It is on your local liquor store shelves, it carries big brand names on the front of the bottle, we even have television shows dedicated to the stuff. Moonshine has hit the mainstream and it is not looking back. There are different flavors and packages and even different sentiments on what truly moonshine is to be called “shine.” I am here to help clear up some of the myths and questions behind it.
I always thought moonshine was the stuff that your funny talking, live off the land uncle kept underneath the kitchen sink. So high in alcohol that he uses it to clean his hunting rifle in his downtime. Some of this might be true but there is more to moonshine than most realize. The term moonshine is believed to come to be as a result of when it was made. It is a basic spirit that is usually made from corn but grains are also used. The illegal practice of making it from homemade stills in the woods usually happened at night so as not to be caught. It was and is made by “the light of the moon”
& BOOM. MOONSHINE IS BORN.
It holds other names as well, such as white lightning, mountain dew or hooch. The only thing that made this usually high octane spirit is the moonshiners don’t pay federal tax. Instead they hide their stills deep in the woods and sell it in the cover of night hoping federal agents are always a step behind.
Which brings us to why we see it now in stores and bars around the country. As most of you know as long as you pay the tax and set up with a third party distributor you are able to bring the previous illegal hooch to the public. This will really cut down on the sleepless nights and paranoia that your profession could soon place you in a comfy jail cell. This is why you are seeing some pretty big names getting into the “shine” game as a result of its popularity. Some of it might be marketing but most are working and successfully making some phenomenal stuff. I leave it to you to find your particular palette prefers.
Another thing I heard growing up is that moonshine typically will have a flavor added to make it easier to drink. This one is true and it typically shows up in the form of peach, strawberry, blueberry and even apple pie. This is usually added in by the way of whatever local fruit you can get your hands on. I can say the apple pie shine is some good tasting stuff. Typically bottled in Mason jars or pickling jars the fruit is either strained out or left in the jar to ensure you know which flavor sits in front of you. There are often sugars added to help sustain the spirit and keep it from biting back when you tilt back the jar and take a swig. You will also notice that most of the choices you have in the store will hover around 100 proof rather than some crazy number like 190 proof like we were led to believe growing up. That is not to say that illegal stuff does not pack a wallop. Another thing you hear when you’re younger is that it can make you go blind. That would fall more into how it is made. Like any distillate the first liquid that comes up can hold a lot of impurities and pretty harmful stuff. That is why we distill our spirits and why most do not prefer to use that at all. The distiller will taste it now and again until they feel the purity and heart of their hard work shines through. I would be worried about what some of those backwoods stills are made out of. What did that evaporating coil come off of before it became part of your bootleg enterprise? Just saying there is a reason why we say buyer beware.
I hope some of this helps and opens your eyes to some of the stories behind moonshine and what it is. Head to your local store or bar and see what flavor or style they have available and grab a bottle. I recommend either use them for a sipper or grab a dry cider and add it to your favorite white lightning for a pleasant twist. I even hear that there could be a shine that is rum based that might be within our grasps to try soon. Whatever the truths or the fun myths and stories behind this spirit of lore do not be afraid to give it a shot. It will not make you go blind but if you drink enough of it in the Florida sun you might be howling at the moon before you know it. Cheers