Have you ever tried moonshine? Most of us have only heard myths about this once-illegal drink, with stories of illicit purchases from the roadside and illegal stills hidden in barns!
But, now that brewers can make moonshine under license, should we give it a try?
What does moonshine taste like? Moonshine is a fermentation of corn mash, which is then distilled to produce strong alcohol. The result is a clear liquid that will taste strong and smooth, with slight tones of corn. Modern-day breweries make many variations of moonshine with different flavors, so there is a moonshine out there for everyone.
Let’s take a look at the story behind this once prohibited drink and see if we can convince ourselves to give it a go!
What Is Moonshine?
Moonshine is a high-alcohol liquor, which was traditionally produced on farms and homesteads looking as a way to make cheap alcohol.
Making moonshine in this way was illegal and it was often brewed at night, hence the name!
Scottish and Irish immigrants first brought moonshine to the United States in the 18th century. A tax was imposed on whiskey production in 1791, and it was outlawed altogether during the prohibition period.
Until 2010, any form of moonshine was illegal in the US, but then the government began issuing licenses to brew this potent drink.
To this day it is not legal to brew moonshine in your home because the process can be dangerous and may produce highly alcoholic results.
Also known as hooch, homebrew, or white lightning, moonshine is often likened to a clear, un-aged whiskey or bourbon.
Traditionally it was kept in mason jars, although nowadays manufacturers prefer to keep their product in a glass bottle.
How Is Moonshine Made?
Moonshine is made by fermenting a sugar source to produce ethanol. Traditionally, moonshine was made from a mash of corn and sugar. The resulting alcohol is then separated from the mash by a distillation process.
Distillation is a method that physically separates alcohol from water using evaporation and condensation. This gives a much higher concentration of alcohol than that which can be produced by fermentation alone.
One difference between moonshine and other liquors such as whiskey or bourbon is that moonshine is not aged.
This makes making a good moonshine difficult, as the flavors will not have the opportunity to mellow and mature during the aging process. Historically, some moonshines were incredibly strong with a deeply unpleasant flavor!
Luckily, now that it is legal to make moonshine under license, brewers have begun to perfect and improve this once-illicit drink.
Modern-day moonshine keeps true to its historic roots, whilst tweaking the recipe to make it palatable and fit for any drinks cabinet.
Where Can You Buy Moonshine?
There are now many brewers making their own versions of moonshine, and this liqueur is particularly popular with microbreweries and small suppliers.
Here are some of the top manufacturers of high-quality moonshine:
Ole Smoky Moonshine
Based in Tennessee, Ole Smokey make a huge range of different moonshines, from traditional white lightning to flavored versions like lemon drop and strawberry mango margarita.
Ole Smokey moonshine comes in a mason jar, giving it an authentic ‘prohibited’ feel! This range includes strong 50% ABV moonshine, as well as lower alcoholic variations.
This Moonshine is based on a traditional recipe, paying homage to the American rebellious spirit of the prohibition era.
At 40% ABV, this is a strong moonshine with a clear and fresh taste. Jeptha Creed also makes flavored moonshine, such as blackberry and cinnamon.
Great America Moonshine
Brewed and bottled in Detroit, Michigan, the Great America Moonshine range is a malt-based moonshine, making it much cheaper than corn-based moonshines.
However, it is not as strong, with the traditional lemonade flavor coming in at just 14% ABV. There are five flavors of Great America Moonshine: lemonade, apple pie, peach, strawberry, and blueberry.
What Does Moonshine Taste Like?
Like many home-brewed alcohols, traditionally made moonshine could be hugely variable in flavor, and it did have a reputation for being foul and undrinkable. In fact, some people would tell you that it tastes like turpentine!
However, if made properly, moonshine can be a tasty and highly palatable drink.
Now don’t forget that moonshine is very alcoholic, so expect a strong alcohol flavor – this will never be a drink that doesn’t make you gasp on the first sip!
This is why the flavored versions are so popular, as they tend to be a bit more palatable.
But what does plain moonshine taste like? Apart from the kick of alcohol, you should be able to detect subtle flavors, with the main taste being of corn. Some tasters say they can taste hints of cider and grappa as well.
Other people say they can detect hints of vanilla in moonshine – this is not an authentic moonshine flavor and has most likely been added to make it more attractive to the modern-day palate.
What Does Moonshine Smell Like?
A good moonshine should smell of very little, although you may be able to detect slight odors of corn. If you have a sensitive nose then you’ll probably be able to smell the alcohol – to some people, this can be quite overpowering!
If you are given a homemade moonshine and it has a strong chemical smell, then do not drink it.
It may make you feel very queasy, and not just from the high levels of alcohol! It may be contaminated with methanol, which is toxic.
Does Moonshine Taste Like Any Other Liqueurs?
Moonshine is closest in taste to a good bourbon; however, the flavor profile will be rougher and less complex as it has not gone through the aging process.
Many people liken moonshine to vodka, but the two drinks are very different and should not taste the same. The only similarity is that they are both clear and very alcoholic, but moonshine will have hints of corn and a slight sweetness.
Reviewers often compare moonshine to the popular 151 rum – another incredibly strong distilled drink.
Other drinks likened to moonshine include grappa, Chinese rice wine, aguardiente, and Tequila.
Basically, if you can name a clear, strong alcohol, then someone at some point will have compared it to moonshine! The best way to figure out what moonshine tastes like is to try it for yourself, if you’re feeling brave enough!
What Does Moonshine Taste Like In A Cocktail?
If we hadn’t already mentioned it, moonshine is very alcoholic! Many people will not enjoy the strong flavor of a drink that is this potent and will look for ways to dilute it and make it more palatable.
