There are a lot of exciting uses for fungi out there, from mushroom ketchup to antibiotics. Alcohol made from mushrooms is another common way to feature mycology in your life.
Contrary to what you might expect or wonder, beer, wine, and spirits crafted from fungi aren’t hallucinogenic or psychedelic. Instead, these drinks stay true to the spirit of the beverage in question.
With the addition of mushrooms, of course.
In the case of beer and wine, fermented mushrooms doctor up beverages, while spirit distilling has a different best method. People drink mushroom-based alcohol for many reasons. For some, it’s about transferring the umami-packed taste of this unique food group into a sippable quencher. For others, alcohol made from mushrooms allows you to turn the imbibements you commonly consume for fun into something functional.
Whatever you’re drinking, there’s probably a mushroom-based for it.
In 2001, a report in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry detailed a process in which several genera of shrooms – oyster, enokitake, and Agaricus blazei – were used to brew wine.
These different mushrooms were used in place of a typical microorganism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae (also known as brewer’s yeast).
The fermentation experiment of T. Okamura et al. resulted in an alcoholic beverage under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. The oyster and Agaricus blazei had a relatively high alcohol content (between 12% and 8%, respectively), while the enokitake mushrooms developed a low alcohol concentration.
However, the latter two have something else in common.
Both fermentations resulted in libations that had potential functional benefits. Wine made from Agaricus blazei had a composition of 0.68% beta-glucans, a compound related to anticancerous antioxidant effects.
Similarly, the wine made from enokitake had significant thrombosis-resisting properties, which could be beneficial in preventing blood clots. And this isn’t the first time in history that someone has gotten the idea to make wine (or beer or liquor) from mushrooms.
Some connoisseurs have a particular craving for the umami-packed matsutake mushroom.
This fungus, which grows in symbiotic relationships throughout pine forests in Korea, China, and Japan, cannot be cultivated. It’s believed that this mushroom has significant health benefits when eaten as a food, from strengthening the immune system to regulating the flow of qi. Research has also shown that it’s high in protein, essential amino, and glutamic acid.
Instead of consuming it just as food, though, there are some instances where these mushrooms are turned into alcoholic beverages. Korean matsutake wine is one example.
Retailers are sparse, but general methods to produce matsutake wine are out there. A patent filled in 2009 gives home brewers a good direction: a measure of pure grain alcohol is combined in a mason jar with dried or fresh matsutake, along with Chinese wolfberry, dates, and rock sugar.
As for getting your hands on the matsutake, that part is more accessible. Dried packets of these shrooms can be found on Amazon or Instacart, while fresh options can also be sourced from farmers and food companies like Regalis Foods.
Another recipe from Happy Homestead offers a method for making mushroom wine from button mushrooms. Along with the use of yeast and sugar, this recipe also calls for the addition of marmite if you’re into that sort of thing.
Not to be outdone, hopheads have also joined in on the trend of alcohol made from mushrooms. Some might say the peak of the mushroom beer rush has passed, but others (us!) can see a potential for it to get much more exciting.
In 2017, The Take Out reported on the mushroom brew sensation, citing shroomy craft beers that had popped on menus across culinary hotspots like New York City and Chicago.
Three years later, companies like Fungtn began emerging on the scene, offering low-ABV, gluten-free, adaptogenic drink options for a market with a serious appetite for functional beverages.
These days, there are loads of instructions to follow that can help you make your own mushroom homebrews, like these ones from Beer & Brewing. They involve adding fresh or dried mushrooms to the wort after the enzymes have had some time to work through fermenting sugar.
If you prefer spirits, don’t worry — there’s an alcohol made from mushrooms, too. Distilling mushroom liquors can be done in a few ways, but the best way to retain the nuanced flavors of fungi is to infuse your spirit, as in this recipe from Food52.
Infusion is simple, only requiring you to soak mushrooms in your liquor of choice for a few days at a time before straining clean. It’s unclear whether or not this leaves much of the possible nutritional benefits of mushrooms behind, but it is a great way to keep the unique taste of your chosen shroom.
Infusion is also how New York-based Mushroom Spirits Distillery makes its specialty line of fungi-filled booze.
The company sources pure corn ethanol from another NY distilling operation before running it through a copper still and then infusing it with either enoki, hen of the woods, or shiitake mushrooms.
According to an interview with Modern Farmer, co-owner Joe Rizzo has had to clear each mushroom product with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
“They wanted to be sure each individual mushroom we were using wasn’t poisonous or so-called ‘magic mushrooms,’” Joe told Modern Farmer.
Currently, bottles from Mushroom Spirits Distillery are available for sale at the Ithaca and Rochester, NY, farmers markets or at the company’s tasting room. We’re sure that we’re not alone in hoping that changes very soon.
Alcohol made from mushrooms has been on the radar for a while, but it’s clear that changing tastes are stoking a new wave of interest.
And if you’re not much of a drinker, brands of nonalcoholic mushroom-based beverages, like De Soi, are spreading through the market like mycelium on the forest floor.