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Homemade Hooch


Hooch and Cider Homebrew

What is Homemade Hooch? How do you make it?

As I define it, Hooch is just a country-boy homemade wine; easier to make, but every bit as enjoyable as its more sophisticated cousin.

Making homemade wine can be a great hobby, but it has its drawbacks. To do it right, you'll need:

  • some pretty specialized equipment - things you won't just find around your house.
  • some specialized supplies - again, things that are not found in most pantries.
  • a certain amount of experience - even when closely following a tried-and-true recipe, early attempts at wine making often don't turn out as expected.
  • Time and Patience - who really wants to wait six months, a year, TWO YEARS to taste their first batch?

Making Hooch is a great way to get started in this great hobby without the initial cost, with a much lower failure rate and - most importantly

- You can be enjoying your first batch of Homemade Hooch in as little as two weeks!

So What Is the Difference Between Hooch and Homemade Wine?

The difference really is a matter of degrees. Most Home Vintners will enjoy a glass or two of Hooch before bottling - all in the interest of "testing" the batch, of course.

Similarly, a properly bottled and aged Hooch would make a praise-worthy Homemade Wine.

Whereas the serious Home Vintner uses specialized equipment, expensive juices and chemicals, the Hooch-maker uses the bare-minimum - juice, water, sugar, yeast, a one-gallon water jug and only one piece of specialized equipment - an Airlock - cost about $1. Simple and natural.

image: Homemade Hooch and Hard Cider

Cook Time

Prep Time: two weeks

Total Time: or less if you can't wait

Serves: a whole party


  • 2 cans of frozen Apple Juice concentrate.
  • Water
  • 2 cups of brown sugar.
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • 1/2 of a Packet of Wine Yeast


  1. Mix the first four ingredients together. This mixture is known as your Must.
  2. Heat the Must to 170 degrees for one minute to pasteurize and to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature. While your Must is cooling, sanitize a one gallon water/milk jug, a funnel, a measuring cup, your airlock and rubber stopper. Wine makers use specially formulated sanitizers; Hooch makers use unscented bleach and water.
  4. Once cooled, pour your Must into the jug.
  5. Hydrate yeast according to the package direction (add the yeast to some tepid water, swirl gently, wait 15 minutes). I hydrated my yeast in the Pyrex measuring cup. Put one cup of water in the measuring cup; microwave for two minutes to pasteurize. Cool before adding yeast. Red Star Montrachet is my favorite yeast for making Hard Ciders and Hard Lemonade style Hooches.
  6. Once hydrated, pour the yeast into the Must and cap the jug with an Airlock. Be sure to fill the Airlock with water to the "fill" line.
  7. Store in a warm (room temperature), dark spot for about two weeks.
  8. Back sweeten (add sugar after the fermentation has stopped).
  9. EnjoyResults:
  10. Undrinkable if not back sweetened, but after back sweetening:
  11. Not a bad start. Very drinkable but lots of room for improvement.
  12. Notes:
  13. I learned a lot from this first batch:This was the first and last time that I used brown sugar. Regular white, granular sugar results in a better taste and mouth feel.
  14. This was the first and last time that I used Cinnamon and Nutmeg. It's Hooch, not apple pie.
  15. You can use baker's yeast but your Hooch will suffer. a packet of Wine Yeast usually costs about $1 and will make up to five gallons. I made this batch with Red Star Montrachet - a good choice for Hard Ciders.
  16. You can't use chlorinated water in your Must as the chlorine will kill off your yeast. Likewise, make sure that all chlorine-sanitized items are completely air-dried before using.
  17. Use 100% juice with no sweeteners and no preservative - preservatives will kill your yeast; corn syrup will affect the flavor. I use/d the generic, white-label frozen apple juice that's sold at Walmart. Unfiltered Apple Cider works well and makes a traditional Hard Cider.
  18. To Pasteurize, bring your Must to 170 degrees for one minute. Pasteurizing kills off any bacteria and wild yeasts that may be present.
  19. Back Sweetening a common practice for Hooch makers. Home Wine Makers add chemicals to kill the active yeast, thus halting the fermentation, while sugar is still present in the must. Hooch makers prefer to not add chemicals unnecessarily; they allow the fermentation process to run its full course. When all of the sugar and carbohydrates have been consumed, the fermentation stops - naturally. Sugar is then added improve the taste.

