Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Easy and Quick DIY Homemade Orange, Clementine or Tangerine Alcohol

My homemade alcohol, after I already drank a bunch.

I grew up in a house where alcohol was a fact of life. It was never a taboo thing, nor was it abused. I had alcohol from when I was a young age, a sip here and there, and my father drank alcohol a few times a week. (My mother hates the taste of alcohol.) I have never seen anyone in my family get drunk. My father would drink a shot or a glass, depending on what it was, and then go to bed. That's it. Of my five siblings, I think none of us have ever rebelled with alcohol or gotten drunk or remotely abused it, and I think a big part of it was because of how we were raised, with it being neither taboo nor abused.
A big part of the reason for the attitude towards alcohol in my house was the fact that my father was a brewer (masterbrewer is his nickname for himself). Having loved chemistry in college, he transferred his love to biochemistry in the house, and we regularly had at least a few different things brewing and fermenting at once. From when we were children, I remember a room in our basement, dubbed "the beer room" where our homemade alcohols were stored until use. My father made, predominantly, stouts, meads, and wines, but he also made sake one time, as well as miso (multiple times), and more.

Since moving to our current country, my dad no longer has a beer room, nor access to the special ingredients that are available in homebrew stores, but that hasn't stopped him from figuring out how to make his own homemade alcohol with what is available to him.

As for me? I like alcohol, I won't deny that. But as I said, I don't abuse it, and I've never been more than tipsy in my life. (I do have a moderately high alcohol tolerance, which means that I can have more than the average woman I know still without getting drunk.) I enjoy having a glass of wine for special occasions, or winding down from a long day with a drink or two. My favorite drinks, actually, are either cocktails or store bought mixed drinks like Bacardi Breezers or Smirnoff ice, hard lemonade, or sweet wines, though I do enjoy non sweet drinks and even bitter ones on occasion, even though my preference is for sweet.
The biggest issue I have about alcohol, though, is the expense. Because of various things that happened locally, to discourage too much alcohol consumption, high taxes were placed on alcohol locally, so a bottle of vodka or other hard alcohol can be very expensive. Wines and mixed drinks are cheaper, but since you drink more in one go, I'm not sure what actually works out to be more inexpensive per drink. I sometimes make my own mixed drinks, with homemade tomato juice and worcestershire sauce and vodka, or with a non dairy milk, sweetener, coffee, and vodka, or homemade mojitos with sweetener and lemon juice and mint and either rum or vodka or tequila, or just whatever other fruit juices I have with whatever hard alcohol I have. However, most times I have a drink, I feel like I'm wasting money because the cost of each drink adds up quite quickly, and think that maybe I should be spending money on more important things.

My dad, as I mentioned, makes alcohol now with cheap ingredients he could find locally, so I thought I'd make one of his current brews- alcoholic iced tea, using all cheap, local, easy to find ingredients. But the other day, when I went to make some, I realized I was all out of tea, so even that wasn't an option.

However, I did have a few clementines I bought cheaply, before the season really started, which were ok, but not the most flavorful ever, so I was wondering if maybe I could make my own alcohol using that, putting it to use in a way that I'd appreciate more than just eating plain.
I scoured the internet, trying to see if I could find a recipe for something similar, but struck out. So I decided to make up my own recipe on the spot. And since I wasn't investing a lot of time or energy into it, I figured, why not experiment?
I added a lemon and some ginger to the recipe, but to be honest, I don't really taste much of them in the final product, so I am not sure if I would bother using them again.

If you've noticed, for the yeast, I use just regular baking yeast, instead of champagne yeast (typically used for wine making) or beer yeast. A friend asked what the difference is when it comes to wine making, etc... Essentially the difference is that baking yeast is less alcohol tolerant- when making your alcohol, if you use baking yeast, you'll only be able to achieve an 8% alcohol level tops- any more than that and the yeast will die, whereas wine yeast can survive and keep on fermenting until it reaches about 14% alcohol.

The results were better and faster than I expected! After only 1 day it was already somewhat alcoholic, after 2 days it was quite alcoholic, and after 3 days I would even say it was ready to drink, and from taste and effect alone, I would guess it is about 6 or 7% alcohol, or thereabouts.
It is, as I expected, somewhat bitter, since I included the pith and membranes of the clementines and the lemon (I peeled them, but that isn't enough), but not super bitter. My husband likened the flavor of the drink to something similar to grapefruit- mildly bitter and citrusy, plus alcohol. Though bitter isn't my favorite flavor in the world, when it comes to alcohol it is something I don't mind (and in fact, beer usually contains ingredients like hops whose purpose is to make it bitter). Just be aware that if you are making this, don't expect a sweet drink- it is bitter, though not extremely so.
While I made this with clementines, feel free to make this with oranges or tangerines or whatever other citrus you have available.

I used white sugar for this because none of it gets left behind afterwards- the yeast eats it all and turns it into alcohol, so I don't bother using more expensive better quality sugars.

