Lesson One:  What the Hell is Moonshine? 

Ok this one seems obvious, pretty much every one in America has seen the stereotypical jugs and mountain side improvised stills.  The American High School landscape is littered with classes about the failed experiment known as prohibition.  Every few years a gangster movie comes out glorifying the time where booze was banned yet flowed freely behind the closed doors.

Most red-blooded Americans can identify what whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and hell even schnapps are.  Typically, we all know at least some of the base behind these liquors but in case you don’t here’s a helpful list:

Whiskey Grain, Rye, or Corn.   Must be barrel aged (remember this fact – it will come up again)
Bourbon Same as above but must be made with a majority corn.  Traditionally it must be made in America, specifically Kentucky
Vodka Hailing from Russia… err Poland.  Made from potatoes …. Or grain… anyway it’s a clear spirit – the key part of this is multiple distillation, it results in a clear (ideally nearly flavorless spirit) Think of it as the ride to the party for those that don’t like drinking but enjoy being drunk.
Rum Made from sugar cane, it’s what pirates and sailors drink.  What’s to hate?
Schnapps Long before four loko became a thing, our grandparents and great grandparents used these super sugary flavored spirits to help make getting drunk more palatable.

*bartender side note: While we are learning about booze – everyone should know about bitters.  You’ve probably seen the small, paper covered bottles sitting behind the bar.  Traditionally they were used medicinally, typically running between 90-100 proof, they are as strong in proof as they are in flavor.  Bartenders back in the day realized you do use these little powerhouses to help flavor cocktails.  Fun fact – Jägermeister is considered a bitter.

 

So, what is moonshine?  How does it fit with the holy list of booze listed above?  Is it some crazy mythical concoction?  One so illicit it avoids being listed by anything other than its vague moniker?  To answer this question, you must look at the definition of the spirit:

 

Well looky there, that’s basic.  “Illicitly distilled or smuggled liquor.”  Yeah, it’s that simple.  Technically any liquor can be moonshine.  A quick search on the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms website reveals that moreover, modern day moonshine is mostly a tax thing.

So moonshine, can be an spirit distilled illegally.

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