What is Moonshine?

Not only was it produced illegally, but oftentimes it was done poorly, too—only contributing to its bad reputation. When Prohibition ended in 1933, commercial moonshine production became legal, assuming you obtained a permit and paid taxes. From moonshine came the term moonshiners – the people who make the alcohol. This term was popularized in the 1880s, and came from the how to heal your liver after alcoholism practice of concealing illegal liquor in boot tops when going to distribute or trade it. Bootleggers in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s transported their moonshine at night to avoid detection by the local police, racing along backcountry roads. Their mechanical skills developed as they learned to drastically increase the horsepower of their vehicles to outrun the authorities.

what is moonshine

So, they experimented with different ingredients to increase the kick, including manure, embalming fluid, bleach, rubbing alcohol and even paint thinner. Many of these ingredients are extremely poisonous, and many people died from drinking it. The content of this article is for educational purposes only and BinWise does not advocate for the illegal distilling of moonshine or any other alcoholic beverages.

Moonshine Lemonade Anyone?

So the finished product might contain dangerous ingredients, such as methanol , which is toxic. The steam travels into the worm, a coiled length of pipe that winds down the inside of the worm box. The worm box is a crate or barrel that has cold water, usually diverted from a nearby creek, flowing into the top and then back out the bottom. This keeps the worm bathed in constantly circulating cold water, which condenses the alcohol steam into liquid.

After Prohibition ended, the out-of-work drivers kept their skills sharp through organized races, which led to the formation of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing . Also, illegally produced alcohol can be dangerous, so always purchase from a licensed manufacturer for your safety. Have you ever heard of the highest alcoholic drink, moonshine?

what is moonshine

Despite its now semi-legal status, there are many dangers of moonshine you should know about before trying it out for yourself. Unlike crafting college alcoholism and binge drinking your own beer or wine, distilling alcohol is a precise process. It’s very easy to make a mistake and create a harmful product.

Moonshine is generally considered to be a clear, unaged whiskey with a corn base and a high alcohol content that is made at home. For much of its history, moonshine was produced in secret to avoid high taxes or outright bans on alcoholic drinks. The term moonshine has been around since at least the early 15th century. But it wasn’t until the late 18th century that it was used to describe illicit or smuggled liquor, due to the fact that it was made and smuggled during the night. The traditional ingredients for moonshine are corn and sugar, and during fermentation, the sugar produces ethanol, which makes hooch or moonshine.

More Spirit Guides

Since it is affordable and easy to make, it has become an industry in the South, as many try their hand at homemade distillation. However, it is best to leave the production to experts who have a passion for purity and a desire to create sensations that will satisfy even the pickiest palates. Since it’s a sweet corn product, moonshine is a natural for adding flavors, including fruit and spices, mixed by master distillers with a genuine passion for their craft. Alcohol production that’s intended for public distribution and sale is regulated by state and federal authorities. Under federal law, anyone can own a still without a permit, but you need a permit to manufacture alcohol for sale and distribution — and these permits are expensive and hard to get.

If the moonshiner is careless, any of these problems can result in a poisonous drink. Using any lead-based product in the process, such as a pipe or radiator, can causing lead poisoning. BinWise Pro is an all-in-one inventory management system that helps you manage your wine program more effectively and successfully.

The tube first goes up to act as a simple column, and then down to cool the product. Cookware usually consists of a 30-litre (6.6 imp gal; 7.9 US gal) plastic wine bucket. The spiral burner is popular because despite its simple construction and low manufacturing cost, it can provide 95% ABV. Points out, the term has generally been used to describe any illicit homemade alcohol since as early as the 18th century. The name “moonshine” refers to the fact that the illegal liquor would often have to be made and/or smuggled by cover of night to avoid detection.

what is moonshine

The still and all the metal piping used are made of copper, which conducts heat well and doesn’t leech into the alcohol. During Prohibition, profit-hungry moonshiners started using white sugar instead of corn meal, producing a cheaper product that was technically rum, not whiskey. Today, moonshiners in Appalachian states still manufacture apple brandy. A spiral still is a type of column still with a simple slow air-cooled distillation apparatus, commonly used for bootlegging. Column and cooler consist of a 5-foot-long (1.5 m) copper tube wound in spiral form.


Using these methods often resulted in blindness or lead poisoning in those who consumed tainted liquor. In Prohibition-era United States, many died from ingesting unhealthy substances with their moonshine. Consumption of lead-tainted moonshine is a serious risk factor for saturnine gout, a very painful but treatable medical condition that damages the kidneys and joints. A pot still is a type of distillation apparatus or still used to distill flavored liquors such as whisky or cognac, but not rectified spirit because they are poor at separating congeners. Traditionally constructed from copper, pot stills are made in a range of shapes and sizes depending on quantity and style of spirit. Geographic variations in still design exist, with certain stills gaining popularity in regions of Appalachia.

  • Additionally, the head that comes immediately after the foreshot typically contains small amounts of other undesirable compounds, such as acetone and various aldehydes.
  • Moonshine became very popular during the Prohibition era, in which organized and unorganized criminals were involved.
  • Similarly, distilling is a dangerous practice if done improperly.
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A plastic still is a device for distillation specially adapted for separating ethanol and water. Plastic stills are common because they are cheap and easy to manufacture. The principle is that a smaller amount of liquid is placed in an open smaller vessel inside a larger one that is closed. A cheap 100 W immersion heater is typically used as heat source, but a thermal immersion circulator, like a sous vide stick is ideal because it comes with a temperature controller. The liquid is kept heated at about 50 °C (122 °F) which slowly evaporates the ethanol to 40% ABV that condense on the inner walls of the outer vessel. The condensation that accumulates in the bottom of the vessel can then be diverted directly down through a filter containing activated carbon.

What Does Moonshine Taste Like?

It was not uncommon for insects or small animals to fall into the mash while it was fermenting, for example. However, moonshine purists do not consider these drinks to be “real” moonshine as the alcohol content is lower and they aren’t necessarily distilled in the exact same manner. Most experts agree that moonshine is a homemade, unaged whiskey.

Organized crime blossomed as speakeasies opened in every city — those secret saloons that had hidden doors, passwords and escape routes in case the Feds ever showed up to conduct a raid. Despite the failure of the rebellion, moonshining continued throughout the United States, especially in Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas and other Southern states. Excise taxes on alcohol didn’t go away, so moonshiners always had an incentive to avoid the law. Gunfights between moonshiners and revenuers became the stuff of legend. Moonshining is tied to the history of the United States in many ways, and it’s tied to the character of the American people just as strongly.

One of these women was “Nancy the Moonshiner.” In the 1880s, people in Warren County, New Jersey, regarded her as an eccentric. What she really was, though, was a moneymaker and a hardscrabble businesswoman. She used them to make Jersey lightning, or apple jack, a distilled hard cider. When a government detective snuck into her hillside home near the Pequest River in hopes of apprehending her, Nancy knocked him out and took off running. Moonshiners couldn’t keep up with the demand, which led to cheaper, sugar-based moonshine, as well as watered-down moonshine.

Moonshine Production Today

Starting with the fermented juice, with an alcohol content of less than ten percent, the concentrated result can contain 25–40% alcohol. Aside from the traditional moonshine, several options are available today with varying flavors and alcohol content making it easier for these 5 things happen to your brain when you quit drinking people to find their taste and choose. Our line of moonshines are a far cry from the potentially deadly spirits that used to flow from homemade stills. Representing its full integration into the contemporary alcohol industry, moonshine now even has its own holiday!