Moonshine is Making a Comeback

I know when I hear “moonshine,” I think of bathtub gin and Prohibition. And though “moonshine” was originally a slang term for incredibly high-proof spirits (often produced illegally), it’s now defined as “clear, unaged whiskey.”

Moonshine has been officially legal in the United States since 2010, and is most often made with corn mash as the main ingredient. Complex reports, “Moonshine is essentially an un-aged whisky, traditionally clear with a hint of corn. It is perfect for sipping or using as a substitute in cocktails.” Since the liquor is not aged, it’s bottled straight off the still and can absolutely not be aged in barrels.

Some new products have hit the market that make moonshine sound actually, well, appealing. Huffington Post points out that the idea of “legal moonshine” is kind of an oxymoron – one of its original defining factors was its illegal-ness, though it wasn’t always illegal. Today, moonshine is made from malted barley and rye instead of corn, and comes in a rainbow of flavors.

Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine is bottled in on-brand Mason jars, and comes in several 100 proof flavors like Blackberry, Apple Pie and Hunch Punch. They also sell Moonshine Cherries, which are maraschino cherries soaked in Ole Smoky’s original moonshine, creating highly alcoholic cherries floating in a “lingering sweet nectar.”

Midnight Moon Moonshine is distilled from American corn, and the fruit-flavored varieties come in jars that are hand-packed with berries, cherries or peaches, so there are no artificial flavors or colors. I don’t think many moonshine drinkers are health-conscious, but I appreciate the effort.

The brand still uses Junior Johnson’s recipe – his ancestors were some of the first to make moonshine in Appalachia in 1791 during the Whiskey Rebellion – and the family carried on that tradition for decades after. Junior himself was actually a Nascar driver, but was arrested in 1956 for a moonshining conviction. President Ronald Reagan granted Junior a presidential pardon 30 years later, and his moonshine making tradition has been able to continue.

If you’re not one for drinking straight moonshine out of a jar, you might get lucky and find the stuff stirred into a craft cocktail at a bar near you. In Washington D.C, Crimson Whiskey Bar is reportedly featuring several drinks made with moonshine. A vendor at the New York State Fair this year was selling Moonshine Mules on tap, made with Black Button’s Apple Pie Moonshine, Ginger Beer and a lime garnish.

Butcher Bar in New York City’s Lower East Side offers three moonshine cocktails, including a mimosa made with champagne, orange juice and strawberry moonshine; the Old Fashioned Apple Pie, made with (you guessed it) apple pie moonshine, muddled cherries, oranges, bitters and cinnamon; and the Full Moon Rising, which features 100 proof moonshine, lime, pineapple and grenadine.

Have we finally found an alcoholic beverage that’s more American than – dare we say it – Bud Light? Take a sip and you can be the judge of that.


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