbarians drinking from the skulls of their enemies" (the 5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus cites the Scythians as doing this) to Indian and Tibetan ritual goblets.
- According to a modern legend, Blackbeard's skull ended up plated to use as a drinking cup.
- Possibly the most famous (allegedly) historical instance of this is the story of how the skull of the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros I ended up lined with silver and presented to the Bulgar Khan Krum as a drinking cup after Nikephoros was killed at the Battle of Pliska in 811.
- Sviatoslav the Brave, a Rus-ruler got his skull turned into a cup by the Pechenegs.
- The Lombard king Alboin, who reigned in Italy in the 6th century, purportedly had a cup made from the skull of Cunimund, a Gepid king he had defeated and killed. The legend goes that he forced Cunimund's daughter Rosamund, who he had forcibly married in the meantime, to drink from her father's skull. This strengthened Rosamund's determination to avenge her father, leading to her involvement in the coup that killed Alboin.
- An apocryphal and most likely made-up story about Oda Nobunaga is that he had the skull of his former ally-turned-enemy Azai Nagamasa turned into a sake cup and drank from it in at least one public setting. This tale tends to become truth for fictional depictions of the character, as seen under the anime and manga section.
- The Mapuche people of Chile did this:
- Pedro de Valdivia, founder of Chile and first Royal Governor of the Spanish Crown, was defeated by the Mapuche forces led by Lautaro in the Battle of Tucapel. He was executed in captivity and his skull was kept as a trophy and eventually turned into a drinking cup.
- Martín García Óñez de Loyola, whom the Spanish Crown believed to be the most apt governor to finish the Arauco War, died in the Battle of Curalaba, after he and his peerage had been ambushed by Mapuche forces led by Pelantaro. His skull was also kept as a trophy and occasionally used as a drinking cup.