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A Prohibition Era Wine Recipe

Updated on November 9, 2014

An Ancient Art

The basics of wine making are easy and inexpensive.

Wine is nothing more than fruit juice that has been mixed with yeast which converts the sugar in the juice to alcohol. The alcohol then preserves the juice by killing off harmful bacteria that cause juice to become sour and cause sickness or death.

Wine making was one of the few ways humans had in ancient times of preserving food so that it could be stored and used throughout the year rather than having to consume it all at harvest.

Grapes are ideal for wine making since yeasts grow naturally on the skins of the grapes and the sugar content of most varieties of grape is high enough to both ferment into alcohol while, at the same time, having enough sugar remaining to sweeten the wine.

Brew a Beverage and Re-enact History

With the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution on January 16, 1919 which allowed the Federal Government to ban the production and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, the nation entered into a decade long experiment in which the government tried to stamp out consumption of alcohol while, at the same time, enterprising Americans set new records for the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Because the chemistry involved in making alcohol is so simple, many people simply brewed their own drinks and life continued as it always had.

Here is a Prohibition Era recipe, using the same common household items that our great-grandparents used to make wine at home while avoiding detection by the Feds.

Grape wine can easily be made at home and without the need for special equipment.

The making of wine at home is now legal in most parts of the U.S. so long as you are of age, it is for your own consumption and you don't try to sell it.

While the taste and quality will not compete with the inexpensive wines that can be found in the local supermarket, it is drinkable and allows you the satisfaction that comes with serving your own “basement bottled” wine with dinner.

Ingredients and Equipment Needed

  • 1 One-Gallon Glass Jug
  • 2 12 Ounce Cans, Frozen Grape Juice
  • 1½ Cups, Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon, Wine Yeast or Dry Baker's Yeast
  • 3/4 Cup, Warm (NOT HOT) Water
  • 6 Inch, Piece of Twine
  • 1 Funnel
  • Two or Three foot length of ½ to ¾ inch clear plastic, Tubing


  1. Clean and sterilize glass jug by washing with warm, soapy water and rinsing thoroughly. Then run it through the dishwasher where the heat will sterilize it.
  2. It is very important to make sure that the jug and all utensils used in the making of the wine have been sterilized by running through the dishwasher. This will kill any bacteria which will spoil the wine if it comes in contact with the wine.
  3. If using frozen juice concentrate, thaw and mix in clean container that has recently been washed in dishwasher. You can use either tap water to mix the juice or distilled water (if you use distilled water you will avoid picking up any chlorine taste that the tap water might contain).
  4. f you use regular, rather than concentrate, grape juice, pour juice into clean container.
  5. Add sugar and stir until thoroughly dissolved.
  6. Pour grape juice and sugar mixture into gallon jug using funnel to avoid spilling. Fill to just below the neck of the jug.
  7. Mix and dissolve yeast in ¾ cup of warm (not hot) water, then pour into jug.
  8. Affix balloon securely over the mouth of the jug and secure with the twine.
  9. Place jug in cool (constant 70 degrees is best but temperature can vary some) dark place (basements are ideal) and let sit for 3 to 4 weeks. As the yeast acts on sugar converting it to alcohol, carbon dioxide will be released as a by product. This gas will be released into the balloon and the balloon will enlarge (which is why you want to use a large, thick balloon – you don't want it to break). As the fermentation comes to an end, carbon dioxide production will cease and the balloon will tend to deflate.
  10. After about 3 – 4 weeks you will see the balloon deflating and the juice becoming clear. There will be sediment on the bottom of the jug.
  11. At this point,remove the balloon and and use the plastic tubing to siphon juice into a second sterilized jug. B careful not to disturb or transfer the sentiment. The sentiment can be poured down the drain.
  12. Securely cap the jug containing the wine with a screw-on cap or cork stopper. Store in a cool place for 6 to 12 months while it ages and then serve.


3 stars from 1 rating of Home Brewed Wine

If you find you enjoy this, then visit wine making sites on the Internet to learn more about making wine from both grapes and other juices.

At this point you should invest a few dollars in slightly more sophisticated gas locks to replace the balloon and start increasing your production of your home brewed wine.

You might also find it interesting and informative to visit some wineries to see how the professionals produce wine.

States like California and New York have many wineries which usually offer free tours and tastings. Smaller wineries are popping up all over the nation so you may find one or more near you.

In addition to online venders of wine making supplies, wine making and brewing supply stores can be found in many cities around the country. These are often staffed with people with a passion for making wine and who can provide suggestions and advice as well as explaining the proper use of the equipment and supplies they sell.

© 2006 Chuck Nugent


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    • Felicity45 profile image


      6 years ago


      That sound like great fun. I like the idea of using the whole grape and celebrating at every milestone.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Felicity45 - for this recipe artificial yeast is needed because the grape juice used - either canned or frozen, has had the yeast bearing skins removed and I would imagine any remaining yeast would be killed by the freezing for fresh frozen or heat from the canning process for bottled grape juice.

      I had a friend whose grandfather had come from Italy and brought a grape press with him which had been given to my friend. One year we ordered a few hundred pounds of fresh grapes from a wholesaler and made wine using just the grapes with their natural yeast and natural sugar.

      We got a lot of friends together and had a party of sorts to crush the grapes and start the fermentation process. We got together again a few weeks later for the bottling of the wine. A few months later when the wine was ready we had another party and divided the wine up. It was great fun and a great experience.

    • Felicity45 profile image


      6 years ago

      Have you tried it with whole grapes? and if yeast is naturally on grape skin why do you need to add yeast? just curios, i find this all fascinating.

    • Hendrika profile image


      7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      The proses intrigues me, but I think I will give it a pass! Wine yeast will not be all that easy to get hold of and I will be too impatient to let the wine mature.

    • Dr Rockpile profile image

      Dr Rockpile 

      7 years ago from USA

      Grape juice and balloons. I imagine many folks used the excuse of a child's birthday party when buying the wine making necessities. LOL

    • Guyana Masala profile image

      Guyana Masala 

      7 years ago from New Jersey are speaking to my history-loving heart. lol

    • marystobias profile image


      8 years ago from Napa,Sanoma

      Thank u........nice hubs...

    • aleida_77 profile image


      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      In Vino Veritas!!!

      Great article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Deutschland

      thank you that is interesting

    • profile image

      Danby Wine Cooler 

      8 years ago

      After years of disliking wine I have finally come to enjoy the taste of several different wines. As my interest is growing it is great to read articles such as this one. Very informative.

    • razashah profile image


      8 years ago

      I take a lot of advantage and useful knowledge from this blog,thanks to its creater.

    • profile image

      James: Make Homemade Wine 

      8 years ago

      Great hub, I make my own wine all the time but I have never used the ballon method you speak of, I think if you want to have a go at making wine then there are some things you need to go and buy, but hay if the ballon works for some of you out there then fair enough!

    • adorababy profile image


      9 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      The quality of wine depends predominantly on the commitment of the wine maker to providing good wine.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Cool hub!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Rose Barrett - It is legal to brew wine for your own use but illegal to sell homemade wine with out a Federal Tax Stamp and state licenses.

    • profile image

      Rose Barrett 

      9 years ago

      This would be great to try but I'm not sure if I have the patience! Can someone make this for me and I'll just buy a bottle to try?

    • MarkAse profile image


      9 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Thanks for the Moonshine recipe! I will say making homemade alcohol is certainly much more difficult then most people think. Keeping adequate cleanliness is very important!

    • Tucson Auto Glass profile image

      Tucson Auto Glass 

      9 years ago from Tucson Arizona

      It's amazing what you can find on the internet! Thanks for sharing your killer wine recipe. I'm going to have to try this out and maybe surprise the wife!

    • websclubs profile image


      9 years ago

      A Prohibition Era Wine Recipe

      Wine is nothing more than fruit juice that has been mixed with yeast which converts the sugar in the juice to alcohol. Women must be 18 and men 21 the drinking age

      Easily be made at home (this is now legal in most parts of the U.S. so long as you are of age.

      (Please drink responsibly and in moderation)

      Wine making was one of the few ways humans had in ancient times of preserving food at harvest: stored and used throughout the year. Find out more>>>

      Chuck I enjoyed following this topic!

      It's very useful information about the U.S. History of Prohibition.

      Thank You for shearing.

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      9 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      For those of you interested in the lethal qualities of "moonshine", it was often distilled in copper 'stills having lead soldered joints. The hot alcohol-laden steam passing over this solder absorbed lead and poisoned the drinkers. Also the first few ounces of distillate contain low alcohols, also poisonous, and should be discarded.

      The distillate should be carbon filtered to absorb remaining impurities.

      Correctly made Moonshine" is usually purer than commercial Vodka - no taste, no smell, and a kick like an Arkansas mule.



