Gimme some Hooch!

Prohibition brought a profusion of ills, one of which was the proliferation of bathtub gin. It wasn’t always gin, and it wasn’t always made in a bathtub, but it was everywhere. Anyone could fashion a still with a copper boiler, some pipe, and a few gadgets from the hardware store, and people breaking the law tended not to be fussy about recipes. White lightning, rotgut, moonshine, panther sweat—it had a hundred names and as many unpredictable ingredients, like embalming fluid or creosote. Everyone knew of someone who had gone blind, been paralyzed, or died from drinking bathtub gin. Even a smuggled-in foreign bottle with a fancy French label was no guarantee as labels could be counterfeited and the booze adulterated.

Prohibition lasted the entire decade and longer, right into the Thirties. During these years, a huge vocabulary of slang grew up around liquor and illegal bars. Here are some of the words I’ve come across that were in common use—only a few are still in use today.

LIQUOR  SLANG                   

hooch

brown

brown plaid

coffin varnish

hair of the dog

horse liniment

panther sweat

rotgut

white lightening

monkey rum

tarantula juice

corn

giggle juice

jorum of skee

shine

snort

bootleg

belt

busthead

strike-me-dead

bathtub gin

moonshine

BAR SLANG

saloon

speakeasy

scatter

blind pig

gin mill

joint

juice joint

gin joint

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