If you’re like any other liquor enthusiast, you know that alcoholic beverages go by different names. Booze, spirits, sauce – they all refer to the same thing. However, one slang term that gets tossed around is actually a bit more meaningful. While you might have referred to any liquor as “hooch” before, it turns out that hooch is a specific type of alcohol. Unfortunately, as the name suggests, you won’t find hooch on the menu at any fancy restaurants. In fact, you’re more likely to see it in prison than at any bar or social club.
On the plus side, hooch is pretty easy to make, which is why so many prisoners try to perfect their craft. Even better, you don’t have to settle for toilet wine if you want a sip of some liquor. Instead, you can make a good old-fashioned hooch at home with some handy ingredients you may have lying around.
So, without further ado, let’s find out how to make hooch.
What is Hooch?
The term hooch refers to a style of liquor rather than a specific blend. Broadly speaking, hooch refers to any homemade alcohol, but usually, hooch means any poor-quality alcoholic beverage. Again, since hooch is so easy to make from a wide selection of ingredients, the quality level can vary immensely from one batch to the next.
We should also mention that while it’s legal to brew beer and wine at home, it’s illegal to distill any liquor on your property, even for personal consumption. Fortunately, hooch falls into the former category, so you should be okay if someone comes snooping around. Also, the benefit of hooch being legal to brew is that you can perfect your recipe and experiment with different flavors without the threat of Johnny Law busting down your door.
A Brief History of Hooch
Hooch has been around since the mid-1800s, but the term didn’t really come into popularity until the Prohibition of the 1920s. Since hooch referred to homemade or illegal liquor, it was widely adopted at a time when people couldn’t legally buy or sell alcohol.
However, why hooch? According to legend, the name stems from the Hoochino tribe of Alaska. Depending on who you ask, American soldiers stationed on Admiralty Island in the late 1860s taught the natives how to brew alcohol using rustic methods and locally-sourced ingredients like molasses. But, other accounts say that the soldiers learned how to make liquor from the natives, who were already adept at brewing it.
Either way, the alcohol became associated with the tribe, which used it to trade with other natives in the area, as well as Americans moving to Alaska after it entered into the union in 1867. During the 1890s, Alaska saw a gold rush, and miners discovered hoochino when interacting with the native tribes.
Over time, hoochino was shortened to hooch, and it referred to any cheap, homemade, and poor-quality liquor. The only reason hoochino caught on in Alaska was because it was the only option available, and it was both potent and easy to make. Accounts from the time mention that natives could brew and distill hoochino so discreetly that a customs officer would have a better time finding a flask of whiskey than discover natives brewing hooch.
During Prohibition, moonshiners and gin makers adopted the term, and it’s stuck ever since. However, it’s no longer as popular as it was back then.
How to Make Hooch
According to reports from the 1800s, traditional hooch was made from one gallon of molasses, five pounds of flour, one half-box of yeast powder, sufficient water to make a paste, and a fire. To distill the mixture, locals would use either a metal coil or native seaweed roots. Fortunately, you have many more options today, so your hooch will taste much better.
What You’ll Need to Make Hooch
Although you can use simple ingredients like a balloon, leftover bread, and plastic bottles, it’s much better to use professional-grade equipment whenever possible. So, you’ll need to collect the following items:
- Glass Bottle With an Airlock
- Brewer’s Thermometer
- Fresh Fruit or Juice
- Brewer’s Yeast
Step One: Prep Your Fruits
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of squeezing juice from your fruit, you can buy premade juice. However, avoid options that contain preservatives, as they can kill the yeast and halt your hooch-making operation. Buy fresh, organic fruit juice instead. Otherwise, you can use a juicer to extract as much liquid as possible from your ingredients.
Feel free to mix and match different flavors to make unique hooch options. You can also add simple syrups and vegetables for different blends. If you’re familiar with home brewing already, you can add stabilizers to ensure your juice doesn’t start rotting too quickly. The liquid is called “must.”
Step Two: Pour Your Must Into a Fermentation Bottle
If you’re trying to go the low-key route, you can use a plastic bottle with a balloon attached to the top. Be sure to poke a small hole in the balloon so gasses can escape. However, we prefer clean and sanitized fermentation bottles with a built-in airlock. This option is much more stable and yields better hooch. However, the size of your container matters.
As a rule, you want to double the container size for the amount of hooch you’re trying to make. So, if you want half a gallon of hooch, pour it into a gallon-sized container. You need this space for the gasses to release. Otherwise, the bottle could explode, leaving a nasty, fermenting mess.
Step Three: Add Your Yeast
Once your must is in the bottle, add some brewer’s yeast. One tablespoon of yeast should be good, but if you’re making large batches, you might want to add two. It helps to stir the yeast in and aerate the mixture so it gets enough oxygen to start the reaction. Because there’s already sugar inside the must, you don’t need to “start” your yeast in sugar water first.
Step Four: Ferment Your Hooch
Fortunately, you don’t need to do much to make hooch. Once it’s in the bottle and sealed tight, you just need to store the mixture in a dark, cool area for about a week. The ambient temperature should be about 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Be careful not to disturb your hooch while it ferments, as that can throw off the yeast reaction. That said, you want to check on the bottle to look for cracks or signs of pressure buildup. If it gets too great, the bottle could explode. If you notice cracks, you should transfer the liquid to another container.
Step Five: Strain Your Hooch
Once your hooch is fully fermented, you need to remove all the solids from the must. You can either do this by siphoning the liquid into a separate container or pouring it through a cheesecloth. If you go the latter route, squeeze the remains to extract as much liquid as possible. To make this step even easier, you can refrigerate your hooch so the sediment will fall to the bottom.
FAQs About Making Hooch
Once you’ve made one batch of hooch, you might want to start making it more frequently, especially as you experiment with ingredients and flavors. If that’s the case, here are some other factors to consider.
Is It Legal to Brew Hooch at Home?
Thankfully, we’re not in Prohibition anymore, so the government allows individuals to brew beer and wine at home. Since you’re not distilling your liquor in a pot still, the whole process is perfectly legal for personal consumption. However, if you want to sell hooch, you’ll need to get permits and licenses from your state. Liquor licenses can be expensive and take a while to clear, so keep that in mind.
Can You Mix Hooch?
Since hooch is basically like wine, you may not want to mix it with anything. However, it can also be pretty strong with relatively significant alcohol content. So, diluting it with water or other mixes might make it easier to drink.
Do You Need to Worry About Methanol?
Distillation is the act of boiling alcohol, then cooling it back into a liquid. Doing this creates methanol, which is a toxic form of alcohol. Since you’re not distilling hooch, you don’t have to worry about it. While there can be some residual methanol inside the liquid, it’s not enough to be harmful.
Can You Get Sick From Hooch?
The short answer is yes, but you can avoid illnesses by using fresh ingredients and clean equipment. For example, prisoners get sick from toilet wine because they use food scraps and dirty materials. As long as you’re careful about sourcing your hooch, you should be fine.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, brewing your own hooch is simple and easy to do. Be sure to experiment with different flavors and mixes to see which ones turn out the best. Happy drinking!
P.S. If you make beer or have ever thought about doing so be sure to grab the recipes for my top 5 best-selling beers from my brew pub. Details on the side of the blog or bottom if you are on your smart device.