Week 23 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously! Moonshine!
Sunday, June 5th was National Moonshine Day here in America. A day to celebrate the spirit of Prohibition. When America went dry in 1920, the movement gave rise to an illegal industry that –now legal– has become romanticized in the hearts of Americans.
Moonshine wasn’t invented during Prohibition, but distillers that were just making the stuff for their families and for local sale saw an opportunity to cash in on the demand for illegal booze. Unfortunately, because of the huge and sudden spike in that demand, the moonshiners often added inferior and sometimes dangerous ingredients to stretch their batches. Things like paint thinner and antifreeze made drinking moonshine a real gamble. Ever hear the term “blind drunk?” It was a real possibility!
Now if I’d been on my game a couple of weeks ago, I’d have realized that my visit to Eastern Tennesee, Gatlinburg in particular, left me plunked right in the heart of moonshining country. Gatlinburg is home to Ole Smoky Original Moonshine Whiskey. By the way, Kevin, you could have shared that with me. Thanks for nothing!
Fortunately, that’s not the only place I’ve visited that has a moonshine connection!
I spent a week in the Blueridge Mountains of Southern Virginia last year with an incredible view and a lousy internet connection. (Not complaining, just explaining.) The summer had been ridiculously busy and a do-nothing vacation was just the ticket. Coffee on the deck to watch the sunrise, a daily walk along the mountain roads with the valley falling away to one side, a nightly soak in the hot tub in the moonlight with a beer and nothing but stars overhead, thanks to no light pollution. Idyllic!
Part of the joy of traveling is taking in local culture and cuisine. And well, in that part of the country, the local cuisine is barbecue and the local heritage is moonshining. The house we rented was only about 20 minutes from Mt. Airy, North Carolina — home to Mayberry Spirits. At the time, the distillery was in its “soft opening” stage and only open Friday and Saturday afternoons. Nevertheless, we had a nice tour from the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner and distiller himself. It’s a small operation, making just enough booze to supply the local liquor stores with product.
We were able to sample their main products: Mayberry Moonshine, toasted oak whiskey and toasted vanilla whiskey. While most moonshine is 80% corn based, Mayberry’s products are sorghum based. Weird, right? Maybe, but it makes a unique and deliciously smooth whiskey. (Even the straight moonshine went down easy, almost like a high-quality white rum.) Needless to say, I brought home a supply! So if y’all end up in that neck of the woods, stop on into Mayberry Spirits and have a sip of Carolina moonshine! Careful though! It’s 100 proof!
Now, how should you drink your moonshine? You can substitute it for whiskey in whiskey-based cocktails or for rum in rum-based cocktails, so instead of a Long Island Iced Tea, here’s an idea:
Appalachian Iced Tea!
In a mason jar, over ice, combine:
3/4 oz tequila
3/4 oz vodka
3/4 oz tripel sec
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz moonshine
1 oz sour mix
Splash of cola to top it off and stir
Garnish with a lemon slice and drink on your front porch in your rocking chair!
Since Lula is also plunked smack dab in the middle of moonshine country, I expect she had no trouble with this week’s adventure!