Moonshine Reality

In my last post I joked about moonshine. The reality is quite different.

Moonshine is sometimes presented as a defiant protest against the government, which wants to tax everything fun and make a profit on it while soaking the common people. And right now, that’s a pretty popular – even populist – sentiment.

Media portrayals of moonshining, while not universally positive, have sometimes given it the cachet of harmless, if illegal, rebellion – think Dukes of Hazzard. Let’s outsmart them pesky revenooers (actually ATF agents) and race fast, sexy cars and yell yee-haw a lot.

And I’m not denying that can be a good ol’ way to spend your time, as long as you don’t crack up that spiffy car trying all those impressive special-effects stunts that defy the laws of physics as well as traffic.

And we all know that Prohibition didn’t work. You can’t keep people from drinking if they really want to. It’s as old as civilization itself.

But during Prohibition, alcohol consumption and rates of alcoholism actually increased. The temperance movement was counter-productive.

And “bathtub gin,” like moonshine whiskey, being unregulated (more outlaw fun defying the damn gummint!), had no quality controls. A lot of moonshiners didn’t care, or maybe didn’t even know, the effects of using the wrong copper tubing or automobile radiators for their stills, or mixing the product with wood alcohol (methanol). They probably should have suspected that the rat poison, bleach, embalming fluid, or paint thinner added to give it an extra kick would be less than ideal, though. The lead and antifreeze were bonuses.

Blindness, liver damage, alcoholism, and death were the best-known side effects. Others included seizures, nerve damage, and partial paralysis, either temporary or permanent.

So yes, I did grow up in a family that thought “That Good Ol’ Mountain Dew” was a fun song for children. And I did have an uncle that made or bought moonshine – we kids were unclear on that – and hid it in the corncrib. (Digression: Ironically, he was named Uncle Sam. There was also an Aunt Jemima somewhere in the family tree. True story.)

But I’m not going to encourage drinking actual moonshine. I won’t even buy the cute Mason jars of whatever it is they sell in state-approved liquor stores labeled as moonshine. And I’ll pass on Outback’s moonshine-flavored entrees, thanks.

4 thoughts on “Moonshine Reality

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Micky. I’m sure there are still artisanal moonshiners out there somewhere, but what are the odds that the average poor sharecropper is going to run into one of those? I do agree that it’s an interesting part of American history and likely responsible for modern stock car racing, and I liked reading the story you linked to. But I maintain that moonshine is usually not the best choice for drinking to one’s health.


      1. Well in the South Eastern countries in Europe it’s kind of a big thing too to make your own liquor. Every family has someone who is specialized in this art. Since this skill is passed on generation to generation you are not likely to find any shitty stuff. Usually the quality is way better than the big brands, since it’s made in a traditional way.
        I haven’t heard of drinking moonshine going bad here. Although I do know the stories from Africa or India where people actually died.
        So I would say: find someone who has a good reputation or else hit the liquor store. If you say it’s hard to find these guys in the US I most certainly believe you.
        Thanks for th compliment btw. Cheers,


  1. I have traveled a little in Eastern Europe and before dinner at a Slovenian farm was served sugared figs and grappa, though I don’t remember if it was home-made. I think European culture must be very different from American in this. “Corn likker” is not a proud intergenerational tradition here. It’s quite clandestine.
    When it comes to U.S. booze, I’ll take Jack Daniels or Jim Beam bourbon. I also have a fondness for Ireland’s Tullamore Dew.


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