Moonshine has a very interesting part in American history, more so than any other alcohol. Moonshiners had to be sneaky, smart, and brave to get away with selling their home-made drinks. You probably don’t know much about moonshine because let’s get real, who does? So, here are some fun facts for you to brush up on your moonshine knowledge. You know, for jeopardy or something.
1. Bottles used to be marked with XXX
Moonshine is often depicted in TV shows with a jug marked XXX because back in the day, that’s how moonshiners used to label their products. Before modern distilling techniques were created, moonshiners had to run the alcohol through the still three times in order to get that strong, good tasting stuff. Consumers knew that when they saw the XXX, it was good.
2. The name is a reference to illegal activity
The term moonshining started in Britain and originally referred to any illegal activity that was done at night, hence the moon part. In America, when alcohol taxes shot up due to the Civil War, people starting making alcohol themselves illegally. At this time, making any alcohol had to be done in the dark of night so they wouldn’t get caught. Therefore, moonshining came to be known as anybody making any type of alcohol illegally at night.
3. Because of moonshine, we now have Nascar
Souped up cars were the fastest way for these illegal moonshiners to get away from the cops who might be chasing them. They would drop off the alcohol and speed away as fast as they could. This method wasn’t only used in the U.S., Canada also used souped-up getaway cars during prohibition. The boys who were bootlegging in Georgia started racing their cars against one another and eventually it turned into NASCAR.
4. Some people made it way too dangerous
Typically, the first batch of moonshine should be tossed out due to possible impurities, but not all distillers are so kind. Some moonshiners in the past have tried to take the shortcut and even use car radiators as condensers. Those radiators still had some leftover antifreeze inside of them, and if you couldn’t guess from the name, it’s dangerous.
5. Moonshine and whiskey start out the same way
Moonshine (in modern terms) and whiskey are practically the same, it’s just that whiskey is aged. White whiskey, which is before it has aged, is clear just like moonshine. Keep in mind that because moonshine has a history of being an illegal substance, there aren’t any regulations on how to make it. This means that it could technically be made from anything, unlike whiskey.
6. It has a ton of names
Because the definition of moonshine is simply any illegal alcohol, the list of nicknames goes on forever. It would take too long to name them all but some of the most common (and my personal favorites) include Mountain Dew, White Lightning, Mule kick, Panther’s breath, Popskull, Happy Sally, and See 7 Stars.
7. Mountain Dew actually has ties to moonshine
It’s no coincidence that Mountain Dew is one of the names for moonshine. The name Mountain Dew actually stood for mountain-distilled moonshine. The original use of the soda was as a chaser for whiskey in 1932. In 2015, the company threw it back to the ’30s with DEWshine, a clear, citrus-flavored soda made with real cane sugar.
8. It can actually cause blindness
The fear that moonshine could cause blindness was a fair one back in the day. Consumers had to be cautious of the distiller with all illegal booze at this time. Methanol, a byproduct of alcohol distillation, is what’s responsible for causing blindness. Any decent person would discard of the methanol before selling it, but some people were kinda shitty. The worst distillers would add in methanol to the moonshine in order to make it even stonger.
9. America isn’t the only one making it
Many countries have their own illegal alcohol history, so here’s what moonshine looks like around the world. Libya has bokha, Norway makes Hjemmebrent, Russia produces samogen and Scotland has peatreek. Each country has their own reason, but most illegal distilleries are a result of high taxes or strict laws.
10. America’s first legal moonshine distillery was in North Carolina
In 2005, Piedmont Distillers in Madison started legally selling moonshine. They used recipes from relatives of moonshiner and 1950s and ’60s Nascar superstar, Junior Johnson. Their moonshine is triple-distilled and they use real fruit in their fruit infused batches.