There is a disgusted face unique to drinking moonshine. I’ve witnessed it flash momentarily on the faces of even the most esteemed drinking experts and linger long on the visage of unprepared relatives. Old-timers seem to be the only immune ones, and you know its because whatever they were drinking way-back-when was probably nicknamed “white lightening” and came from a “still” featuring an abandoned truck radiator.
But these days, although moonshine has evolved as player on the craft-distilling scene, the reactions to drinking it have not changed much. Whether moonshine is the novel “drink-du-jour” being served at a high-class hotel bar, or as is often in my case, a mysterious liquid being passed around in an unmarked mason jar, the reaction can be generally summarized by a watering of the eyes, followed by a sputter, and completed with an involuntary exclamation, (which can include, but is not limited to: ugh!, whew!, a gasp, or the imbiber’s expletive of choice).
I can count two exceptions to the moonshine post-sip meltdown. One involved an aforementioned unmarked mason jar at a friends mountain lodge in upstate North Carolina. My words of warning were that it “tasted like apple pie, but could really sneak up on you.” This particular moonshine did, in fact, taste like apple pie, and it did, several gulps later, really sneak up on me… but I stand by my claim that those first few sips were delicious.
The second moonshine cocktail to overcome my then firmly-embedded moonshine prejudice, was a smooth, orangey delight served at 11 a.m. on a Thursday morning at Dark Corner Distillery during Euphoria in Greenville, SC. It was as bright and drinkable as an amaretto sour, with only a hint of the alcoholic undertones I knew were lurking in its depths. But as a lover of ginger ale, orange juice, honey, bourbon, and vanilla, I found myself doing an unheard of thing in my long history of sipping moonshine: finishing my drink and, full of confidence, reaching for a second.
“Orange You Glad We Make Whiskey” Cocktail
from Whitney Vadeboncoeur of Dark Corner Distillery, Greenville, SC
Author’s note: (Yes, I am glad that Dark Corner Distillery makes whiskey!)