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Old 09-11-2019, 01:18 PM
kaylasdad99 is offline
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“Bathtub” gin. . . huh?


Of course, anyone who has encountered references to life in Prohibition-era USA has heard about the concept of “bathtub gin,” apparently a libation that people would use to get their drunk on when circumstances (geographical or financial) made speakeasies inaccessible to them.

It’s always been my understanding that gin is a distilled spirit. As such, I’m finding it difficult to conceptualize how one could make it in a bathtub (my internal Venn Diagram of the sets of properties possessed by both bathtubs and distilleries is kinda teensy).

So did your average apartment dweller during the 1920s actually have a still operating in his bathroom? Or is the whole term “bathtub gin” a metaphorical way of denoting “opportunistically improvised methods for obtaining alcoholic beverages?”
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:23 PM
KneadToKnow is offline
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I'm not pretending it's authoritative, but: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathtub_gin
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:25 PM
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The Wikipedia page implies that actual bathtub gin (as opposed to broader use of the term) was made by taking grain ethanol and mixing in botanical flavorings and then topping it off with tap water from a bathtub.
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Old 09-11-2019, 01:37 PM
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You don't need a still, so you could still technically make some in a bathtub + freezer.

I am in no way suggesting that bathtub gin was ever made in this fashion.
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:13 PM
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You still (hee) have to macerate your botanicals in your alcohol base if you want gin, and the nearest big (no, bigger than that) tub people have is just that...the tub.
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Old 09-11-2019, 02:26 PM
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I always assumed it was the mash that was fermented in a bathtub, before distillation. You need a large container to ferment the mash. A bathtub would probably serve quite well.
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
I always assumed it was the mash that was fermented in a bathtub, before distillation. You need a large container to ferment the mash. A bathtub would probably serve quite well.
Does it need to be in a sealed container to ferment? Wiki doesn't say.

If my mother-in-law were still alive, I could ask her - her parents were bootleggers. Don't know if they made their own.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:29 PM
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Does it need to be in a sealed container to ferment? Wiki doesn't say.
Don't know about gin, but beer was traditionally fermented in open vessels. Here's one still (hee again) in use at Sam Smith's in Tadcaster. Scroll down just a tad (haw). Can't see why it would necessarily be any different for gin.

j
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
Does it need to be in a sealed container to ferment? Wiki doesn't say.

If my mother-in-law were still alive, I could ask her - her parents were bootleggers. Don't know if they made their own.

Regards,
Shodan
Fermentation is yeast + nutrients = alcohol + gas. A sealed container needs to be vented, either by occasionally opening it or a self-venting apparatus. Open containers are fine but risk contamination. The best compromise is a semi-sealed container that keeps the CO2 in the container, but leaks out excess to avoid explosion, generally through a water-filled airlock, though a balloon stretched over the top with a pinprick can work too.

As alcohol is inhospitable for many bacteria, "contaminated" in this context doesn't mean potentially harmful so much as anything that will add "off" flavors.

Last edited by thelurkinghorror; 09-11-2019 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:06 PM
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If the product is then distilled and sold to people who will drink anything, a few off flavors are nothing to worry about.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:42 PM
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As alcohol is inhospitable for many bacteria, "contaminated" in this context doesn't mean potentially harmful so much as anything that will add "off" flavors.
I can attest to this. I watched my then fiancé and friends as they proudly created what came to be known as the "red ant" batch of homemade beer. It was horrendous.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:58 PM
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If the product is then distilled and sold to people who will drink anything, a few off flavors are nothing to worry about.
True, but speaking generally as I don't think a Prohibition speakeasy employee could pop over to the local homebrew store.

In some cases, getting contaminated by airborne yeast is intentional, e.g. with lambic or some methods of cider/applejack making.
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Old 09-11-2019, 06:46 PM
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Does it need to be in a sealed container to ferment? Wiki doesn't say.

If my mother-in-law were still alive, I could ask her - her parents were bootleggers. Don't know if they made their own.

Regards,
Shodan
Here is a picture of a prohibition era still - looks more like a copper washtub than a bathtub but easy to see how it could work with a metal bathtub...
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