We all know the dangers of alcohol, but whether there’s a societal breakdown or you’re simply out of power for a few days, you’ll be wishing you had some.
Alcohol doesn’t go bad, which means it can be stored indefinitely. It also has a variety of uses, making it a must-have for survival stockpiles.
Even if you have a dry household, it’s wise to keep a few bottles of grain, ethyl, or drinking alcohol in your home for emergency purposes.
Alcohol as a Survival Tool in History
There are several examples of alcohol being used throughout history as a survival tool.
“Early Americans even took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey was a typical lunchtime tipple, ale accompanied supper and the day ended with a nightcap. Continuous imbibing clearly built up a tolerance as most Americans in 1790 consumed an average 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol a year.”
Why did early Americans drink so much? Because the water was unsafe!
During the Civil War, alcohol was given to wounded soldiers. Civil War Medicine reports, “Whiskey and other forms of alcohol also were used to treat wounds and disease ... though of questionable medical value, whiskey did relieve some pain.”
Alcohol has also proven to be helpful in bartering throughout history. Indigenous Corporate Training explains, “It was a common ploy to supply a great quantity of alcohol to the Indian traders prior to the negotiation process [in the 1800s].”
People have found alcohol useful for bartering in recent years as well. For example, during a January 2020 Newfoundland snowstorm, Andie Bulman told the National Post, “I’ve been doing dry January, so I mostly used my booze as leverage. […] I traded vodka for butter, gin for butter, rum for butter.”
[Related Read: How to Barter Your Way to Survival—Start Prepping Today]
Additionally, during the height of the pandemic, people used alcohol to make their own hand sanitizer.
Emergency Uses for Alcohol
Beyond the historical examples of alcohol usage for emergencies, there are many other reasons to include alcohol in your emergency stockpile.
#1 Disinfecting and Cleaning
Alcohol can be used to disinfect or clean surfaces. For example, you can use liquor to spray down a toilet seat, countertop, or cutting board. However, for it to work as a disinfectant, you need to let the alcohol sit for a few minutes and then rinse it with a clean, damp cloth.
It’s important to note that to fully disinfect, you’ll need alcohol with a higher proof (60% and up), so keep an eye out for higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) drinks.
#2 Starting Fires
The higher the alcohol percentage, the bigger the flame. Soaking cloth or tinder in alcohol is highly effective as a fire starter.
Another idea is to soak wine corks in a jar of vodka. When you need to get a fire started, use one of these vodka-soaked corks. Just make sure to stand back when you toss the match!
#3 Preventing Rust
Many essential survival tools will rust over time.
Use a cloth and alcohol to regularly clean these tools. This works well as a solvent for rust prevention.
Another suggestion is to soak rusty nails, screws, nuts, and bolts in straight vodka for at least an hour. Then, wipe them clean.
#4 Pain Relief
You can use alcohol for pain in several different ways, including as a sedative or pain reliever.
For example, whiskey mixed with honey can alleviate a sore throat, and a couple shots can ease general pain. To make a hot toddy (used to alleviate sore throats, colds, and coughs):
Get together your ingredients.
Boil 1 cup of water. Remove from heat.
Pour the water into your cup and add the ingredients. The honey…
Then the lemon juice.
Now your whiskey shot.
And voila! Sip and soothe!
You Will Need:
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 shot (45 ml) whiskey
- Boil 1 cup of water. Remove from heat.
- Add a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 shot (45 ml) of whiskey to the heated water. Stir until all ingredients are well combined.
- Allow to cool until safely drinkable and enjoy!
#5 Medicinal Tinctures
You can combine alcohol with herbs and plants to make homemade tinctures for wounds or colds.
For example, here’s how to make a tincture using bourbon:
Pour the turmeric into a jar with a lid.
Pour the vodka and the water.
Add a pinch of black pepper.
Shake the jar to mix, then seal and put away for six weeks.
You Will Need:
- 1 glass canning car
- Dried plant for your tincture base recipe
- Your choice of bourbons
- Using a glass canning jar, crush the dried plant you want to use for your tincture and pack it inside the glass jar.
- Pour enough bourbon to cover and put the lid on.
- Allow to sit for six weeks in a cool, dark place. Just make sure to pull the jar out once a day and shake it. Then, at the end of six weeks, you have a tincture.
#6 Ice Packs
Alcohol doesn’t freeze, so it is helpful when making ice packs. Use a mixture of water and alcohol for this recipe: the water will freeze and the vodka won’t. The solution should remain malleable.
Fill a container with equal parts water and vodka.
Soak a small towel or rag in the mixture.
Place the rag in a resealable plastic bag. Pour a little more of the mixture into the bag as well.
Place the bag into the freezer.
And then, just leave it to fully freeze!
You Will Need:
- 1 bowl
- 1 resealable plastic bag
- Small to medium-sized rag or towel
- Fill a container with equal parts water and vodka.
- Soak a small towel or rag in the mixture. Place the rag in a resealable plastic bag. Pour a little more of the mixture into the bag as well.
- Place the bag with into the freezer and leave it to fully freeze.
