Moonshine Facts Guys Should Know
White lightning. Hooch. Branch water. Whatever name you have for moonshine, there’s no denying that moonshine is making a serious comeback. Take a peek at your local liquor store’s whiskey aisle if you don’t believe us. Thankfully today’s moonshine brands don’t make the same death liquid of hte 1800s. Back then, the wrong batch could blind you or even kill you. Today, it’s going overboard that’ll make your stomach feel like death.
So if you find yourself at some trendy bar sipping on clear whiskey with an extra kick, impress your drinking buddies with these moonshine talking points — just don’t expect anyone to remember what the hell you said in the morning.
#1. IS MOONSHINE ILLEGAL
Yes and no. Technically, there is no legal moonshine. However, the term “moonshine” has morphed from discussing a backwoods illegal hooch into a generic, umbrella term for any illegally distilled liquor. Most often it refers to grain-based spirits like whiskey, or sometimes to sugar-based spirits like rum. The reason it’s clear is because it’s not given time to age in casks, because nobody knows when the fuzz might roll in with their straws, er, guns and confiscate the goods.
It’s also a good idea to keep illicit goods on the move to, you know, avoid detection. The aging process allows store-bought, legal whiskeys to absorb flavor from the wood, and then lets it mellow out some. Since moonshine isn’t allowed to age, it tastes a whole lot more like pure alcohol and has a definitive kick that even big, bad Jack Daniels can’t match. That being said, some diehards are down to slug it quicker than you can pound a Bud Light. Some moonshine brands, like Tennessee’s Ole Smoky Moonshine, even suggest cocktails to make with their hooch.
#2. MOONSHINE CAN BE TERRIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH
Moonshine can be highly detrimental to your health — unless it’s made by someone who knows what he’s doing. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a harmful chemical that is a byproduct of any distillation process. Most distillers release it from their batch before bottling. This is called a foreshot. However, some unscrupulous distillers, or in the common parlance — raging fucking assholes — actually add in the poison to make their moonshine more potent, as methanol has a similar initial effect on the body as regular old ethanol, the active ingredient in booze.
If you get drunk on methanol-laced hooch, watch out. Even in tiny amounts, methanol will give you a hangover to remember. In larger doses, it can attack the ocular nerves leaving you literally blind drunk. An important note: The buzz eventually wears off, but the blindness doesn’t. In fact, enough methanol can actually kill you. In one 2011 incident, 168 people died in India after drinking contaminated booze. So, yeah, make sure you choose your distillery wisely.
#3. MOONSHINE SHOULD BURN BLUE
One commonly held folktale for telling whether moonshine is safe to drink is to pour some into a spoon and light it on fire. If the flame is blue, it’s probably safe. If the flame is yellow, it’s possible the booze has been tainted with chemicals. If it burns red, well, there’s a helpful mnemonic device for that one: “Lead burns red and leaves you dead.” Seems fairly straightforward.
As for the clear whiskies you see behind the bar at your local watering hole that are marketed as “moonshine?” They’re safe. And if they do make you go blind or lead to death, you have an incredible lawsuit on your hands. Well, except if you’re dead, we suppose.
#4. MOONSHINING ISN’T BOOTLEGGING
Moonshining is the actual manufacturing of illicit alcohol. Its high season is from June to October, when corn is ripe and foliage in the woods is dense enough to hide a still. The booze is usually made at night — hence, moonshine. See how that works?
Bootlegging refers to the distribution of illegal booze. It’s said that the term comes from Civil War soldiers smuggling booze into army camps on horseback by hiding it inside their tall riding boots. Mmm, tangy!
#5. MOONSHINE AND NASCAR ARE CONNECTED
NASCAR — the sport with multiple millions of fans, none of whom you’ve ever actually met — was spawned by moonshine. During Prohibition, drivers filled their cars with hooch made mostly in the Appalachian region and dispersed it to anyone who had a thirst. But since booze was illegal, they needed to be able to outrun any cops. To do that they both stripped and fortified their cars, and modified the engines to make them faster. Upon repeal of prohibition, these bootleggers still found business evading tax agents out to collect on the outlaw distilleries’ revenue.
By and by, drivers started racing each other to see who had the fastest, most nimble car, and soon enough, the cars themselves became even bigger business than the booze they carried. Thus NASCAR was born. Legend has it Glenn Dunnaway won the very first NASCAR race with a car that was used on an illegal liquor run just weeks beforehand.
#6. MOUNTAIN DEW WAS A MOONSHINE
A sort of alcohol-free moonshine, to be precise. The name Mountain Dew itself is a Scotch and Irish slang term for homemade whiskey. And back in the 1940s, the original Mountain Dew labels featured a cartoon hillbilly, who ostensibly wanted to get you wasted.
#7. MOONSHINE HAS SOME DOPEY NICKNAMES
Here’s a list of 20 names for moonshine. Eleven of them are real, the rest we made up. See if you can tell the difference.
- Deep Shaft
- Donkey Punch
- Uncle Nancy’s Secret
- Happy Sally
- Sweet Spirits of Cats a-Fighting
- Ma Slobber
- Tiger’s Sweat
- Panther’s Breath
- Bend Over Ginnie
- Foot Sauce
- Ruckus Juice
- Turkey Tinkle
- See 7 Stars
- Backwoods ‘Tussin
- Slow Maurice
- Amber Alert
Real: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 19
Fake: 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 20