You can make a distilled spirit from just about anything, for example the Chinese were making distilled beverages from rice beer 2-3000 years ago, arak was made from sugarcane and rice, mead from honey, and brandy from grapes. The main ingredients are carbohydrates (like sugars, or something like barley that can be turned into sugar by enzymes) and yeast. Once you have your alcoholic base, say at 5 per cent ABV, you can use a still to evaporate the alcohol (which boils over 78.5 C) leaving the water (which boils at 100 C) behind.
After you cool the hot vapours in a condenser, the liquid will have a higher alcohol content than your base.
For example, kombucha is made of water, sugar, tea, and then a different yeast is added with more sugar to make it more alcoholic, however it appears that no-one had thought of going the extra step and distilling it – until 2021, when Dom Hurley and Shanu Walsh of Ventura Brewing found themselves with excess stock during lockdowns and asked nano-distillery Cabarita Spirits to give it a go, in what they say is a ‘world’s first’.
Apparently the resulting ‘Goodtime Moonshine’ has a ‘bright vibrancy and floral-citrus flavour’ with ‘elderflower, lemon blossom and hibiscus’ (from the ingredients of the original kombucha). The original kombucha was 5 per cent ABV, and the resulting kombucha spirit is 37 per cent ABV. But in addition to the satisfaction of producing an innovative product, both businesses said they also relished the chance to collaborate and create together.
As far as I can see, it’s not possible to buy the ‘Pacific Moonshine’ (which Cape Byron Distillery produced from kegs of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale in late 2020) anymore, so if you want to try some of this world’s first very limited ‘Goodtime Moonshine’, get in quick.