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DIY Wine and Spirits: Making Homemade Hooch Like a Boss

by Celia Salvadori

Some people consider making your own wine or spirits a hobby, while others view it as an art. Making your own alcohol isn't difficult; people of varying abilities and experience are doing it, and long before the Discovery Channel show “Moonshiners” became popular, too (if you haven't caught this fascinating show on cable.tv and Dish Network, it's a must see).

Here are some tips to join in this do-it-yourself trend:

DIY Wine

Grapes have always been the main ingredients in wine-making. Now other fruits can be added or substituted to give each bottle a robust, sensational flavor. Strawberry, peach, plum and even apple wines have their perks.

One advantage to making your own wine is that you can use organic fruit, whether it's from your own backyard or your local grocer. Try growing your own from seeds, using a metal trellis.
A fermentation vessel and the juice of the fruit of your choice are the first things you'll need. Some recipes calls for diluting the juice to add volume, but we prefer the full flavor.

Pressing fruit by hand may sound interesting, but some hobbyists prefer to use an electric blender or juicer. Cut up the fruit, boil it and add a little water to help extract the juice. The traditional way to cipher the juice out of grapes is to crush them with bare feet, but this option doesn't appeal to most casual wine makers.

Add sugar and yeast in the correct proportions and wait for fermentation. Usually, it takes nine to 12 months to make a great bottle of wine, but it can be ready in as little as 45 days – it's up to you.

DIY Spirits

Homemade spirits are more complex. Spirits require trial and error, blending and mixing, and experimentation with liquors, flavors, spices and other ingredients that may or may not be suitable.

There is little restriction on the type of ingredients one can use in a homemade infusion. Two factors to consider are the complexity of the individual flavors and how they will taste combined. Try starting out with vodka – it has a rather nondescript taste on its own and can easily be infused with grapes, strawberries or apricots.

On the flip side, liquors with strong individual flavors (think whiskey and bourbon) don't go well with ingredients that have little strength of their own, like cucumbers. These aren't the best choices to pair with most fruits, either.

When making spirits, the ingredients don't need to be cooked. Old or stale spices can be toasted to revitalize the flavor, but for fresh spices this step is not necessary.

Adding vanilla beans, peppers or herbs can intensify the flavor of your alcohol in as little as 24 hours.

Homemade spirits should be fermented at room temperature for approximately seven days.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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