When I hear the word “moonshine,” I am immediately transported back to the ’20s. It was the Prohibition Era in the USA with all the shushing, illegal booze, and speakeasies. I wonder what it really was like because it seems all so glamorous now!
One component of that era that has survived to today is moonshine. You just might be curious about moonshine. You could also be trying your hand at DIY projects. Either way, you want to know how to flavor moonshine. My article today will show you everything about moonshine and how to flavor it with extracts.
What Is Moonshine?
Years back, a friend and I went to some local bar. It wasn’t really in our neck of the woods. We went anyway because we were exploring places in the town. Walking into the bar and ordering their moonshine is the last thing I remember to this day.
Moonshine, aka bootleg or corn liquor, as it is sometimes called, is an alcoholic beverage. It is homemade, unaged, high-proof whiskey made from corn mash. Being high-proof means that it has a high alcoholic content. I’m talking up to 190 proof (95% v/v)! That’ll get your taste buds begging for mercy!
History has it that Scottish and Irish immigrants brought the beverage to the United States. It steadily gained popularity among citizens and with the government. When I say the government, I mean they started taxing it. Hence, any untaxed production of the drink was deemed illegal.
Its clear color marks moonshine. Legend has it that whiskey drinkers and makers used the veil of darkness and the moonlight to conduct business. This sneaking around was to evade taxation. The clear color of the drink under moonlight gave it its name, get it?
Typical whiskey manufactures age their spirit in oak barrels, but moonshine is not aged. Usually, this flavored spirit is produced in a homemade still and bottled in a Mason jar. This immediate bottling means no process will correct the clean moonshine taste or the harsh flavor notes.
Here’s Why Moonshine Is Illegal
In 1920, the United States government declared war on alcohol. Production, importation, distribution, and sale were illegal. Moonshine went dark but continued to thrive. Till today, moonshine is still illegal in the United States and most parts of Europe–excluding registered distilleries.
Moonshine is illegal mainly because:
- Most makers have no fuel-alcohol or distilled spirit permits; hence, their products can’t be traced.
- Producers without permits do not run quality checks on the moonshine.
- Distilling is dangerous, and untrained hands could poison the drink.
- The distilling vats are highly flammable.
- A lot of bottled hooch is highly flammable.
- Possible lead and antifreeze poisoning from distilling equipment.
- People can fall sick, go blind or die from bad moonshine.
Despite all these reasons, moonshine consumption and production are becoming increasingly popular again. So, you are probably about to ask me how this happened. The answer is government regulation. Also, flavor-rich moonshine recipes have been tweaked and yield more refined flavorful drinks.
How to Flavor Moonshine with Extract
There are several ways to flavor moonshine. Some people like fruit-infused moonshine or honey moonshine. However, today, I will focus on flavoring using extracts. The first time is usually the hardest, but you will get better with more practice and come up with your own distinct moonshine whiskey.
Things You Will Need:
- 12 to 14-ounce amber jar with a lid
- 2 or 3 top-quality whole vanilla beans
- A sterilized scissors or knife
- 12 to 14 ounces of high-grade moonshine
Step 1: Prep your vanilla beans
With my sterilized knife or scissors, I cut up each vanilla beanstalk into pieces that are half an inch in length. Some folks like to desert their beans, but I think this is unnecessary and stressful. The seeds contribute to the vanilla flavor profile.
Step 2: Add the chopped vanilla beans to the jar
After cutting up the beans, I add the pieces into the jar. I always make sure that my jar is clean and devoid of contaminants. I don’t want anything affecting my final results.
Step 3: Fill up the jar
Having put the vanilla beans in the clean jar, I fill up the Mason jar with high-grade moonshine. I ensure there is about half an inch of airspace at the top of the jar.
Step 4: Stopper and store
I place the lid or cork over my jar opening and tighten it properly. Then, I store it in a cool, dark place. I prefer amber jars to the clear ones because it keeps the light out. Keeping the light out helps to preserve the quality of my cocktail.
Step 5: Shake well
Just before hiding it away, I give my jar a good shake. I also repeat this shake once a week during the 6-week infusion period.
If you have ever tried any coffee-flavored alcohol, you will know they are really enjoyable. Coffee fiends need to be careful with this one.
Things You Will Need:
- 8 ounces high-grade moonshine
- 4 ounces real chocolate syrup
- 1/4 cup premium coffee Beans
- 6-ounce amber Mason jars
- Pouring bowl or glass
Step 1: Mix the moonshine and the real chocolate syrup
In the pouring bowl, I mix the moonshine with the organic chocolate syrup. The chocolate syrup I use has a thin consistency like Italian syrup.
Step 2: Fill up jars
I fill the two clean 6 oz. Mason jars with 1/8 cup of coffee beans each. A little trick of mine is grinding the coffee beans a bit. It helps to increase the surface area for the process.
Step 3: Pour in the chocolate-moonshine mix
With a steady hand, I gently pour the chocolate-moonshine mixture into the two jars. I eyeball it so that I get equal portions over the coffee beans.
Step 4: Cover and shake
I cover the jars with their lids. Then, I shake them well.
Step 5: Store
Finally, my jars are ready to be stored in a cool, dark place. I leave them for about 4-6 weeks, giving a good shake once a week. Once infused, strain out the coffee beans and enjoy this rich, exotic drink.
