Equipment Needed:

1 5-gallon bucket with lid
1 stirrin' stick
1 lg. kettle with lid (the one you boil spaghetti noodles in)
1 smallish bowl
1 squatty heavy-duty mug
1 pair oven mitts & tongs

5 lbs sugar
32 oz. ketchup (yep!)
32 oz. orange juice
1 1/2 gallons warm water
1 potato
1 or more bags of ice

An estimate of the amount of money I've spent on alcohol during my adulthood clocks in at around $15,000--and that's a conservative estimate. This contemplation, and possibly my humble rural white background, started me thinking: Hey, why don't I just make my own hooch? And, we're not talking brewing beer--I mean, any hippie can brew up a batch of Dreadlock Stout, right? What I want is what the FBI lovingly calls "moonshine."

Whenever you make alcohol of any kind--beer, whiskey, whatever--you have to start with a base product. This slurry of enzymatic activity is commonly referred to as the "mash." Think of it as a rough draft--only with booze. You work on the revision later.

Our mash is easy: Combine all of the ingredients except the potato; stir until dissolved. Next, cut the potato in half and plop the halves into the bucket. That's it! You now have mash.

Next, put a lid on your project (in more ways than one--the DEA frowns on moonshine so you may want to keep your experiment a secret). After finding a discreet, cool (but not too cold) home for your mash, secure the lid on your bucket. You should vent the bucket twice daily--for five days--by gently lifting the lid, careful not to disturb the contents.

Next is the extraction. For this segment, I personally devised a one-kettle distilling method that both simplifies the process and reduces the risk of blowing yourself up.

1) Place the kettle on the stove without heating it.

2) Place the heavy-duty mug upside down in the kettle.

3) Pour in the mash until it almost reaches the top of your mug. (The top of your mug should form a little island on which to place the bowl.)

4) Place the bowl (facing upward) on top of the inverted mug.

5) Next place the lid on the kettle upside down and fill the lid with ice.

6) Heat burner under kettle to "Med-High" making sure the burner isn't glowing red. If you're using a gas range, exercise extreme caution here. Remember, alcohol is extremely flammable and will explode if provoked.

7) The heated mash should now start evaporating toward the super-cooled lid. As it condenses there, it will trickle down and drip into your bowl. By the time the ice has melted in your lid, the bowl full of distilled spirits should be ready to empty out.

8) Be careful! You must now remove the lid full of melted ice without dumping the water into your booze bowl. This is where the tongs and oven mitts come in handy. Dump your top lid, retrieve your prize bowl and pour the rapidly evaporating booze into the vessel of your choice. A glass Mason jar is classic.

9) Refill and repeat as necessary.

After making two quarts of 'shine, I had to quit because I ran out of ice. That's a pretty good yield for three bucks! The result? Smooth and possessing the distinctive flavor of a harder-edged brandy. Ideally, this deceptively clear raw alcohol should be filtered through charcoal or even redistilled to remove any "blindness-causing" or "deadly" impurities. Enjoy!