There is an old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Overwhelming evidence that this statement is true can be found behind prison walls. Prisoners have extremely limited access to items that people in the free world take for granted. This means everything is repurposed and nothing goes to waste.
Their limited access to items also forces inmates to get creative if they want any material comforts from home. If you want to wear a warm pair of socks in winter, you have to knit them yourself (or pay someone to do it for you). If you want to read a good book, you have to request it through the library, or have your family mail a popular book through Amazon.
If you want a drink to forget your worries for a few hours, the only option an inmate has is to make prison booze. Which leads us to today’s topic: what is prison spirits, and how do prisoners make it?
In this blog post, I’ll cover the following topics:
- prison wine goes by many different names
- how to make spirits
- Making spirits is a profitable prison hustle
prison wine goes by many different names
Prison wine goes by many different names. Some call it prison wine or toilet wine, others pruno. But no matter what you call it, one thing is for sure – you won’t enjoy drinking it. Hooch was made from moldy bread and other food available to prisoners. It’s also cooked in the shower and filtered through filthy prison uniforms. Trust me, you don’t want to drink it.
There are basically three different types of spirits that can be brewed in prison: fruit wine, potato wine or tomato wine.
how to make spirits
Before prisoners gather their spirits ingredients, they must make sure they have the proper tools ready. Most inmates will use a pair of prison khakis for cooking and storing their booze. Yes, a pair of pants.
First, you have to cut off the leg as high as possible. Then, you have to sew the bottom and line the legs with two garbage bags.
as a former prisoner put it repair“You’ll need sugar and water; two pounds of sugar per gallon of water. Unless it’s cider—then only one pound of sugar per gallon.”
Once your pants are lined with garbage bags, pour two and a half gallons of water into each leg. Next, add five pounds of sugar, five cups of mashed main stock (diced tomatoes, oranges, apples, or a fruit cocktail), and one cup of tomato sauce for each pant leg.
This will “help kickstart it and make it turn faster.” As the fruit rots, the spirits cook and ferment, turning the sugars into alcohol. However, this is a process and you have to know what you are doing. Ventilation is very important.
“Wrap the top of the trash bag around a pencil case – leaving an opening – as close as possible to the liquid and let it breathe,” said the inmate. “You attach a rubber band to the tube. Then you take the pant leg, roll it up right over the opening and tie it. Then you have to find a place to hang the bag.”
Finding a warm spot that the guards won’t notice is a challenge. However, you must have a warm place as it will cook the wine faster. It must be able to stand intact for a week. No kicker is even longer. Most inmates will find a place in the shower, behind the toilet, or in a vent.
Prisoners can use old potatoes or ketchup for a kicker. However, your best bet is yeast. Of course, it’s hard to get hold of in prison.
“You can have a kicker in a little vitamin bottle,” says the inmate. “You take some aged fruit, like orange wedges, put it in a bottle with some sugar and water and let it rot,” the inmate said.
Once the wine is cooked, you have to strain it through a dirty prison sock.
Each inmate makes their prison wine in their own unique way, based on what they have access to. This is a recipe from a former prisoner.
what do you need:
- a garbage bag
- 3 containers orange juice concentrate
- 1.5 cups sweetener
- 3 dinner rolls or slices of bread (for sourdough)
- tap water
Mix all the ingredients and tie the bag, leaving enough room for the gas to expand. Let it sit for five days, “punching” the bag once a day to release the gas. (It’s best to do this right after the nightly ID count, as the guards won’t be there for a while and the smell of fermenting juices is pungent). If the smell starts to turn sour, add more sugar.
In about a week, it should be ready to drink…if you dare.
Making spirits is a profitable prison hustle
If you know how to make spirits – and it’s drinkable – you can make big bucks in prison. A gallon of gasoline can sell for $25. And, you can pack five gallons in a pair of pants. Making spirits is a good thing. But you have to really know what you’re doing to be a good drinker and get away with it.
There are many ways to get caught when brewing prison wine. Burping at the wrong time can create an odor that the guards won’t ignore. Cooking it in the wrong place can also set you broke.
“When you’re making wine, it’s when and how you do it that matters. It’s against the law, so you have to be smart,” said one former prisoner.
If you were in prison, would you drink alcohol? Let us know in the comments below.