What is Hooch? (with pictures)

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Hooch is often made from corn.
Hooch is often made from corn.

Hooch is a colloquial nickname for an illegally distilled corn or grain-based alcoholic beverage, also known as moonshine, PGA (pure grain alcohol), or creek water. The creators and imbibers of hooch generally understand the relative inferiority of the product compared to aged whiskeys, but it's a risk they are willing to take for an inexpensive intoxicant. Hooch production usually begins under cover of darkness, as the distiller creates a mash of corn, sugar, water and active yeast in a large copper pot. The interaction between the yeast and the sugars converts a portion of the mash to ethanol, the basic form of alcohol present in all consumable alcoholic beverages.

The first run of hooch often contains dangerous levels of methanol.
The first run of hooch often contains dangerous levels of methanol.

The ethanol must be separated from the remaining solid mash in order to make hooch. This is achieved through a homemade distiller unit, which could be a professional arrangement of copper lines and gas burners, or an ad hoc assortment of a car radiator and ancient copper tubing. The fermented mash in the copper pot is carefully heated just to the point of evaporation, not boiling. This is an especially tricky portion of the hooch-making process, requiring constant supervision and temperature adjustments. The ethanol vapors collect near the top of the closed pot and are drawn through a small opening. This conical opening is connected to a coiled copper line.

Hooch is another name for moonshine, which is made in a still.
Hooch is another name for moonshine, which is made in a still.

As the hooch vapors begin to cool or condense, droplets of pure ethanol form. A car's radiator is occasionally used as a condenser, even though it may still contain traces of propylene glycol, or anti-freeze. The coiled tubing may also led across a running creek to provide some additional cooling and condensation. The finished hooch drips slowly from the end of the tubing into waiting vessels, traditionally Mason canning jars or clay jugs. The very first run of hooch often contains dangerous high levels of methanol, a toxic form of alcohol also known as wood alcohol. In order to prevent accidental poisoning, the moonshiner will usually discard the first and last batches of hooch during an average night's production.

Authorized beverage stores may market distilled mash whiskeys as "Pure Grain Alcohol" or even "Georgia Moonshine", but the term hooch is rarely mentioned in public except as a pejorative against inferior or cheaply-produced grain alcohols.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular DelightedCooking contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular DelightedCooking contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

xkellyjeanx

can hooch if had in 2-3 shots cause a person to pass out and not remember a night out?

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    • Hooch is often made from corn.
      Hooch is often made from corn.
    • The first run of hooch often contains dangerous levels of methanol.
      The first run of hooch often contains dangerous levels of methanol.
    • Hooch is another name for moonshine, which is made in a still.
      Hooch is another name for moonshine, which is made in a still.
    • Hooch may be called creek water because sometimes the tubing runs across a creek for cooling.
      Hooch may be called creek water because sometimes the tubing runs across a creek for cooling.