The iconic M*A*S*H still

Earlier I stumbled across this fantastic history of the iconic M*A*S*H still. It is beautiful and evokes such great memories of a phenomenal show. I have always wanted one in my home.

From M*A*S*'s Prop Spotlight:

For eleven years, the cornerstone of the Swamp was the homemade distillery. Presumably, Hawkeye and Trapper built it together and it was a daily presence in their lives. Later, B.J. came to love the contraption just as much as Trapper. Over the years it was destroyed — once by Frank, once by B.J. — only to be rebuilt and returned to glory. Hawkeye called the gin it dispensed, often strong enough to curl your toes, the breakfast of champions.


  1. One comment on that page asks if it’s a functional still. Tee hee. This is television, and it’s a prop, silly.

    1. Sorry, it isn’t.  I was going to walk through the design, but PersonOfInterest already did at the MASH site:

      “It looks like it is largely for show. The copper coil needs to have more coils and/or be submerged in water to condense the alcohol or else you lose a lot as alcohol vapor. The plastic tubing at the top of the “pot” that connects it to the copper coil doesn’t sound like a good idea (hottest vapor hitting 1950′s plastic? – at a minimum I think the flavor would be affected). Several tubes appear to be completely for show (e.g. large plastic tube passing above and behind the coil). I am not sure about the heat stability of surgical tape, but I think the tape itself was mostly cloth back then – which might work. Now I am getting into the guessing area, but the metal array with the glass flasks hanging below it looks like something we used in P-chem to react different gases together and collect the resulting chemical. I can’t quite figure out how the copper coil outlet ties into the system, but it may be through the surgical tubing on the left of the array. Is so, the array is useless unless they are adding the “gin” to some flavoring agent in the flasks (juniper would be nice). Otherwise, they can just tap it straight from the coil to the glass like I think they did in the show.”

      I am not sure how an inefficient condenser would affect methanol content either.

      BTW, I had a bumper crop of plums this year and thought about making up some plum brandy until I found out home distilling is illegal everywhere outside of New Zealand.  :(

  2. I presume they harvested berries from local junipers so they could make gin instead of vodka. From what I know of the Korean climate, I would think there are plenty of junipers there.

    One question. There are no junipers here in SE Texas, the oaks and loblollies kill them, but in central Texas there are tons of junipers. People out there call junipers “cedars”. The two trees certainly look similar. Are they relate d? Bit cedars have cones. If junipers are conifers, how do they have berries? Anyone know?

      1. Texas “Mountain Cedar” here is a variety of juniper, and the berries are the same kind of “berry-like seed cone”, but it’s not the variety used in gin. 

    1. It’s easy to tell by looking at the needles (green parts). Cedars are flat, with segmented sections. Junipers are round. Other than that they look a lot alike. At least here in the Sierra of CA. I would imagine it’s the same everywhere. 

      Gin is not really made from junipers. It’s *flavored* with juniper, and other stuff. 

  3. Next up for extreme M*A*S*H geeks, could someone please post the rules to the game where they played some game of cards and the outcome of each hand affected their game of chess? The simplest thing would be to say that whoever wins a hand of cards gets to make a chess move, but that could be a really short game if one person wins a few hands in a row.

  4. i bought one of their IV-vodka bottle joke items in a antique store in LA a few years ago. i bet they were sold in a place like Spencer’s at the time. anyway, it brings back fond memories of this show, but what i wouldn’t give to have a prop replica of their still on the bar instead.

  5. This seems like something people would be interested in recreating, like how people recreate other movie and TV props. This has the advantage of probably being fairly easy to pull off, though it will certainly take a bit of scrounging to find the right fixtures.

      1. Yeah – I was thinking of Adam Savage when I wrote my comment. I’ve watched a few of those videos, he’s done some neat stuff! 

  6. it does not look at all functional in terms of having a good condenser, and the whole manifold set-up seems pointless.  Given the amount of hardware they would have had lying around in the army and the technical know how of surgeons, they would have put together something much nicer.  Of course, they would have been drinking the laboratory grade ethanol any way. 

  7. Based on what I’ve seen of my brother-in-law’s still, the one in the pilot episode is most realistic.

  8. . . . From what I know of the Korean climate, I would think there are plenty of junipers there.

    There are also too many drunks in Seoul.

  9. In ninth grade, inspired by M*A*S*H*, I built a still and won the science fair. School and county. 

    And today is the third anniversary of the death of Larry Gelbart.

  10. my obligatory, go-to quote for all things MASH-related:
    “white folks was MAD when OJ got off.  I hadn’t seen white folks that mad since they cancelled MASH!”
    –Chris Rock

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