Hooch. Mountain Dew. White Lightning. Bathtub gin. Yes, we’re talking about Moonshine, which is celebrated annually on National Moonshine Day, occurring on the first Thursday in June.
Moonshine has a reputation for being the purview of smugglers and bootleggers—and for good reason. When the United States enacted Prohibition in 1920, there was a total ban on alcohol production. Illegal distillers began popping up all over the country, operating by the light of the moon to avoid discovery. There was a particular concentration of moonshiners in Appalachia, where the terrain made it extremely difficult for law enforcement officers to locate—and pursue—homebrewers.
Prohibition ended in 1933, with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution—but moonshine is still out there. And although Prohibition is no longer in effect, making your own moonshine is still illegal. The U.S. government prohibits the production of any spirit without a license—not only can it be dangerous, but it’s also considered tax evasion.
In 1999, the Prohibition-themed bar Milk & Honey opened in New York City. It became an overnight sensation, and they are widely credited with ushering in the renaissance of Prohibition cocktails. Similarly themed bars began popping up all over the country, boasting secret entrances reminiscent of jazz-age speakeasies—from LA’s No Vacancy to Chicago’s Room 13. The Sidecar, White Lady and Aviation enjoyed a return to the limelight. Liquor companies took notice.
Today, Moonshine is colloquially used to describe any clear, non-barrel aged whiskey—though since the term is not regulated by the U.S. government, it can technically be used to describe any type of spirit. Although the term “Moonshine” still predominantly refers to illegal homebrew, commercial distilleries have begun to jump on the Moonshine bandwagon, marketing their legal products as “Moonshine” in an attempt to capture the imagination of consumers, and leverage the legend and romance surrounding Prohibition and bootlegging—and the popular trend of Prohibition-era drinking.
Whether you decide to purchase some commercially available hooch, or are lucky enough to have an uncle with some Moonshine stashed in the back of his freezer, raise a glass (or mason jar) to the history of Moonshine this summer on National Moonshine Day!
National Moonshine Day is typically celebrated