Hard Lemonade - second half of the first batch

Since a packet of yeast is good for up to five gallons of Hooch, I decided to make a batch of Hard Lemonade at the same time that I make my first batch of Apple Cider and split the yeast between the two.

Cook Time

Prep Time: 2 weeks

Total Time: as long as you can wait

Serves: a whole party


  • 15 ounce bottle of Lemon Juice
  • almost a gallon of water
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • the other 1/2 packet of wine yeast


  1. Mix the first three ingredients then follow all of the steps listed in the Apple Hard Cider recipe, above.
  2. Results:
  3. Again, Back-Sweetening was a must, but it had a good flavor - better than the Hard Lemonades that are commercially available.
  4. Notes:Light and refreshing taste.
  5. Putting this Lemonade side-by-side with the Apple Cider made me realize that regular white sugar produces a better Hooch than brown sugar.
  6. The Lemonade fermented a little slower than the Apple Cider. Further experimentation's taught me that this is generally true with citrus juices. Wine Makers add chemicals to adjust pH; Hooch makers just wait an extra couple of days.

Wine Yeast

These are the Wine Yeasts that I use:

  • Red Star Montrachet has a "yeasty" taste - good for Fruit Ciders and Hard Lemonades.
  • Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast is great for every thing else. It can also produce a slightly higher alcohol content.

Time to Make Some Red Wine

Admittedly, Hard Cider and Hard Lemonade are pretty countrified; I decided it was time to try making a proper Red Wine Hooch.

Cook Time

Prep Time: couple of hours

Total Time: two weeks

Serves: all your friends


  • 2 cans of frozen
  • purple grape concentrate (again
  • the Walmart white-label juice has no preservatives and no added sweeteners)
  • 6 juice cans of water (9 cups)
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 packet of Wine Yeast


  1. Combine the first three ingredients, pasteurize and cool as in the other recipes.
  2. Hydrate your yeast. Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast is a great choice for wine-like Hooches.
  3. While the yeast is hydrating, shake your Must vigorously in your capped, 1-gallon water jug.
  4. No I did not perform this step in making my early batches, but Yes, it is an important step and I'm sure to aerate (shake vigorously) every batch now. Page down or click Why must I aerate my Must?
  5. Results:
  6. Very nice - not too surprising; grapes are the wine-making standard, after all. This Grape Hooch has a good taste and a smooth mouth feel. Better than most box wines and on par with many moderately-priced commercial wine, but better because the Hooch contains no added sulfites (sulfites cause some people to have headaches). Cost: $3 for almost a gallon!
  7. Notes:Four cups of sugar resulted in a sweet dessert Hooch that needed no back-sweetening.
  8. It also resulted in a higher alcohol content - considerably higher than most commercial wine. Because of the sweetness, the Hooch still tasted good, though.
  9. This has become my standard Hooch. I usually use 3 or 4 cups of sugar depending upon how sweet I want the finished Hooch to be.
Hydrated Wine Yeast before being added to the Aerated Must

Hydrated Wine Yeast before being added to the Aerated Must

Why Must I Aerate the Must?

Yeast can metabolize carbohydrates in two ways: Aerobically or Anaerobically:

Aerobic Respiration - In the presence of oxygen, the yeast reproduces itself.

Anaerobic Respiration - One the oxygen has been depleted, the yeast begins producing the carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Vigorous shaking aerates the Must, causing it to suspended more oxygen. The oxygen causes allows the yeast to produce/reproduce more yeast. More yeast means faster fermentation. In other words...

