In the Spirit: Moonshine

by Kristen Siebecker

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 21, 2014

White lighting, hooch, bathtub gin, white whiskey, panther's breath, ruckus juice and wildcat are but just a few of the terms for the drink commonly called moonshine. You don't have to travel to the backwoods of Appalachia to find them... just go to your local liquor store.

What is moonshine? Once illegal, It''s really a ball-of-wax term for a distilled, un-aged spirit. Nowadays, with new distillation laws, this spirit is legally available to the mainstream. Ingredients usually include a corn-based mash; much like bourbon, but it is not aged and is clear in color. Currently, many distillers now produce a cornucopia of flavored moonshines that typically sweeten the usually hard, harsh flavor of pure moonshine.

Why is it called moonshine? This American product historically was simply something people made in their backyard and sold to locals-all without government oversight or taxation. The moonshine makers or brew masters, were called "Moonshiners," originally a British term that alluded to any job done under cover of darkness.

In recent years, while there are still many people making moonshine for in-home use (you can even find brewing kits online), 2009 brought more lenient distilling laws and many producers hitched themselves to the moonshine bandwagon.

Here are a few examples of producers that are coming into the mainstream. All of these moonshiners utilize the classic recognizable mason jar bottling, hearkening to a tradition of home canning a product that is not necessarily made for the public eye. These spirits are incredibly versatile over ice and super enjoyable to use in cocktails. Let your creativity run wild and enjoy the many uses of this American spirit. In addition to these recipes, there are a plethora listed on their websites that are clever and a great way to use this American-made spirit.

Climax Moonshine, Virginia
Moonshiner Tim Smith spent decades defying the law, and is now defying the odds doing what moonshiners in previous generations couldn't - bringing his authentic backwoods recipe to the public for legal consumption. Georgia and South Carolina are the first states to get a taste of Smith's illegal-gone-legal Climax Moonshine.

Climax Moonshine, $34

Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, Tennessee

One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of this moonshine is from Jesse Avraham, manager at St. Marks Wine and Liquor in New York, "Ole Smoky is the Capt’n Crunch of spirits, unsophisticated but delicious!"

Their website claims that "The Holler" is America’s most visited distillery and was the first in Eastern Tennessee to become federally licensed. Founder Joe Baker is Smoky Mountain born and bred with pride that his family business brings forth the well known, previously illegal, juice to the masses.

Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, $27

Equal parts:
Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine
Ole Smoky White Lightning
Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine
Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine
3 parts sour mix

Firefly Moonshine, South Carolina

Proudly declaring themselves largest distillery in the state with the tour to prove it, Firefly owners Jim Irving and Scott Newitt were formerly in the wine business as a winemaker and distributor. Southern born and bred, they both wanted to work on a distilling project and decided to "pass the jar" together.

Firefly began with an original still made out of stainless steel, 55 gallon drums and a few plumbing pipes which they still use as the prototype for their current distillation process.

2 parts Firefly White Lightning Moonshine?
3 parts Cream Soda

Firefly Moonshine, $20

Midnight Moon, North Carolina

Junior Johnson has a life story that is ingrained (pun intended) in moonshining activities. He was even a bootlegger (a name derived from the on land transporters and distributors of the illegal drink who wore boots that would conceal the "property") for his father and served a bit of jail time 1956 for related activities.

2 oz. Midnight Moon Apple Pie
Orange Slice
2-3 pieces of Crystallized Ginger
Muddle orange slice and crystallized ginger in a shaker. Fill shaker with ice, add Midnight Moon Apple Pie and shake. Strain into ice filled glass, top with splash of club soda.

Midnight Moon, $21

Kristen Siebecker is a Certifed Sommelier and lover of cocktails. She is the co-host of I Feel Vine, a weekly podcast about the power of positive drinking. She also hosts recreational wine classes under the title, Popping Your Cork. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @WineWithKristen.

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