Recipe For Disaster: What is Hooch and How it Kills
Mumbai: Opposition party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil meets the family members of hooch tragedy victims at the slum area of Malvani in Mumbai. (Photo: PTI)
Mumbai: Opposition party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil meets the family members of hooch tragedy victims at the slum area of Malvani in Mumbai. (Photo: PTI)

Recipe For Disaster: What is Hooch and How it Kills

It’s ridiculously cheap, attracts no excise tax and is brewed in small unregulated shanties. It could have you slurring in three swigs, immobile in half a bottle and dead after it’s empty.

99 Lives Lost

The Mumbai police has confirmed to The Quint that 99 people lost their lives after consuming spurious liquor or ‘hooch’ in Malvani - a small shanty town about 25 kms from Mahim in Mumbai on Saturday.

Five men and two women have been arrested, and eight police officials and four excise officials have been suspended. However, investigators are yet to ascertain where it was being manufactured. The police though, say that there are definitive forensic leads.

We have not been able to trace the source. Where was this hooch manufactured, that is the missing link in our investigation. As per preliminary investigations, doctors say it appears to be a case of methanol poisoning.
– Dhanajya Kulkarni, Mumbai Police Spokesperson

Mahua, Narangi, ‘Moonshine’, ‘Parachute’ or ‘Hooch’ – there are hundreds of varieties of country-made liquor made in hundreds of ways. The Forensic Science Laboratory in Mumbai is expected to submit its report in 7-8 days. Depending on the report, the police will be able to trace the source of the hooch.

How the Police Could Trace the Hooch

Typically, these are the ingredients that go into making hooch.

1. Coarse Jaggery
2. Local Yeast extracted from plants.
3. Citrus peels from orange, sweet lime, etc.
4. Other fruits like wild berries, pears, apricot, peaches.
5. Water
6. Methanol
7. Bootleggers are known to add organic waste, dead rodents, even lizards and battery acid for that “extra kick”.

How it is Made

1. Add the yeast, fruits to water.
2. Submerge the mix in warm water and leave undisturbed.
3. Once fermented, place the barrel on a wood-fire.
4. Place a bowl which will be needed to collect the concentrated alcohol inside the barrel.
5. Place a vessel containing cold water on top of the barrel and secure it tightly with cloth.
6. The vapour, which is pure alcohol condenses because of the vessel containing cold water and trickles down into the empty vessel.

Alternatively, giant-sized pressure cookers can also be used. Alcohol can be collected through a rubber tube connected to the pressure valve.

Hooch Selling for Rs 20 a Bottle

Concentrated alcohol thus collected is little in quantity. To make it viable at a commercial scale, it is diluted with water and other additives such as methanol and battery acid to make it more potent.

Caramalized sugar is added to give colour to the otherwise colourless or murky liquid.

A concoction as deadly as the one above was selling in Malwani for Rs 20 to 30 for an 180 ml bottle.

A Deadly High That Never Ends

Since this is a hit & trial (read: completely unscientific) recipe, hooch makers are often known to get their quantities all wrong when it comes to adding unregulated, deadly chemical compounds like methanol. It can cause breathlessness, blindness, slow motor responses, and can also lead to death.

What is really worrying is the sheer simplicity with which this deadly concoction can be made. And even more concerning is how it has spurred an illegal business network that continues to function across big cities and small villages with not just impunity, but with the blessings of the local administration.

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