Shaking the Must = Drinking Sooner

Margarita Hooch - Limeade and Agave Nectar

I have a friend that told me she prefers limes to lemons. I also just happened to have an old bottle of Agave Nectar that wasn't being used for anything.

Cook Time

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 3 or 4 weeks

Serves: a lot of people


  • 15 or 16 ounce bottle of lime juice
  • 9 cups of non-chlorinated water (or just eye ball about 3/4 of a gallon)
  • whole bottle of Agave Nectar
  • 1/2 packet of Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast


  1. Mix the first three ingredients in a sanitized, one gallon water or milk jug.
  2. Hydrate your yeast according to the package direction.
  3. Aerate the Limeade Must by shaking vigorously while the yeast is hydrating.
  4. Add the hydrated yeast to the Must, cap with an airlock, store in a dark closet and wait.Results:
  5. Pleasant and smooth taste. Reminiscent of a Margarita - not those super-sweet margaritas that you get at some Mexican restaurant chains, but reminiscent of a real Margarita.
  6. Notes:
  7. Notice that I didn't pasteurize the Must? This save a lot of time (waiting for the Must to cool was the most frustrating part). Go to "Do I have to Pasteurize the Must?"
  8. Notice too that Hard Limeade takes much longer to ferment than Hard Apple Cider or Grape Hooch - still, 3 or 4 weeks is a whole lot less than the 1 year or more that wine makers wait.
  9. Limes have a much more subtle taste than Lemons. This subtle taste is probably why some people prefer limes to lemons in the first place. As for me - I prefer lemons; I seldom make new batches of Hard Limeade, but when I do, I now mix my Limeade extra strong.
  10. If you're making Margarita Hooch (Agave Nectar) use Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast. If you're making Hard Limeade (sugar), I suggest that you use Red Star Montachet Yeast.

Mango Hooch

Why Mangoes - I had extra. One day, my son brought home 8 Mangoes. Awesome - except that we only eat about 2 mangoes a year. It took me about 30 seconds to decide what I was going do with the extras. I also made a tasty Mango Salsa but that's a topic for a later post.

This is why it's so much fun making your own Hooch - the creative experimentation. You can make Hooch from almost anything that has carbohydrates. Why "almost?" - I just don't think that Chocolate Milk Hooch would be very pleasant.

Cook Time

Prep Time: couple of hours

Total Time: 3 weeks

Serves: a whole party


  • 1 gallon of water
  • 2 mangoes - pealed
  • de-pitted and cubed
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 1/2 packet of Red Star Pasteur Yeast


  1. I'm sure that you've picked up on the "how-to" already.
  2. Results:
  3. Subtle taste (after back-sweetening)
  4. Pleasant color and aroma
  5. It's got some kick to itNotes:
  6. Definitely needs to be back-sweetened
  7. Lots of suspended pulp - I filtered mine through coffee filters
  8. I like this one a lot. I believe that a real wine maker (someone that uses secondary fermenters, clarifiers, has more than three weeks worth of patience, etc), could make a great product from Mangoes.

You Don't Have to Pasteurize Your Wine/Hooch

When making wine, you have to kill off the bacteria/wild yeast/etc. in your Must before you add your wine yeast - this is done by adding sulfites or by pasteurizing. It took me a few batches to learn that...

You don't have to pasteurize your Must when you're making Hooch. Why?...

Simply put, it's due to the aging that bottled wines go through. A little but of most bacteria is not likely to have much effect on your Hooch because you're not aging your Hooch - well, maybe for a few days in the refrigerator while your finishing the jug.

However, a little bit of bacteria in your wine could very well produce wine vinegar after a year's worth of aging.

Just remember that sanitation is always important. I still sanitize my Hooch-making equipment - I just don't usually pasteurize the Must any more. This saves a lot of time as I no longer have to wait for the pasteurized Must to cool.


There are two types of Wine Making Airlocks:

  • 3-Piece Airlocks are easy to clean, but they break when you step on them. I don't know why they always end up on the floor - they just do.
  • Twin Bubble, "S" Airlocks are harder to clean, but it's fun to watch the air bubbles travel through the tube. Almost as much fun as watching a lava lamp - very zen-like.

Both work equally well.

Sugar Hooch - about the cheapest drunk you can get...

without growing your own fruit.

Cook Time

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 month or more

Serves: a lot of people


  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1/2 packet of whatever wine yeast you have on hand (this Hooch isn't really about taste)
  • optional: raisins
  • dried fruit or a tea-bag


  1. hydrate your yeast
  2. pour sugar and 1/2 of the water into your sanitized 1 gallon jug
  3. shake sugar/water mixture vigorously as your yeast is hydrating
  4. fill jug with water leaving 5 or 6 inches of air space
  5. add the hydrated yeast and cap with an air lock
  6. wait for at least 3 weeksResults:
  7. It's sweet and it's alcoholic - that's about it.
  8. Notes:
  9. As nasty as this sounds, it actually does have some redeeming characteristics:Once the fermentation has reached the stage you desire, you can add any kind of flavoring that you want. Since the fermentation is complete, you can even add juice that contains preservatives. Adding 2 cans of Walmart's white-label frozen, concentrated Fruit Punch yields a pleasant Party Punch.
  10. If you're using 1/2 of a package of yeast to make a Hooch, what do you do with the other half? According to the yeast packages, unused yeast can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month - I've not had much success storing my unused yeast in this way. I'd rather make a Starter Batch of Sugar Hooch with the extra and add my fruit juice later.
  11. If you're really working on-the-cheap, you can use your Sugar Hooch as a Yeast Starter - just like bread-bakers do. While your Sugar Hooch is still fermenting (your yeast is still active) add 1/2 gallon of Sugar Hooch to a new Must in place of yeast. The active yeast from your Started Sugar Hooch will reproduce itself and begin fermenting your new Must. Replace the water and sugar in your starter and that yeast will reproduce itself, too. By doing this, your Starter can theoretically be perpetuated indefinitely - in actuality, it can be perpetuated for several months. If your fermentation is taking too long, stalls or never starts, try adding some raisins or a tea bag to the Must. Why does this work? Because sugar alone does not contain all of the nutrients that are needed for a successful fermentation. Raisins work well because they're just dried grapes, but other dried fruits work, too. I've used dried cranberries with great success. Raisins and dried fruits are usually heavily covered in preservative; rinse them well before adding to the must.
  12. This is a slow process. I once made a 3 gallon batch that fermented for more than 7 months - that's like 21 months in Hooch time.

In the Works

What's In the Fermenter Now?

I'm working on:


1 gallon of water

2 pounds of wild-flower honey

the other 1/2 package of yeast

I'm excited about the Mead and really hope that it works, but I'm a little apprehensive, too.

1. Honey doesn't ferment as well as sugar does due to its Ph level. Real Mead makers deal with this by adding Yeast Nutrients etcetera - again, this goes against the spirit of a good Hooch.

2. A proper Mead must be aged for at least 1 year to clarify and mellow it. Even them, Mead is known to give terrible hangovers. If the fermentation does work, I don't image that my +/-6 week old Mead Hooch will be any smoother.

I can't wait!

Have You Made Hooch/Wine/Cider/Beer/Mead at Home?

ToTheBrimm LM (author) on May 31, 2015:

I usually use 1 gallon water jugs or the large water jugs that are used in office water coolers (I get them at Costco or Sam's Club).

Empty 3 liter wine jugs work great too if you'd rather use glass containers.

Jess on May 30, 2015:

is it necessary to use those nice big glass jugs? Or would a plastic 2 L bottle work for starting out

julieannbrady on October 06, 2014:

How helpful is this? I think it is high time that I actually tried to make me some HOOCH! Can't decide which recipe to try first. Perhaps hard apple cider for Halloween? Say, I didn't realize that there was such a thing as wine yeast!!

marceladevivo on January 31, 2013:

We have, couldn't use the tub for a week!

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