How to Survive Prohibition


I started watching Boardwalk Empire lately. The first disk of Season 1 arrived from Netflix nearly a month ago and has been lying around ever since. We’re probably in the top ten favorite customers for Netflix. We watch a lot of streaming vide0 (mostly TV shows), but when it comes to those disks in the mail, we’re very slow. Sure, there are spurts of activity. Like right now, with the Oscar’s quickly approaching, we’re trying to get in every nominated film possible, including even the documentaries (one of our favorites) and even stuff just nominated for a song or technical bit. We’re literally turning disks around in a day, watching them as they arrive. But for whatever reason, we decided 11pm on a weekday night was the perfect time to start watching Boardwalk Empire. We watched the extended series premiere and episode 2 back to back, making it a very difficult morning. I can’t wait to get the next disk, but with Oscar season, I have a few weeks to wait.

For those of you who haven’t seen Boardwalk Empire, it’s set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the prohibition era. The show starts with a countdown the eve of when alcohol becomes illegal and looks at the mobs and corruption of rising speakeasys and the continued flow of booze. I was amazed how much of a joke the series makes it seem. The country is dry, but you wouldn’t even notice being  in AC. It got me thinking about bathtub wine, moonshine, and homebrewing, and how one would survive their boozy fix if they needed to rely on their own.

Did you know home distilling is illegal? In most countries actually. Who knows if things will change. Homebrew has made a huge comeback and winemaking as well, so maybe the number of micro distilleries popping up around the country (Brooklyn has NO shortage) will inspire the laws to change the trend to follow. It’s not so much that I’m concerned about breaking the law, more of an issue becomes where to find guidance. So for the time being, distilling is not in my future. Infusing however, is a completely different story.

I’ve been enjoying my liquor infusing lately, turning cheap vodka into gourmet quality gifts. It got me thinking, what else could I make. After a little research, it turns out Gin is basically a neutral spirit infused with botanical. There’s a cool kit you can purchase online, or just do what I did and create your own “kit” with a few herbs, some vodka, a funnel and coffee filter.

I would like to note that I AM NOT a gin drinker. It spells like pinesol to me and tastes even worse. I’ll stick to my wine and vodka, thank you very much. My husband, however is a huge fan. This gin holds his official seal of approval.

Homemade Gin (adapted from Gourmet)

  • 1 (750ml) bottle of inexpensive vodka
  • 2 tbsp juniper berries
  • 3/4 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 (2-inch-long) dried lemon peel
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers

Filter vodka three times, using a coffee filter lined funnel. This helps neutralize the spirit further. I used a quart sized glass milk bottle for the process, but any jar that is large enough to hold 750ml and can be sealed works.


Add juniper berries to distilled vodka and let infuse for about twelve hours overnight.


Crush the remaining herbs slightly with a mortar and pestle and add remaining spices and herbs in the morning and let infuse for a full 24 hours.


Don’t be alarmed by the brownish color, this is proof that the botanicals are infusing. In commercial gin, they use a vapor infusion process, rendering the alcohol clear. However, when directly putting botanicals into the alcohol, a clear liquor is impossible.


The next morning, strain out the botanicals and start making your favorite gin cocktail!

8 thoughts on “How to Survive Prohibition

    • Pouring it through the coffee filter makes the vodka more neutral. It actually leaves a slightly oily residue on the filter. Another method I’ve seen is using 100 proof vodka. I’m curious what would happen if you used even higher like everclear.

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