#7 Protecting Yourself
A bottle of alcohol can work as a weapon in worst-case scenarios. As mentioned, alcohol is flammable, so you can make a Molotov cocktail. Additionally, if your alcohol is in a glass container, you can break it to use the broken glass bottle as a weapon.
Whether it is a natural disaster or an economic collapse, there may come a day when you can’t get what you need at the grocery store. That’s where bartering goods and skills will come in handy. Specifically, items that people need—including multipurpose products like alcohol—work well for bartering.
#9 Capturing Bugs
Bugs are attracted to alcohol, and you can use that fact to exterminate them. While this can be used in everyday households, it is also a good trick for emergency situations when you are stranded outdoors and want to prevent bug bites.
You’ll need alcohol (we’ve used bourbon for our demonstration here).
Put out your bowl of liquor (beer or wine work as well), and bugs will be drawn to the scent.
Add a little dish soap so bugs get stuck and drown.
And place in a bug-infested location.
You Will Need:
- 1 bowl
- Liquid dish soap
- Alcohol of choice
- Pour alcohol into a bowl.
- Add a little liquid dish soap to the bowl and mix.
- Place the bowl in a bug-infested location to trap and drown bugs.
#10 Easing Skincare Issues
Many facial cleansers and toners have alcohol in them because alcohol is effective for cleansing skin and drying out acne. Some people use vodka as a facial toner on a regular basis. While this is great, it is also helpful for skin issues in emergency situations.
If you’re in a survival situation without access to running water or soap, alcohol can ease some of the issues caused by the natural environment, such as unrelenting mosquitos.
For instance, a little vodka dabbed on a cotton ball can stop the itching of bug bites or numb the skin. Also, ethyl alcohol works well to alleviate poison ivy itch.
Alcohol works well to displace moisture. Moisture causes bacteria to grow, and when bacteria grows, things start to smell. Apply vodka to your armpits and spray it on your bedding—the vodka will kill the bacteria and the smells as a result.
Watch any medical show where people are forced to perform surgery outside of the operating room, and the first thing the doctors ask for is alcohol. That’s because alcohol is an effective sterilizer.
Alcohol can be used to disinfect and clean wounds. Anything above 40% ABV can be used to disinfect wounds for first aid purposes, and anything above 60% ABV can be used as surgical alcohol, such as sterilizing surgical tools.
Most vodka contains around 40% alcohol content, so while it works for disinfecting basic surfaces, you want to choose something with a higher alcohol content, such as Everclear, when you are dealing with first aid issues.
#13 Dental Care
Alcohol works as a mouthwash and as a numbing agent.
Traditional mouthwash contains about 30% alcohol. If your purpose is to use the alcohol for mouthwash and not to take a shot, you would swish the liquor in your mouth and then spit it out.
If you want an ongoing bottle of liquor mouthwash, use this recipe from MythBusters: “Combine one cup of vodka with nine tablespoons of cinnamon and keep the concoction sealed for two weeks before using.”
The purpose of mouthwash is to kill bacteria. If you find yourself off the grid, this will help keep your teeth from decaying. Beyond using alcohol for a mouthwash, it works well in emergency dental situations. For example, if you have tooth or gum pain, rub whiskey, vodka, or rum on the area to ease pain.
#14 Cooking and Preserving
Not only can you use alcohol in cooking, but adding alcohol to fruit allows you to preserve it for a long time. You can also make different flavored extracts, such as peppermint extract, by soaking herbs in alcohol for one to two months in a dark place.
To make peppermint extract, simply soak mint leaves in vodka for one to two months, then strain the leaves and bottle the peppermint extract. The reason preserving is key to survival is that you can put foods and herbs that may not always be available to good use.
Sharing a drink is a common way to celebrate. Having a drink with others is one way to find joy and boost morale even in difficult times.
[Related Read: 6 Surprising Life-Saving Uses for Alcohol during a Crisis]
Tips for Stocking Alcohol
- What type to stock: The key is to stock up on alcohol that has an ABV of 35% or higher and has multiple uses, such as vodka or whiskey.
- Make your own: Be like the early Americans and learn to distill your own alcohol. If you have the supplies and tools necessary, you’ll never have to worry about running out.
- How to store: Glass bottles are less permeable than plastic bottles, so choose glass bottles when shopping. Keep your alcohol in a relatively cool place, unopened, and away from sunlight. It can be stored for years this way.
- Understand how it works: While alcohol can be a lifesaver in some circumstances, it can be dangerous in others. Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration, poor decision-making, and decreased core temperature. Use it carefully.
One last tip: Like every smart survivalist, learn to make do with whatever you have, including the container. Whether this means using the alcohol bottle as a weapon or using a beer can to fish, it can prove helpful in desperate situations.
According to Outdoor Life, “Even a can of cheap beer can be used as a survival tool in the right circumstances. Just ask Clifton Vial of Nome, Alaska, who was stranded for more than 60 hours outside of town on Nov. 28, 2011. […] Vial did everything he could to endure temperatures of 17 below zero. […] You guessed it, he turned to a few cans of frozen Coors Light.”
[Related Read: 14 Soda Can Survival Hacks]
Buy some alcohol and set it aside for when the time comes, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply