The homemade liquor, moonshine, has a rich history in American culture. It conjures memories of prohibition, fast cars, stills in the woods, and cheap booze that packs a wallop. So when it’s time to celebrate National Moonshine Day on June 5, you have a lot of different ways to think about moonshine beyond drinking alcohol. (To be clear, we didn’t say you couldn’t drink.) Moonshine refers to an illegally distilled spirit, usually made by an individual. And although moonshine was commonly made in the United States throughout most of the 1800s, it didn’t become the stuff of legends (and awful hangovers) until the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919. Rather than making you show off your memory of 10th grade history class, we’ll just mention that the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol in the United States. Until 1933, when the 21st Amendment passed, repealing the 18th Amendment, Americans who wanted to drink alcohol had to turn to the black market of the day, which belonged to the moonshiners and bootleggers. They distilled the moonshine and then delivered it, making everyone involved criminals. Today, moonshine has been featured on “reality” TV shows, and it’s also sold by large distilleries, looking to rekindle the memories of the illegal liquor. Even though what’s made today is called moonshine, it’s difficult to equate today’s moonshine with the alcohol brewed in a still deep in the woods in the 1920s. But at least you won’t go blind drinking modern moonshine.
How to Celebrate National Moonshine Day
1. Try a craft whiskey
Craft whiskeys are those that are distilled by small companies or even individuals. These whiskeys are made in a non-mechanized way. So if you want to feel like you’re celebrating the days of moonshining, a craft whiskey is going to put you closer than drinking large batch whiskey from one of the well-known distillers. We can’t guarantee your craft whiskey came from a still in someone’s back yard, but we can’t guarantee it didn’t either.
2. Watch a NASCAR race
The origin of NASCAR is filled with stories of bootleggers hauling moonshine in their souped-up cars, running from authorities. As the need for bootleggers waned, the drivers needed a way to show off their fast cars. They eventually began racing each other on local back roads, and then on dirt ovals. NASCAR was born. According to one of the top Charlotte PR Firms, North Carolina's tradition of auto racing developed in the garages of bootleggers, particularly on the roads between North Wilkesboro and Charlotte. Today’s NASCAR doesn’t much resemble the early days of back roads and bootleggers, but today’s whiskey doesn’t much resemble moonshine’s risk of blindness either. Both are good things.
3. Work in the moonlight
Want to gain a feel for the difficulty of moonshining? Those making moonshine had to work in the dark to help them hide from authorities. Moonlight was their only guide. So you can try doing an outdoor chore only by moonlight. (Preferably something that doesn’t involve fast-moving blades or working on a ladder please – safety first, after all.)
Why We Love National Moonshine Day
A. It loves infusions
Craft cocktails are so in right now, and many of them call for infused liquor. The best way to make your own is to start with some good old fashioned moonshine, then simply choose your mix-ins — herbs are a great bet — and let them marinate. You may not be making your own liquor, but the spirit of the thing is there!
B. Moonshine has a lot of cool nicknames and songs
Those making moonshine were a creative sort, coming up with cool nicknames and songs to celebrate their way of life. Songs such as Copper Kettle and Apple Pie Moonshine helped to create and highlight the legend of bootleggers and making ‘shine. Then there are the nicknames for the booze — skull cracker, white lightning, mule kick, and radiator whiskey, among others. Marketers today just can’t stack up with the creativity of the bootleggers.
C. It serves as a reminder of the horrors of prohibition
It has been nearly a century since the ratification of the 18th Amendment, ushering in prohibition. In today’s society, where alcohol is sold everywhere, it’s almost impossible to imagine how such a law could gain a foothold, but it happened. It’s also the only amendment to the Constitution to ever be repealed. The existence of moonshine reminds us to be thankful that we live in a country where we’re allowed to fix ourselves a drink at the end of the workday.