also hootch, "cheap whiskey," 1897, shortened form of Hoochinoo (1877) "liquor made by Alaskan Indians," from the name of a native tribe in Alaska whose distilled liquor was a favorite with miners during the 1898 Klondike gold rush; the tribe's name is said by OED to be from Tlingit Hutsnuwu, literally "grizzly bear fort."
As the supply of whisky was very limited, and the throats down which it was poured were innumerable, it was found necessary to create some sort of a supply to meet the demand. This concoction was known as "hooch"; and disgusting as it is, it is doubtful if it is much more poisonous than the whisky itself. [M.H.E. Hayne, "The Pioneers of the Klondyke," London, 1897]
updated on September 25, 2018