    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks one more for your help !

      We might have kept the carbon dioxide a bit too long, but we still got a wine with 9.51 % of alcohol ! Although there is one last thing that i was wondering about : grape juice is needed to accomplish your recipe, although back then, were they actually using grape juice ( was it sold in the markets ? ) ? And if not were they making their own juice by cultivating grape ?

      Thanks in advance!

      I read your page on how to brew root bear and ginger ale : it looks very interesting and fun to make as well !

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Paul - thanks for your comment.

      As to your question, I suspect that the carbon dioxide slowly bleeds out of the balloon after the yeast have been killed by the alcohol which stops the fermentation and the corresponding production of carbon dioxide.

      I only tried this a couple of times many years ago and then went out and purchased a gas lock to use in place of the balloon. You want the carbon dioxide to escape from the bottle but you don't want outside air to enter because it will more than likely bring in bacteria with it and that will cause the grape juice mixture to simply go sour. At the same time you don't want to trap the carbon dioxide in the bottle by caping the mixture with a tight cap as that will cause the carbon dioxide to dissolve in the mixture which will halt the fermentation process and give you a carbonated grape soda pop with a very low level of alcohol (see my Hub on making rootbeer and ginder ale this way:

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you both for your time,

      I myself made the wine experiment folowing that recipe of yours. Our experiment went great, but the balloon wont get any smaller. Is there a scientific explanation for this? And I was also wondering what was the importance of keeping the carbon dioxide?

      Thanks again!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Dresden Shaemus - Thanks for the commenting and explaining how bathtub gin was made and why the end product could be dangerous.

    • profile image

      Dresden Shaemus 

      10 years ago

      Bathtub Gin, AKA Railroad Gin, was often poisonous due to the lack of care that went into the making of it. Obviously, there was a very high demand for alcohol during prohibition, and people would often risk getting these poisonous varieties by buying them from nonreputable sources.

      These types of illegal liquors were made by trying to remove the toxins from industial grade alcohol and then adding juniper flavoring. Often the chemist was not skilled enough, or did not care, to remove all of the poisonous toxins. This would sometimes result in the untimely death of said purchaser.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Paul, thanks for visiting and sharing your comment about bathtub gin. I have heard of bathtub which, like the article you linked to, states was a product made during the Prohibition Era. I don't know how to make it and I do recall my high school chemistry teacher saying (just as the article you linked to states) that people often died from drinking it.

      While the brewing of beer and wine in one's home is generally legal in most states in the United States, it is my understanding that the making of distilled alcoholic beverages, which I believe includes gin, without a license is illegal.

      My advice is to go to a liquor store, if you want hard liquor.

      As for gin, I tried a few sips of it once at a party and for the entire evening I couldn't get rid of the taste of pine in my mouth. That was enough for me and, to this day, have no desire to drink it again let alone try to make it even if it were safe and legal to do so.

    • profile image


      10 years ago


      Thanks again for your answer. Also, i've found this web site about bathtub gin, it was saying that the consumption of it could lead to blindness or death. Since you so much know about wine making during prohibition, i was wondering if you knew anything about bathtub gin? And how we could make it like they use to do it...?

      Thank you

      By the way, our making of the wine went great, we are still wating for the balloon to deflate!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Paul - I don't have any recipes but people can basically make an alcoholic beverage by regular fermentation as I described above and can use a distilling process which keeps the alcohol but reduces the quantity of other liquid thereby making a beverage with a greater alcoholic content. I presume that the quality of such beverages made in this manner is considerably less that what an adult can now days legally purchase in the liquor department of stores.

      Good luck with your project.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hey, I am doing a science project with my class mates based on : The making of alcohol during prohibition and its consequences on people. I was just wondering if you knew any recipes of any other strong alcohol that tey were making at that time? And what would be the bad effects of this wine on the people..?

      Thank you in advance...

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      cheers for this recipe!

      I just tried it out and I had one concern - my brew didn't fill to the neck of my one gallon glass jug even with the yeast/water added. Will that extra bit of air (it's more than 3/4 full) cause a problem esp. with contamination? is it transferred to age without ruining the wine when air hits it? If it was commercial wine opening and re-corking would get you some vinegar. Is this essential, will the flavour be ruined if drank after the first month?

      Thanks Again!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      12 years ago from San Francisco

      This is really cool. I've fermented yogurt, kefir (ask your wife about this stuff), and kombucha at home. I'll have to try wine next.


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