Total cost for my alcohol:
Clementines at 39 cents a pound, approximately one pound, so 39 cents give or take.
1 kilogram of sugar (2.2 lbs) at $1 per kilogram or 45 cents a pound, so $1.
Lemon that I foraged- free.
Ginger- don't know, but since I would leave this out next time, not counting it.
Yeast- really negligible, maybe 1 or 2 cents tops, so leaving out.
Total cost: $1.39 for approximately 2 gallons, or 7.5 liters.

Most mixed drinks that I buy are between 250 and 330 ml, so this is the equivalent of between 22 and 30 of those drinks. Each of those drinks cost me between $2 and $3 a pop, so this is about half the price for 22-30 times the amount, so I'd say that it works out to approximately 1/50th the price of what I buy, or 98% less.
The absolute cheapest wine I can buy costs approximately $4.50 per liter, so would cost me about $34 for this amount, which means that this is 1/25th of the cost, or 96% less.
How about mixed drinks? Vodka costs, at cheapest $14.28 for a 700 ml bottle, which is 15 shots, making each shot cost about $0.95, so each mixed drink with one shot costs $0.95 plus the cost of the rest of the ingredients... Which, if I would make mixed drinks that are about 250 ml, it would cost $28.50 for the alcohol alone in 7.5 liters of mixed drinks, let alone the other ingredients used in them. So at the very least, its 1/20th of the price, or 95% cheaper, but since those ingredients aren't free, it's even more cheap in comparison.

If you don't want bitter, but want to try something like this, I'd suggest peeling the membranes off the clementines/oranges/tangerines/oranges before making this, or juicing them and the lemon, instead of using whole citrus fruit.
If you don't mind it bitter, but don't want it overly so, just strain it, but don't squeeze out the fruit when straining, as that will increase the bitterness.
If you want it somewhat sweet, add extra sugar just before drinking, or let it ferment for less time. Alternatively, mix it with some fruit just right before serving.

One last point- if you don't like your alcohol so strong, but prefer something lighter, feel free to use just half a kilogram/1 lb of sugar for this recipe, instead of the written amount, and let it ferment just for one to two days.

This was so successful that I have since made yet another batch of alcohol using other ingredients, and it came out even tastier... but that will have to wait for another time.

Easy and Quick DIY Homemade Orange, Clementine or Tangerine Alcohol

7 clementines, oranges, or tangerines peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 knob ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon bread yeast
1 kilogram/2 lbs sugar

1. Peel and chop up your citrus fruit, removing as much of the pith as possible.

2. Put your citrus fruit, ginger, yeast, and sugar in a 2 gallon container (either glass, stainless steel, or food grade plastic). I used a glass jar with a spout, but the spout isn't necessary. (It does make it easier to taste it to see if it is ready.)

3. Fill the jar or container the rest of the way with water, leaving about an inch from the top unfilled, to give some room for expansion from the carbon dioxide formed during the fermentation.

4. Mix well, then cover loosely. (If you cover it tightly, it has the chance of building up pressure in it until it explodes. If you cover it loosely, or cover with a plastic bag secured with a rubber band, you give room for it to expand while still preventing things from falling inside.)

5. Taste daily. When it tastes as you like it, it is time to strain it.

6. Pour through a cheesecloth to get all the little pieces out, and to get it as clear as possible. Do not squeeze the fruit through the cheesecloth unless you want the drink to be very bitter.

7. Refrigerate until you drink. Because this is with live cultures, and does not use any ingredients to stop the fermentation process, if you leave it out of the fridge it will keep on fermenting until all the sugar is used up/all the yeast is dead, so if you want it to stay tasting the same as it was at the point at which you decided it was ready, putting it in the fridge will slow down the fermentation process (even if it doesn't completely stop it).


And go play around!

You don't need these specific ingredients to make your own alcohol. Just something for flavor, sugar, yeast, water, and a fermentation container.

Do you drink alcohol? What type of alcohol do you prefer? What was your family's attitude towards alcohol growing up, and how has it affected your view of alcohol today? 
Have you ever made your own alcohol? What was in yours?
Does this look like something you'd try out?


  1. Super interesting!Might give it a shot (pun intended) :)

  2. I drink wine on a regular basis. My husband drinks beer or wine. We aren't really into mixed drinks or vodka/whiskey/gin/bourbon. I drink One or two glasses of wine a day. My dad was an alcoholic so there's that to take into consideration. I never really got drunk until my high school graduation party...I will never drink Blue Maui Schnapps again! lol

    Never made my own wine but my mother sometimes does.

  3. Its unclear how big the glass jar is, so how much water would you say is necessary? Also how many days do I need to wait minimum?

    1. It is a 2 gallon glass jar, so the water is close to 2 gallons. You can wait even a few hours if you like how it tastes then, but from my experience, I started tasting the alcohol (maybe 2-3%) within 24 hours, and it tasted completely alcoholic (5-6%) within 48 hours. But the temperature in your house will affect how soon it is ready. The only minimum wait time is what you like.

  4. Thank you for this! I've thought of making my own alcohol but I've always been a bit leery as to the steps and safety. Would love to a future post of your favorite frugal alcohol recipes from your dad!

    1. I have another frugal alcohol recipe coming soon. :-D Can't wait to share, but didn't want to overload with too many alcoholic recipes in a row.

  5. This is great! Definitely going to try. Thank you for sharing!


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