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Hooch, a largely American colloquialism for ‘cheap fiery alcoholic spirits’, originated among the ethnic peoples of Alaska. A small tribe that lived on Admiralty island called itself Hutsnuwu, ‘grizzly bear foot’ (a name variously transcribed by Europeans as Hootzenoo, Kootznahoo, Hoochinoo, etc.). It seems that they distilled their own brand of liquor, which American trappers and traders got to know as hoochinoo, or hooch for short (‘Whenever whisky runs short the Yukoner falls back upon a villainous decoction known as “hootchinoo” or “hootch”,’ c.1898, quoted in Pierre Berton, Centennial Food Guide, 1966). Hence, by the early twentieth century, any old improvised spirits that came to hand were known as hooch.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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