Did they really use to put X's on a jug to mean it was hooch?

Younger people might not have seen it, but there’s this stereotypical character of a backwoods hillbilly drunk, who always drinks white lightning out of an (apparently) ceramic jug. This jug almost always has a little finger handle at the base of the neck and three letter X’s on it which apparently is supposed to mean it’s a high proof alcoholic beverage.

With the sole exception of Dos Equis beer, and the apparently apocryphal and/or legendary Tres Equis beer, I’ve never seen this system used IRL to represent alcohol. Did such a standard system of symbols ever really exist otherwise?

The story is that moonshiners would write X on a jug to mark each time it had been distilled. The stereotypical XXX jug would be triple distilled moonshine.

“This ain’t no five-X whiskey! I can still see!”

And Dos Equis got the name because the formula was originally intended as a Special Edition to celebrate the arrival of the 20th century: Spanish uses Roman numerals for centuries. It’s got nothing to do with its being alcoholic.

I never heard that Tres Equis might be apocryphal. I used to drink it in the 1970s in Colorado.

I wasn’t being 100% serious, but I never did see it at UCSD, which is slightly odd considering the geography; you’d think it would happen just by default. Then again, my circle of friends and acquaintances tended to favor German beer.

I live in a part of the world where the locals did, in fact, mark their jugs in such a manner. A triply distilled corn whisky is about as close to pure alcohol as you can get outside of a chemical plant, and that is what the oldtimers still sell around here.

Fascinating. I didn’t know distallation happened in jug-sized amounts–unless they did a whole phalanx of jugs in one run.

No. X’s on a jug of home-produced spirits had nothing to do with alcohol. This was the method of identifying the initials of the moonshiners for those who were illiterate.

Ha! Here’s double that Dos Equis: XXXX beer

I love this question, and it’s why I love this board.

Amen to that. Thanks indeed to all of you who replied.

Tres Equis was readily available in Baja back in the 90s. It came in stubbies with an indentation in the bottom of the bottle for opening the next one. Seems the twist-off caps were rather sharp, and would cut your hand if you tried to open one like a Bud. It was the favored beer of our sailing group, mainly because it was so cheap.