Moonshine Comes Out of the Holler

Justin King, Master Distiller, Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine (and a seventh generation moonshiner)

Justin King, Master Distiller, Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine (and a seventh generation moonshiner)

Pass the hooch jar! Moonshine is all the rage in our exploding cocktail culture. But before anyone thinks of calling the local revenuer, I’m talking about the legal stuff, not likker from the back woods.

Walk into any liquor store today, and you’ll find shelves of clear and flavored moonshine. Liquor sellers tell me it’s a favorite with college students, not only for its reasonable price, but also for its variety of flavors and mystique.

Moonshine has always differed from other spirits in that it’s unaged and, of course, infamously untaxed. And what’s in stores today is still unaged, but it’s also strictly regulated by the federal government.

Legal moonshine does have its roots in the hills of Appalachia. For example, Justin King, Master Distiller of the Tennessee-based Ole Smoky moonshine company, is a proud seventh-generation moonshiner. King parlays his family recipe into a variety of strengths and flavors, including Apple Pie, the distiller’s top seller.

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to a moonshine dinner sponsored by Ole Smoky at R’Evolution, Chef John Folse’s hot eatery in New Orleans. Chef Folse prepared six dishes that had moonshine as at least one ingredient, and he pared them with original cocktails. Before the night was over, the table was passing around the Mason jars. Needless to say, the event was a success.

Honestly, I never thought I’d like moonshine. But what I was served was incredibly smooth and enhanced the flavors of the food. So give it a try at your next cocktail party. Moonshine is a great substitute for vodka. And it’s also a fantastic conversation starter.