So, bring on the moonshine cocktails! Like any strong alcohol, moonshine can be too harsh for many of us to drink straight, but it can make the base for a tasty, delicious, and refreshing cocktail.
As the actual flavor of moonshine is quite subtle, it can be mixed into a wide range of different cocktails.
If you want to bring out the base flavors of the moonshine, look for cocktails that will complement these perfectly – honey and warm spices work particularly well.
Moonshine could be used as a substitute for other strong alcohols in cocktail recipes, such as vodka, bourbon, or rum.
Just remember to check the strength of the different alcohols and adjust the amounts accordingly, otherwise, the end result could be quite messy!
There’s nothing worse than a party that ends in disaster because no one realized how potent the cocktails were!
Let’s take a look at some delicious moonshine cocktail recipes:
Swap rum for moonshine for a great twist on a classic cocktail. Combine traditional moonshine with club soda, mint leaves, lime, and sugar and serve over ice for a cool and refreshing drink.
The margarita is traditionally made with tequila, but a classic moonshine can work exceptionally well in this cocktail recipe. Add lime, sugar syrup, and triple sec, shake well and serve in a salt-rimmed glass.
Simply mix moonshine with ginger ale for a long refreshing drink. Best served chilled over ice in a tall glass, garnished with a slice of fresh apple.
Strawberry Salty Dog Moonshine
Pour moonshine, grapefruit juice, and strawberry juice into a cocktail shaker and blend thoroughly. Serve in a tall salt-rimmed glass over crushed ice, garnished with a slice or two of strawberry.
Frozen Coconut Moonshine Cocktail
Add moonshine, coconut milk, mint syrup, lime juice, and ice to your blender. Blend until smooth and thick, and serve in a tall glass garnished with a sprig of mint.
Moonshine And Sage Cocktail
This is a lovely drink, simple to make with just a few ingredients. It is quite strong, so serve with plenty of ice and sip slowly! Mix moonshine with a sage and honey syrup and add a dash of bitters. Serve with a sprig of sage.
Can I Make My Own Moonshine?
Disclaimer alert – making moonshine is still illegal in some US states and other countries! So check your local laws first before deciding to make moonshine.
Yes, it is possible to make moonshine, and the equipment to do this is widely available.
However, if you are new to making alcohol then moonshine is probably not the best place to start, as the process is quite complex and has multiple stages. You will need to firstly ferment your moonshine and then distill it.
If you did decide to make your own moonshine, make sure you research the process carefully. A badly made moonshine will not only taste terrible but could potentially be very harmful as well!
There is a good reason that people used to believe that moonshine would make you go blind!
We would suggest that you stick to purchasing licensed moonshine only, and spend your time and creativity dreaming up wonderful moonshine cocktails instead.
Who knows, you could be the creator of the next big thing in the cocktail world!
Now that we’ve gotten to take a look at moonshine and its flavors, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the topic!
What does apple pie moonshine taste like?
Apple pie moonshine is one of the latest big sensations, with people enjoying this delicious cocktail at late summer parties and barbeques. But what is all the fuss about?
If you haven’t tried it (and if you haven’t, why not?!), apple pie moonshine is a mix of ingredients intended to give the perfect blend of flavors to recreate apple pie, but with an alcoholic twist.
This drink is particularly popular in the fall, with the flavors perfectly recreating the feel of cool, crisp evenings and falling leaves.
A good apple pie moonshine will be the perfect level of sweetness without being too sharp or sickly. It will have a strong base flavor of rich apples with overtones of warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Here is the perfect Apple Pie Moonshine recipe for you to try! Just remember to make it a few weeks before you want to drink it – this is one of those concoctions which gets better the longer you leave it.
This recipe is for a large batch, but if you want to make less just scale it down to half or quarter the amounts.
- 64 oz apple juice
- 64 oz apple cider
- 3 cups sugar
- 14 cinnamon sticks divided
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 750 ml moonshine
- Add all the ingredients apart from the moonshine to a large pan and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Add the moonshine to the apple mixture.
- Cool completely and pour into jars.
- Place lids on jars and store them in a cool, dry place for up to 8 weeks.
Are moonshine and Everclear the same thing?
Many people believe that moonshine and Everclear are the same things, but in fact, they are very different. Moonshine is made by fermenting corn whereas Everclear is made from grain.
Both of these drinks are unaged spirits, but Everclear is much higher in alcohol than moonshine.
When it comes to taste, Everclear will taste of very little except for alcohol – it is intended to be a very pure and exceptionally strong drink.
Moonshine will have flavors retained from the brewing process, including a hint of corn and slight sweetness.
Can moonshine kill you?
Like any alcoholic drink, moonshine can kill you if consumed in large amounts. However, illegal moonshine can also be very dangerous as it may contain toxins that can be poisonous.
If you are consuming moonshine purchased from a licensed brewing company, it is guaranteed that it is free from toxins and safe to drink.
This does not mean you should go mad and drink the whole bottle though – this is strong stuff! Like any alcohol, it should be enjoyed responsibly and in moderation.
Traditionally, moonshine was brewed illegally, and this is why it has such a bad reputation. The process of fermenting and distilling moonshine is very complex, and it is possible to create a drink that is highly toxic and poisonous.
This is because the distillation process creates different alcohols according to the temperatures used, and only one of these – ethanol – is safe to drink.
The other one, methanol, can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, hence the story that moonshine will make you go blind!
To be on the safe side, it would be very sensible to stick to drinking moonshine which has been made by a licensed brewer.
There are ways to test if a moonshine contains ethanol or methanol, but unless you are a scientist, we wouldn’t suggest that you risk your eyesight – or your life – based on the results of these tests!