Merriam-Webster defines moonshine as an “intoxicating liquor especially: illegally distilled corn whiskey” while Google provides this answer – illicitly distilled or smuggled liquor. In the history of spirits, moonshine has achieved a high level of notoriety because it is always associated with gangsters, prohibition, and illegal production and sale.
As an alcoholic drink, moonshine is a high-proof distilled spirit, a clear, unaged whiskey made of corn (American moonshine) or barley (Scottish and Irish moonshine).
It is because this illegal alcohol is usually produced somewhere remote and during the evening to avoid being discovered by law enforcement that led to the use of moonshine to refer to this kind of alcoholic drink. Moonshining is a practice found all over the world. In the US, moonshining is an important part of US history.
A big part of what defines moonshine is what it represents: the common folk’s protest against government taxation. Because it is home-made, moonshine is a symbol of independence and defiance. And because it represented the people’s stand against government taxation, moonshiners were often portrayed as heroes especially during the Whiskey Rebellion. Ironically, the image of moonshining took a 180-degree turn and they were perceived as criminals.
Demand for moonshine skyrocketed during the Prohibition because people turned to illegally-produced and illegally sold alcohol. There were several drawbacks. Because of the demand, many started moonshining and many used sugar instead of corn to produce watered-down whiskey. Gangsters moved in, which crippled and endangered moonshiners. It became a criminal enterprise, and law enforcement agencies were determined to catch moonshiners and shut down moonshining.
- Moonshine helped families survive especially during bad harvesting seasons. No, they didn’t drink moonshine to silence the pangs of hunger; low-value corn crops were used to make good whiskey, giving moonshiners a source of income.
- Do not confuse Mountain Dew and mountain dew – the former is a carbonated soft drink brand, and the latter is a nickname that refers to moonshine. Other nicknames include hooch and white lightning, and many others.
- Many runners – or those whose job is to transport moonshine and bootleg (illegally imported alcohol) from source to destination, went jobless after Prohibition, and the races they organized to stay sharp as drivers were considered as the beginnings of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). Some of the successful NASCAR drivers were former runners.
- Afghan moonshine called zarbali is made from raisins, while raki – Albanian moonshine – is made from fruits like grapes, apples, blackberries, cornelian cherry, strawberry tree, mulberry, persimmons, figs, and walnuts.
- Caves and abandoned mining tunnels were used by moonshiners to produce moonshine and avoid detection.
Moonshine Buying Guide
The first and most important thing to remember about buying moonshine is to know if it is legal for moonshiners to produce and sell moonshine. There are countries where moonshining is allowed so long as it is for private consumption and not for sale and this includes private selling. Another important thing to remember when buying moonshine is to buy from someone who has been selling moonshine for a long time. Because it is not subject to regulatory standards meant for quality control and safety, moonshine can be toxic if the moonshiner lacks training or fails to inspect his production for any potential source of contamination or toxicity.
It is also worth mentioning that today, spirits and liquors are branded as moonshine but in truth, these are legally-produced spirits that use the term moonshine hoping it could help entice buyers. Their justification for using the term moonshine is that unaged whiskey bottled after distillation qualifies as moonshine, thus explaining the irony of legal moonshines sold in stores today.
If you are serious about buying genuine moonshine, it is advisable that you take some time to research and gather information that can inform your decision on where to buy, whom to buy it from, and if this is what you really want to drink considering the availability of other spirits in stores. Home distillation, or moonshining, is illegal in the US. If you are looking for a genuine moonshine, search inside the Appalachian region because moonshining is still practiced here.
Moonshine Production & Farming in Texas
Even without a license and not a dime charged for paying taxes, hobbyists can brew up to 100 gallons of beer a year or make wine. Federal law allows this. This leniency does not extend to distilling liquor. Moonshining a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. according to Texas’ state law. This hasn’t deterred Texas moonshiners possibly because of the lackadaisical attitude of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission towards arresting and jailing offenders.
That said, currently, several products brand themselves as “moonshine” made in Texas. Bone Spirits’ Fitch’s Goat Moonshine, Crystal Creek Moonshine, prickly pear and jalapeño moonshine from Hill Country Distillery, Ranger Creek .36 White Premium Texas Moonshine, and Ironroot Republic Distillery’s product named Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
In other spirits, sugar is considered as an additive, but when it comes to producing moonshine, sugar is a necessary ingredient to help in the fermentation. A possible additive used in moonshine is glycerin, which can help make moonshine have a smoother taste.
Moonshine is commonly bottled in mason jars, although moonshine is also sold in bottles. It is highly unlikely that a genuine home-made moonshine packaging includes a label since moonshiners have always wanted to be discreet and avoid being found. Moonshine is sold by word of mouth and any form of advertising that could be incriminating to moonshiners, including putting labels on mason jars, is inimical and counter-intuitive. Legal moonshine, on the other hand, has a label.
What was used to make moonshine and the entire process of making it affect the taste of moonshine, which explains why the possible taste of moonshine varies. In terms of finish, some brands may have that rough, strong finish while others could be smooth. In terms of taste, some may say it tastes like vodka while others may say whiskey, and detect hints of spiciness or taste of vanilla or corn.
Like other spirits, you can drink moonshine neat with or without ice, or as a base spirit for cocktails. You can make classic whiskey or vodka or rum cocktails and replace whiskey with moonshine.
Store moonshine in a glass container especially if you are storing moonshine for a long period of time. Do not put it where it is directly exposed to sunlight. Where you keep moonshine (location and storage) will affect the condition and taste of moonshine, so don’t be surprised if it tastes different somehow compared to how it tasted fresh from the still. Keep out of children’s reach.
Make your own Chocolate Moonshine
Chocolate drink is comfort food for us, reminiscent of our childhood. Even as adults, we enjoy eating and drinking chocolate because it is yummy and simply irresistible. Chocolate and spirit go well together. The sweetness of chocolate complements the bitter taste of alcohol. Chocolate moonshine shooters are perfect for fun, casual, easy drinking. This is a good way to introduce moonshine to those who haven’t tasted it yet and have reservations about drinking moonshine because of its history as an illegal substance.
This recipe yields 16 shots of chocolate moonshine
- Moonshine, 1 cup
- Dark chocolate, 8 ounces
- Light cream, 1 quart
- Sugar, 1 1/4 cup
- Water, 1 cup
- Vanilla, 1 tablespoon
Step 1. Break the chocolate into small pieces.
Step 2. Place in a saucepan. Melt over medium heat.
Step 3. Add sugar.
Step 4. Add water and vanilla. Stir well.
Step 5. Boil for 2 minutes and then let cool for 20 minutes.
Step 6. Add moonshine and stir well.
Step 7. Pour in a mason jar or anything that you can store in the fridge or freezer.
Step 8. Shake well before serving to break the soft, smoothie-like consistency before pouring in a shot glass.