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Georgia Moonshine
Photo: kristiewells on Flickr

There’s a trend developing in my beloved booze biz that’s got me a tad perplexed and, frankly, more than a little indignant: I’m talking about the growing popularity of so-called legal moonshine, which is as oxymoronic a term as pretty ugly, Christian rock or unbiased opinion, if you ask this ol’ whiskey-swilling amateur linguist. (And for the record, the wholly biased opinions expressed herein are not intended to provoke indignation, though a modicum or ire is to be expected from simpletons and knee-jerk reactionaries when it is suggested, for instance, that most of the people who enjoy Christian rock are, indeed, pretty ugly.)

Look around and you’ll find that nouveau moonshine is everywhere these days. Over the past few years alone we’ve seen the introduction of brands with such hee-hawing handles as Catdaddy, Original Moonshine and Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon. Just this week the latter rolled out a new line of fruit-infused flavors, inciting a din that was — depending on the part of the country you live in — either the sound of a bunch of dead bootleggers rolling over in their graves or a host of skinny hipsters falling over themselves to be the first to get some.

Do I sound bitter? Okay, yeah maybe a little. But you see, here’s the thing… moonshine, by definition, is an illegally produced distilled beverage. Its roots lie in post-Revolutionary War America when distillers and farmers thumbed their noses at government taxation of whiskey and began producing the spirit clandestinely. Often at night. Under the light of the moon. Get it?

What this stuff being passed off as moonshine at liquor stores nowadays really is, mostly, is unaged corn whiskey. Bourbon, minus the time spent in barrels, produced under the auspices of our tax-happy government. Calling it moonshine is as much an affront to the memory of this country’s outlaw rutgutters as labeling Blink 182 “punk” is a kick in the balls to Iggy Pop. (And by the way, I wouldn’t recommend it… Blink 182 OR kicking Iggy Pop in the balls.)

There’s a reason moonshine was so popular during Prohibition — it’s easy to make. And there’s also a reason it went away after Prohibition — it tastes like shit. At least, when compared to rum or bourbon or any number of other flavorful adult beverages. Up until about, oh, say last year, if you were thinking about dropping real cash money on a bottle of moonshine, any serious drinker would have advised you to save yourself the expense and just jab a rusty fork into your eye instead.

But I have a solution that I believe will satisfy purists and poseurs alike. Real moonshine was so very good because it spent time being sloshed around in the holding tanks of customized hot rods on backroads in the boonies. We don’t need infused flavors or countrified brand names to capture the true spirit of America’s bootlegging past. We need reckless car chases that often end in spectacular explosions — and am I crazy or is this the next great marketing ploy for a floundering NASCAR?

Just think of it, a dozen hot-rod vintage rides driven by convicted felons being chased by local cops around the magic oval while thousands of thirsty drunks hoot and holler. Do it as a fundraiser for rural dental care and when it’s all over, drain the stuff right into Mason jars and sell it out of the back of pickup trucks. And to hell with reporting the profits to the IRS. Hell, they’ll just turn around and give the money to them greedy schoolteachers in Wisconsin anyway. Then, and only then, could it legitimately be called moonshine.

Unless that happens, I’m sticking with bourbon… and even if it happens, too.

Read the more from The Imbiber on Food Republic.


Dan’s book “Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour” in bookstores now. Follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook, and hear him on The Imbiber Show podcast.

Ever drink real moonshine? What do you think of these legal options? Tell us below in the comments.