There is just something about butterscotch. I have yet to see one person who does not love its butter-sugar flavor. Now, what if I told you that you could have the best of both worlds? Yes, moonshine plus butterscotch equals a sweetly-flavored moonshine you will want to share!
Things You Will Need:
- Heating source
- Mixing spoon
- Glass jar with lid for storage
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup moonshine
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1 tsp Butterscotch extract
Step 1: Add sugar and water to the pot
I place a clean pot on my heat source. It could be a hot plate or gas burner. I add the sugar and water into the pot and apply heat.
Step 2: Heat sugar-water mix
I cook the sugar-water mix over medium heat to dissolve the sugar in water. It usually takes about 30 minutes. Don’t add any additional sugar, even if you think you need to. Keeping a close eye on my pot prevents the sugar from burning. Trust me. You do not want a bitter syrup.
Step 3: Cool the syrup
I remove the sugar from the heat once it is completely dissolved. Then, I let it cool down. Cooling the syrup takes about 30 minutes too.
These steps have made a ‘simple syrup.’
Step 4: Add food coloring (optional)
Once my simple syrup has cooled completely, I add food coloring. This step is optional, and I sometimes skip it. If you use raw sugar, your syrup will come out with a lovely brown hue. However, adding coloring will give a deeper brown shade.
Step 5: Fill up the Mason jar
Once my syrup is thoroughly cooled, I pour 1 cup of high-quality moonshine into the jar.
Step 6: Add syrup, brandy, and butterscotch
I add the simple syrup to the Mason jar content. I follow up by adding ½ cup of brandy. Next, I add 1 teaspoon of butterscotch extract.
Step 9: Cover and shake
Once all the ingredients have been added to the jar, I cover the jar securely with a lid. Then, I shake for about 20 seconds. I let the moonshine sit for 48 hours. Voila, it is ready.
A simple syrup is the base for this moonshine recipe. You can substitute the raw sugar for brown sugar. I am fussy about this because it gives the butterscotch moonshine its distinct color.
Apple Pie Moonshine
Apple pies are a decadent treat enjoyed as a dessert or whenever you want! We are about to bottle this dessert. Don’t worry. There will be enough to go around as this recipe makes for several servings. It even makes a great addition to a gift basket.
Things You Will Need:
- 1 liter of apple juice
- 1 liter of apple cider
- 4 cups of brown or white sugar
- 6 cinnamon sticks or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon apple pie extract
- 750 milliliters of moonshine
- 750 milliliters of spiced rum
- A large pot
- Hot plate or stovetop
- Amber Mason jars
Step 1: Mix all ingredients except the rum
I combine the apple juice, apple cider, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot.
Step 2: Apply heat
I turn on my heat source. Over medium heat, I bring the pot and its contents to a near boil.
Step 3: Cook mixture for one hour
I lower the heat and cover the pot with its lid. I let the mixture steam for about 1 hour.
Step 4: Cool mixture
I turn off the heat and take the pot off of the heat source. Then, I let the syrup cool down completely.
Step 5: Add the alcohols
I carefully remove all the cinnamon sticks. Next, I stir 750 milliliters of moonshine and 750 milliliters of spiced rum into the syrup.
Step 6: Add the apple pie extract
Here, I add one teaspoon of apple pie extract to the mixture.
Step 7: Fill up jars and shake
With a steady hand, I fill up the amber jars with apple pie moonshine. I tighten the lids on the jars and give them all a good shake. I load all the jars into the refrigerator. I enjoy it best when it’s cold with some cheese on biscuits or crackers.
This recipe will give you a large quantity of apple pie moonshine. If you would prefer a smaller amount, you can halve or quarter the recipe.
What Is Foreshot?
Foreshot is the first liquid by-product in the production of moonshine. It is also called the head. Foreshot usually contains methanol which starts to boil at 148F, lower than ethanol (174F). Skilled bootleggers always discard it in the first bit of shine for every batch when making moonshine.
Why Is Lead Solder Not Used in Moonshine Stills?
Lead solder is not used in moonshine stills because it can leach into the moonshine during distillation. It is very dangerous as this can cause lead poisoning. Moonshine stills should be made entirely from copper or stainless steel.
The majority of old, handmade stills contain vehicle radiators. These vehicle radiators are bound to have lead, which would contaminate the moonshine. The old vehicle radiators may also contain remnants of antifreeze glycol products which could also add toxins to the hooch.
How Do I Test For Purity in Moonshine?
You can test for purity in moonshine by smelling it and doing the spoon test. You should smell your moonshine before drinking it. If you perceive a weird, chemical odor, I strongly suggest you don’t drink it and try the second step.
Old folks claim the best test for the purity of moonshine is to pour some onto a metal spoon and light it up. If your moonshine burns with a blue flame, it is safe to drink. If your hooch burns with a red flame, it suggests lead and can cause death.
If your moonshine burns with a yellow flame, it most likely contains methanol or lead. Methanol in moonshine can kill you. If you don’t die, you could end up blind or brain dead.
But the spoon-burning method is not entirely reliable. For one, it does not detect other toxins in the drink. Another problem is sometimes methanol burns with a light blue flame, mimicking ethanol.