Free booze (almost)

There are times when there is just too much term left at the end of a student loan. It can play havoc with one’s drinking habits. Some will resort to playing minesweeping, a game of distraction that works better in pairs: one distracts and the other steals the drinks. There are easy prey and harder — couples with fresh cocktails more interested in eating each other’s faces off than the drinks in front of them are the wildebeest of this game; poor students clutching the single pint of the night are impossible, the ten tonne elephant.
Minesweeping puts the Bullingdon Club to shame from a moralistic stance — and depending on who your victim is you’re fairly likely to get a good hiding. Fortunately there are other ways of getting your booze for either free or for very little money, and as a homebrew author I’m here to help save you from getting black eyes just for wanting a quick drink.
When I was writing Booze For Free, people kept telling me about how prisoners made their grog. I decided to look into it further and found that what they made was a kind of hooch from anything they could get their hands on. I had a go at making it using what I had to hand and I found a drink far more palatable than I first thought possible, it wouldn’t win any awards but nor did it make you gag on the first mouthful. Of course, on the outside we have the luxury of being able to use clean equipment rather than a toilet bowl — I’m sure that must help. That said, this recipe’s origins means that precision is far from important. 
A journalist friend of mine tried this recipe out at a dinner party, calling it “Carceribus vini” and using pomegranate juice. One of the guests was a self proclaimed wine buff, yet everyone enjoyed it and even the sommelier finished off the bottle! Give it a go and see for yourself.
1.5 litres of any fruit juice, especially if it is past its best before date
2 slices of brown bread
500g sugar
1 long prison sentence (optional)
3 litre plastic bottle with lid
Old t-shirt
1. Place the bread into a bowl of warm water and leave it to soak for 10 minutes, then squeeze each slice so that the water turns a lovely light brown. 
2. Pour the sugar into the plastic bottle, cover with warm water and shake vigorously until it dissolves. 
3. Filter the bread mixture through the t-shirt into the bottle, add the fruit juice and shake again. Ensure the lid is attached and put the bottle in a very warm place, such as by a radiator or in an airing cupboard, preferably out of sight of prying scouts.
4. As carbon dioxide will build up in the bottle, it will need to be loosened regularly (three times a day) to allow it to escape. Failure to do this will result in a rather messy and smelly explosion, but after about 3-5 days you will have your hooch. The alcohol content varies with every batch, so beware!
Andy Hamilton is the author of Booze For Free and Brewing Britain — The Quest For The Perfect Pint. You can visit his blog at


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