Prison Wine—Making “Prison Hooch”

Have you heard of a low-cost way to make your alcohol?

It’s known by many names, including: 

  • Hooch
  • Prison wine
  • Jail alcohol
  • Jail wine
  • Toilet wine
  • Pruno

Pruno is often called prison or jail alcohol because inmates mix various ingredients to make alcoholic beverages.

It can give you a solid and inexpensive buzz, but is it worth making?

Let’s find out the truth about prison wine.

Prison Wine.

The Nature of Prison Wine

Prisoners and inmates aren’t allowed alcohol, but that hasn’t stopped them from making their own.

Prison wine is an alcoholic beverage using various ingredients found in prisons. 

It’s been described as a “bile-flavored wine cooler,” not something appetizing.

Hooch has been a part of prison culture for years.

It was even mentioned in a poem by an inmate on death row. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and inmates will repurpose and not waste anything.

Pruno ingredients include:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Fruit cocktail
  • Juices
  • Hard candy
  • High fructose syrup
  • Crumbled bread

Yeast is usually taken from bread.

Warm and ferment the mixture containing 2-14% alcohol. 

The danger of hooch is that the amount of alcohol in one batch is unknown.

It can cause the same effects as alcohol, and the intensely fermented ingredients can lead to more severe problems.

Related Reading: Fermenting Maple Syrup – Learn It Here.

Possible Botulism

Prison Hooch has side effects, but one is particularly more concerning than the others.

Botulism is a rare and severe form of intoxication caused by consuming Pruno. 

It is a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves, leading to paralysis and sometimes death.

Breathing can be affected, and even with medical treatment, paralysis and the need for a ventilator may occur. 

Symptoms may include: 

  • double or blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • drooping eyelids
  • muscle weakness
  • dry mouth

Botulism outbreaks have always been linked to inmates who made or drank Pruno.

Though anyone exposed to or consuming this blend can get it.

Worries About Blindness

During Prohibition, hundreds of thousands of people were blinded or paralyzed from drinking homemade alcohol.

You may have heard of this happening in the movie Water for Elephants. 

But nowadays, homemade alcohol won’t cause permanent damage. It may give you a headache, but that will pass. 

Methanol poisoning may cause blindness and paralysis.

This is similar to ethanol, but 100 milliliters can cause blindness, and drinking more can be fatal. 

Ethanol is broken down into carbon dioxide and water, which won’t harm us.

But methanol turns into formaldehyde, used in industrial cleaners and embalming. 

Formaldehyde attacks the nervous system, starting with the optic nerve, causing blindness.

Related Reading: Is Brewing Beer Illegal? – Read It Here.

Making Homemade Hooch

Making hooch at home is easy.

You need fruit juice, sugar, and yeast. 

In prison, inmates use whatever they can get their hands on, like oranges, fruit cocktails, and prunes.

It’s hard to find yeast, so they use bread instead. 

They add sugary foods, like Jolly Ranchers, jelly, or ketchup, to sweeten the drink.

They store it in a toilet tank to hide it from the guards. 

If you’re not in prison, you can be more particular with your ingredients. 

  • Use fresh fruit, bottled juice, or concentrate. 
  • Get a plastic bottle with a balloon or a special bottle for fermentation. 
  • Use baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast. 
  • Sweeten with sugar, honey, or syrup. 
  • And don’t forget the cheesecloth or filter.

Related Reading: Beer Brewing Steps – Learn More Here.

Selecting What You Will Use

Using a 2-liter bottle for a homebrewed hooch may seem a bit questionable, but it’s all part of the fun.

Just make sure to clean it properly. 

For a gallon batch, use a 2-gallon container so the carbon dioxide has somewhere to escape.

Sanitizing is essential to avoid any health risks. 

Don’t forget to use clean brewing equipment for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Choosing the Juice for Your Base

Get the freshest fruit you can find.

You can also use juice or concentrate, but watch out for preservatives. 

Apples, oranges, berries, and peaches are all great options.

Chop, mash, crush, or heat the fruit to make a pulp called a “must .”

This comes from the Latin vinum mustum or young wine.

You can put the must in a nylon bag to keep the pieces from spreading, but this step is optional. 

Use distilled water if you need to add any.

Prisoners often use old or spoiled fruit, but you don’t have to go that far.

Adding Sugar

Adding sugar to your prison hooch increases its alcohol content.

Yeast consumes the starch and carbs in the sugar, keeping it alive and fermenting. 

The sugar also makes the mixture sweet.

To sweeten, you can use corn sugar, brown sugar, table sugar, honey, or maple syrup, depending on your desired flavor. 

Too much sugar, however, can lead to a high Alcohol By Volume (ABV).

Make sure sugar contributes no more than ⅓ of the total ABV.

Related Reading: Delightful Maple Beers To Enjoy – Learn More Here.

The Yeast

Yeast is the key to making hooch alcoholic.

For a prison-style brew, you can use baker’s, brewer’s yeast, or even bits of bread. 

Bread yeast can survive baking, but the fermentation process will take longer.

We recommend you use pure yeast.

Related Reading: Choosing Between Yeasty Beers – Find Out Here.

Cover and Wait

Don’t use the screw-top bottle yet.

You need to be warned that bottles can explode in this process. 

You don’t want to be shocked or hurt by your brewing mess!

Put a balloon over the bottle and make a tiny hole in it. 

Or, use a condom. That’s up to you.

This creates a valve to release carbon dioxide, and you can see how much gas is in there. 

Ferment your hooch in a cool place, 50-70°F, for 5-7 days.

Not in a toilet tank or behind a poster! 

Just put it in a cupboard or a quiet corner.

If you use a sealable bag, you must release the gas daily. 

The hole in the balloon or squeezing the bag will do the trick.

Bottling the Hooch

A Can Of Hooch.

After fermenting your hooch for 5-7 days, strain the fruit pulp and yeast sediment by pouring the mixture through a cheesecloth.

You may need to do this multiple times over the next few weeks. 

The yeast will keep fermenting the hooch as long as there is sugar.

Put the hooch in the fridge overnight to let any extra yeast settle at the bottom of the bottle. 

This is known as “cold crashing .”

The total time it takes for a batch of hooch to ferment varies. 

Some brewers let it ferment for a couple of months.

If you do this, check the bottles often to ensure they haven’t cracked or exploded from carbon dioxide pressure.

Related Reading: What Is Draft Beer Better Than Bottled Beer? – Learn It Here.

Final Thoughts

Prison wine is an exciting idea; some would want to try it out.

Now, of course, this may not be for everyone. 

So stay safe when making and drinking this.