Violet investigates: Is making your own alcohol worth it?

Can Devarshi Lodhia make booze in his room for less than the price of a bottle of wine?

Devarshi Lodhia

One drunk and proud boy with a bottle of Chateau DevCatherine Lally

If you need to know three things about me it’s this: I think the greatest moment in TV history is when the Big Boss Man stole The Big Show’s dad’s casket from his funeral, I still don’t quite get what the point of historiography is but at this point in my degree I’m too scared to ask, and I think wine tastes disgusting.

Call me uncultured and accuse me of lacking a refined palate, but the truth is wine tastes like grapey piss. When it comes to getting drunk quickly, I’ve got no problem with that – in fact my drink of choice for a number of years at pres was rosé. But the idea that it’s inherently a better drink than things like beer or vodka just because rich old people like it has irritated me for most of my adult life.

But what if there was a way of getting drunk on a cheap fermented fruit-based drink without having to pretend to know the difference between Chardonnay and Riesling? A quick google found there indeed was: it’s called pruno.

Everything you need to make your own prunoDevarshi Lodhia

Pruno (also known as prison wine) is typically a mix of whatever fruits are available in the prison canteen and commissary as well as a lot of sugar and bread to help the fermentation process. As I don’t live in prison (despite what Michel Foucault might think), I decided to make a slightly fancier version: with actual yeast instead of crumbled bread, and Sainsbury’s fruit, with the ingredients coming to a grand total of £5.50.


10 peeled oranges cut into wedges
10 browned, soft apples cut into wedges
1 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 yeast packet
16 oz and 1 cup warm water
8 oz can of fruit cocktail
1 packet of raisins

After getting all the prep done with the help of a few assistants and putting everything into a large Ziploc bag, I came across my first major issue. I tried to crush up the oranges and apples into smaller pieces but as I’ve only been to the gym once in the past 4 years, I lacked the upper body strength to do so. Despite my assistants both being stronger than I am, they too struggled to break down the fruit so I had to resort to sitting on my sack in an attempt to get its contents to the right consistency.

The Chateau Dev volunteers hard at work to crush the apples and orangesDevarshi Lodhia

After five undignified minutes of using my arse to crush the fruit with little to no success I decided to give up, add the water and yeast, give it a little slosh around, wrap it in a towel, and put it in my bin (and then in my suitcase in case of leaks).

Pruno’s quite a time-consuming drink to make, although it's a good way to pass the time if you have nothing else to do. But this also led to the second major problem I faced while making it: my self-esteem took a battering.  In order to keep the yeast alive and avoid your bag exploding, you’ve got to burp it and bathe it in warm water every day.

Burping and bathing the sack became a daily ritualRugile Matuleviciute

I found myself repeating what has become my life mantra – “I’m a serious journalist and a proper adult” – every time I was forced to haul my yeasty bag of rotting fruit into my sink for its daily wash and burp. Safe to say it’s not quite how I imagined my 20s panning out.

I repeated the process for a week, gradually seeing the bag’s contents disintegrating while around day four the smell got so bad I almost threw up. However, because like renowned Vice journalist, Tom Usher, I too am married to #content, I push on in the name of science and journalism.

A week of washing, burping, drying, and rebagging later, the time had finally come to taste the fruits of my labour. It was time to drain the yeasty boy. Traditionally in prison pruno is normally filtered through a sock but Amazon had a banging deal on cheesecloth so I decided to further gentrify my recipe and use that instead.

The smell of success filled my nostrils Rugile Matuleviciute

Filtration proved to be the third and most difficult obstacle to overcome. Pouring my contents of the bag through my cheesecloth and strainer whilst extracting all the juice from the fruit proved too much for someone with one hand. Thankfully my assistants from earlier were there to help, and bar a small spillage, three filtrations later we were done!

After a week of graft it was there – a litre of the finest pruno anyone had ever come across (I think, I don’t actually know anyone else who’s ever had any).  All that was left to do was taste, and I’m pleased to inform you that there were hints of “orange juice after you’ve brushed your teeth” and “booze”. One senior member of the Varsity team said: “It’s actually got a better aftertaste than actual taste” which I judge to be a success.

Chateau Dev pairs incredibly well with carbonaraRugile Matuleviciute

Ultimately I’d achieved my goal of making a cheap alternative to wine. Would I do it again? Definitely not. The yeasty smell which is still kind of lingering around my room, coupled with the effort, means I’ll probably just stick to beer in the future.

Thanks to Rugile Matuleviciute, Sian Bradshaw, Jonas Thyregod Wilcks, and Yvan Bollet-Quivogne for being such great volunteers.