How to Make Homemade Hard Liquor


"Hard liquor" refers to distilled spirits which generally average about 40 percent alcohol by volume. Common hard liquors, including whiskey, gin, rum and vodka, are made from corn, barley, rye, sugar cane and potatoes. This article teaches you how to make potato vodka, which is a fairly easy hard liquor to make at home. If you would like to experiment with this recipe, try substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes. This recipe makes about a quarter of a gallon, or one liter, of liquor.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 pounds potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
  • Purified water
  • Pressure cooker
  • Pot or reflux home distillery kit
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • 1 teaspoon of yeast (brewer's or baker's)
  • Funnel
  • 5 cotton balls
  • Activated carbon
  • Collection container (glass sealable bottle is best to prevent strange flavors)

Preparing the Potatoes

  • Peel potatoes and cut them into cubes.

  • Place the potatoes into the pressure cooker and cover them with a generous amount of water. Make sure the potatoes are submerged.

  • Turn the heat to high on your pressure cooker. Cook the potatoes until they are almost liquefied. This process should take between 40 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on the size of your cubes.

  • Let the potato mixture cool. Once it has cooled, strain the potatoes using a fine mesh strainer. Keep all the potato juice, as this will become your liquor.

  • Add yeast. Loosely cover the mixture. Air should not be able to get in, but make sure you allow a space for air to escape. Fermentation will cause gas expansion and will blow your lid off if it is on too tight. Let this mixture, also called "mash," sit for two weeks.

Distilling The Liquor

  • Use either a pot still or a reflux still to distill your liquor, ridding it of impurities and increasing the percentage of alcohol in your liquid. If you have a pot still, you will need to distill your mash at least two times (try three or more times if you would like a purer, clearer vodka). If you are using a reflux still, you only need to distill your liquid once.

  • Thoroughly clean all parts of your still before each use and between repeated distillations of the same batch of liquor to prevent any off flavors.

  • Pour the mash into the large still pot. Place its collection pan underneath the hose. Turn the still on.

  • Discard the first and last 50 milliliters you collect (the first and last 50 milliters contain methanol, which is very dangerous and can even cause blindness). Once all the juice has steamed from the pot, the liquefied steam you have collected is your vodka.

  • If you used a pot still, repeat this process at least once more.

Filtering Your Vodka

  • Put the cotton ball in the bottom of the funnel.

  • Place a piece of activated carbon on top of the cotton ball.

  • Pour your vodka through your filter, letting it drain into a clean collection container.

  • Repeat as many times as you like.


  • Dilute your vodka with purified water. Distilled vodka is strong, making it both dangerous and hard to drink. Slowly dilute your vodka, stirring and tasting as you go, until you reach your desired liquor.

  • Add a spicy pepper, a small amount of herbs such as rosemary or basil, crushed berries, a vanilla bean or a cinnamon stick.

  • Let your flavor additions soak in the vodka for at least a week. You can also divide your vodka into two or three small batches to experiment with different flavors.

Tips & Warnings

  • This article should be used for informational purposes only. If you are not a professional or expert, it is dangerous to make hard liquor at home. It is possible that you will brew methanol, which can cause blindness or even death, instead of ethanol.
  • Also, making liquor at home, especially with intent to distribute, may be illegal in your state.
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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