Cafe Society

DIY juice-to-alcohol kit turns bougie juice into bougie hooch

Producing alcoholic beverages is a time-honored enterprise, and creating tasty homemade hooch on the cheap makes good financial sense right now. For a measly $10, you can buy a "Spike Your Juice" kit, containing everything you need for six batches -- except the necessary juice and the crumpled brown paper bag with which to cover your hooch while you're sipping it on your porch (or behind a bowling alley). I was peeping to find some incidental household items with Star Wars themes when I came across the hooch kit. The cheery orange box boasts the experience of a "European Favorite" -- and I, like most other trend-whoring Americans, am always eager to sample anything that Europeans like.

The kit shipped quickly, and the box contained an airlock, a rubber stopper, juice recipes, write-able bottle labels and six "magic" packets of powder that, upon further inspection, contained yeast, organic evaporated cane juice and emulsifier. The first two ingredients make sense, and although I'm not entirely certain about the last one, I suppose no one really likes floaties in their booze. Case in point: Goldschlager began and ended its cyclical popularity in trailer parks around the country.

Choosing the best juice for my first-ever batch of hooch was important. The directions instruct you to use a 64-ounce bottle of juice, minimum sugar content of 20 grams, no refrigerated juices, no artificially sweetened or unfiltered juices; it's recommended that you use grape, cranberry, pomegranate or any blends by Welch's or Ocean Spray. I wondered if these endorsements were genuine or bought and paid for, all Morgan Spurlock style.

I chose a bottle of Whole Foods brand apple juice. It's fall, I wanted apple, and since I bought it at Whole Foods, I thought it would lend a hint of respectability to the proceedings -- just a hint, so my hooch wouldn't really be classy, just bougie. I unscrewed the cap, dumped the powder in -- no stirring required -- inserted the rubber stopper, filled the airlock with water, stuck in the stopper, and that was the extent of my physical effort.

I'm a big fan of labeling things. I once labeled a P-Touch, so naming and dating my hooch made it agreeably personal and mildly OCD-enabling. The directions state that after 48 hours of ferment time, the hooch is ready for sampling, but the longer you leave it, the more dry it becomes and the higher the alcohol content will be. My very own "Bougie Hooch #1" was born.

Waiting for anything good is torturous, and it was pretty fun to watch a foamy head form at the top of the container; the tiny bubbles moving from the bottom to the top of the container reminded me of sea monkeys. They also reminded me that staring at a bottle of apple juice was kinda creepy, and so I did my best to ignore the bottle until tasting time. At go-time I removed the stopper, inserted a straw into the liquid, and then into my eager spit trap. The hooch was very sweet, slightly effervescent, and tasted like a more sugary, weaker version of a hard cider like Woodchuck. I decided to let it sit for another 24 hours, because while taste is important, alcohol content takes precedence.

The next day it was slightly less sweet, slightly more bubbly, and it was time. I put the whole contraption in the fridge to chill -- leaving the airlock on it -- and then placed it in my backpack with the original cap so I could go out, violate some open-container laws, and share this marvelous brew with my fellow Cafe Society writers.

Someone procured a package of Dixie cups, and I poured a 3-ounce shot for everyone. Some of my comrades sniffed/eyed it suspiciously, but my first cup was delicious. So was my second. My fifth cup wasn't bad, either, and I started to notice a nice, warm buzz coming on by my sixth shot.

I vaguely recall roaming the Westword halls for a while, stumbling a bit, and I took one more shot for the road, even though I wasn't driving anywhere. Drunk driving is fucking stupid, but drunk walking should be a recognized Olympic sport. I had a killer buzz going by this point, and I recall standing outside the office waiting for my ride when a homeless guy came up and tried to bum a smoke off of me. I did him one better: I filled a glass with Bougie Hooch and watched him gleefully down it, blessing me for eternity.

I don't really remember the ride home very well. I woke up that evening with tousled hair, apple breath and a necklace made from cocktail wieners around my neck. I also had an assy headache. That hooch was righteous. I started my next batch, Bougie Hooch #2, the next morning with a bottle of Ocean Spray cran-grape-cherry blend. I don't think the actual alcohol content is on par with store-bought hard cider, but the small sense of accomplishment gained from turning my coffee table into a speakeasy was gratifying enough to offset the sheer amount of this stuff I had to ingest to get lit.

Some people make harvest wreaths or soup for fun. Liquor is better.

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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz