The history of moonshine is long and interesting, beginning in the 18th century, rising to its peak popularity in the 1920s, and continuing up until the present day. The practice of creating moonshine began in England in the 18th century and quickly spread to the US.
- For the first 200 years of its consumption in America, it was not illegal to produce moonshine, and issues surrounding the taxation of moonshine played a role in the American Revolution and Civil War.
- The knowledge needed for moonshine production was brought to America by Scotch-Irish immigrants, who settled in insular communities near the Appalachian mountains.
Moonshine became increasingly popular in these communities and was traded to other areas for profit. After prohibition came into effect, moonshine exploded in popularity. Because moonshine is higher in alcohol content than beer or wine and is manufactured at a smaller scale than other forms of alcohol, moonshine was a comparatively cheap and convenient way for people to get a drink when liquor was illegal.
Many people began creating their own pot stills and boiling still, either to drink the product themselves or to sell. Some were small setups put together in people’s basements, and others were large operations meant to create an industrial output. The prohibition age was key in bringing moonshine into the public’s imagination and exposing more people to it.
After the 21st amendment passed, repealing the 18th amendment and putting an end to prohibition, moonshine declined in popularity as people regained easy access to more traditional kinds of alcohol. Producing moonshine in your home is still illegal to this day, and in 2010, a law operation apprehended members of an organization that had brewed over 1.5 million gallons of alcohol.
- The moonshine trade is still alive and well.
- There are even brands that market legally produced moonshine to consumers worldwide, and pot stills that produce moonshine are available for purchase online.
- During its history, moonshine has evolved, both in its ingredients and the way moonshiners produce it, and the 1920s had a unique style of moonshine that differentiates it from today’s moonshine.
Because so many different brewers were producing so much moonshine during prohibition, there was more variety in the ingredients than before or after. This increased production meant they used all sorts of fruits like prunes and apricots on top of the usual moonshine ingredients like rye, corn, sugar, and yeast.
These differing ingredients produced a less consistent flavor, meaning people in the 1920s got to try lots of different flavors of moonshine. Many brewers realized part of moonshine’s appeal was the kick you get when you drink it, which led many brewers to add a variety of unique ingredients designed to amplify the kick.
These included many poisonous materials, such as embalming fluid, paint thinner, and even manure. However, because many brewers were novices, the most common recipe was the same as it is today: cornmeal, sugar, yeast, and water. Moonshine is extremely strong and can be as high as 150 proof, making it around 75% alcohol, nearly twice the strength of your typical liquor.
The high alcohol content is part of what makes moonshine so dangerous. But in the 1920s, many other factors made moonshine dangerous. The brewers’ inexperience caused them to fail to separate off the methanol – which can cause blindness – from the ethanol (also known as alcohol). Other mistakes (or the intentional addition of dangerous ingredients) caused the brewers to make poisonous moonshine, the consumption of which resulted in many deaths.
Information source: History of Moonshine and Prohibition in America – Winning Homebrew (winning-homebrew.com)
- 1 Where did American moonshine originate?
- 2 What is the history of moonshine in the United States?
- 3 When did moonshine become legal in the United States?
Where did American moonshine originate?
history of moonshine In the South, tracking down and drinking moonshine is a rite of passage. Whether it’s the booze’s rebellious history or its dangerous reputation. Moonshine has cemented a place in the culture at large. Moonshine defines as “whiskey or other strong alcoholic drinks made and sold illegally.” With that definition, it may be confusing to walk into liquor stores and find booze labeled as moonshine.
Part of the problem lies in the lack of federal requirements for labeling something as moonshine. Unlike whiskey, which you must from grain, distilled and bottled at a certain alcohol content, and aged in oak, ‘shine has no equal. Like vodka, you can make it from anything fermentable: fruit, sugar, grain, or milk.
Like vodka, there’s no upper limit on its alcohol content. Unless you want to describe it as white whiskey on the label, you can make it any way you please. So, despite what you might have read in the OED, legally made hooch labeled “moonshine” is all over the place.
Despite its super Southern connotation, hooch isn’t only a Southern drink. The term moonshine has been around since the late 15th century. But, it was first used to refer to liquor in the 18th century in England. The American roots of the practice have their origins in frontier life in Pennsylvania. Also, other grain-producing states.
At the time, farms with grain mills would distill their excess product so that it wouldn’t spoil. Back then, whiskey was even used in some places as currency. history In 1791, the federal government imposed a tax on liquor made in the country, known as the “whiskey tax.” For the next three years, distillers held off the tax collectors by less-than-legal means.
This brought a U.S. marshal to Pennsylvania to collect the taxes owed. More than 500 men attacked the area’s tax inspector general’s home. Their commander was then killed, which inspired a protest of nearly6000 people. The tax repealed in 1801, and the events from the decade prior came to be the Whiskey Rebellion.
A lot of the lore and legend surrounding moonshine is true. Bad batches or certain production techniques (like distilling in car radiators) could result in liquor that could make you go blind—or worse. Some moonshiners claim that these stories were an effort to discredit their work.
- Legal producers differ.
- Either way, the federal government commissioned Louis Armstrong to record radio ads about the dangers of drinking it.
- You should see all the Moonshine we have in our store,
- Don’t confuse moonshiners with bootleggers.
- Moonshiners make the liquor, while bootleggers smuggle it.
- The term bootlegger refers to the habit of hiding flasks in the boot tops around the 1880s.
But, with the introduction of cars, it came to mean anyone who smuggled booze. Mechanics found ways to soup up engines and modify cars to hide and transport as much moonshine as possible. In running from the law, these whiskey runners acquired some serious driving skills.
On their off days, they’d race against each other, a pastime that would eventually breed NASCAR. The two were so closely linked, in fact, that a moonshiner gave seed money for NASCAR to its founder Bill France. Another well-known link is Robert Glenn Johnson, better known as Junior Johnson. As the son of a notorious moonshiner, this former driver and NASCAR team owner recently partnered with a North Carolina-based distillery to produce “Midnight Moon.” Whether you call it “shine”, rotgut, white lightning, firewater, skull pop, mountain dew, or moonshine.
Its rebellious history and contentious present make it a helluva drink. If you want to learn more about the History of Moonshine, please follow Tennessee Shine. CO.
What is the history of moonshine in the United States?
The History of Moonshine in the United States Inspection of Homemade Moonshine Moonshine has played an important role in American history. In fact, moonshine wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for American history. Mankind has produced alcohol for thousands of years. However, the American government was one of the first major governments in the world to tax and control the alcohol industry.
- The moment the government started to tax and control alcohol was also the moment the moonshine industry began.
- The term “moonshine” comes from the fact that illegal spirits were made under the light of the moon.
- In every part of America, early moonshiners worked their stills at night to avoid detection from authorities.
The United States started taxing liquors and spirits shortly after the American Revolution. In the years following the Revolution, the United States was struggling to pay the bills of the long war. Taxing liquors and spirits was an effective way to generate revenue for the government.
In the early frontier days of American history, moonshine wasn’t a hobby: it was a part-time job, Many farmers relied on moonshine manufacturing to survive bad years. Low-value corn crops could be turned into high-value whisky. Back in those days, Americans hated paying liquor taxes. They hated taxes so much that revenuers, the government agents who came to collect taxes, were often attacked, tarred, and feathered when they came to visit.
The tension between the government and its citizens eventually boiled over into a conflict called the Whisky Rebellion, which began in 1791 during George Washington’s presidency. Although the Whisky Rebellion was a violent resistance movement, fewer than 15 people were killed throughout the entire conflict. To suppress the rebellion, George Washington led a coalition of 13,000 militia troops into western Pennsylvania – which was the center of the rebellion and America’s frontier country at the time.
Washington successfully suppressed the Whisky Rebellion. This marked an important point in U.S. history because it proved that the newly formed country could suppress violent uprisings within its own territory. But, ultimately, the rebels were successful because in 1801 Thomas Jefferson and his Republican Party repealed the tax to widespread public support.
During the Civil War, the American government once again imposed excise taxes on its citizens to fund the war. Revenuers and IRS officials cracked down harshly on moonshiners, leading to many violent conflicts throughout the country. During the Whisky Rebellion, moonshiners were portrayed as heroes standing against an oppressive government.
- After the Civil War, that attitude shifted.
- Many now saw moonshiners as violent criminals.
- In 1920, moonshiners across the country rejoiced: Prohibition was passed across the nation.
- Legal alcohol was no longer available anywhere.
- Overnight, illegal liquor became one of the most profitable businesses in America.
Organized crime took over the moonshine business and distillers sprung up across the country to keep up with demand. Producers began to sell watered-down moonshine based on sugar instead of corn. Speakeasies – complete with hidden doors, passwords, and secret escape routes – could be found in every city in America.
The good times couldn’t last forever for moonshiners. In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the moonshine market dwindled to a shadow of its former self. Today, moonshine is viewed much differently than it was a few decades ago. Only a few developed countries in the world let residents legally produce their own home-brewed spirits.
New Zealand, for example, allows home distillation for personal consumption but not for private sale. Whether producing or running a clandestine distillery, you’re sipping on American history every time you pour yourself a glass of moonshine. : The History of Moonshine in the United States
When did moonshine become legal in the United States?
4. America’s first legal moonshine distillery was launched in 2005. – Piedmont Distillers, located in Madison, North Carolina, holds the title of being the first legal moonshine operation in the United States and their state’s first legal distillery since Prohibition.
- In addition to being a part of moonshine’s history itself, Piedmont’s entire business celebrates the unique story of moonshine.
- Using recipes passed down from legendary moonshiner and NASCAR hall of famer Junior Johnson, their Midnight Moon moonshine is tripled distilled (remember those three Xs?) and special batches are infused with real fruit — from watermelon and strawberry to raspberry and peach.
Since 2005, more legal moonshine operations have popped up around the US, including the likes of Sugarlands (TN) and Call Family Distillers, which is also based in North Carolina.
Who brought alcohol to America?
Uneasy About Alcohol – America and the Booze Question
- The Puritans arrived in Boston in 1630 on a ship that carried plenty of beer—and 10,000 gallons of wine.
- Hard drinking is a tradition that came over on the Mayflower.400 years later we’re still struggling to find a balance between revelry and righteousness
- When the news arrived from Utah, cannons boomed in New Orleans, sirens howled in San Francisco, boats in New York harbor blasted their foghorns and the finance committee of the Chicago City Council adjourned to a tavern so the pols could quaff a snort of legal booze for the first time in 13 years, 10 months, 18 days, 7 hours and 27 minutes.
It was Dec.5, 1933—75 years ago this fall—and the news that sparked the momentous national celebration was the long-awaited passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution: Utah voted to become the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, which had banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages across the land since 1920.
- Prohibition is dead!” an electric sign in Times Square announced, and a mob of 10,000 roared its approval.
- A thousand bartenders reached in unison for the Scotch, rye or gin,” wrote reporter John Lardner, “and 50,000 customers bumped elbows for the honor of absorbing the first legal drink.” In Manhattan, a joyous crowd celebrated by lynching an effigy of “Old Man Prohibition” from a flagpole on Broadway.
In Chicago’s Drake Hotel, a scantily clad woman popped out of a 10-foot-tall champagne glass as drinkers cheered. In Boston, revelers wandered from saloon to saloon, singing off-key renditions of old drinking songs or engaging in what the Boston Globe described as “sidewalk displays of wrestling ability and hog-calling.” But revelry did not rule everywhere.
- In many places, including Georgia, Kentucky and Washington, D.C., booze was still banned by state or local laws, which tended to throw a wet blanket on the festivities.
- In Atlanta, the celebration of Prohibition’s demise was not nearly as spirited as the celebration of its birth nearly 14 years earlier, when, the Atlanta Constitution reported, “The Anti-Saloon League, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and other dry organizations paraded on Peachtree to Five Points, where old John Barleycorn was burned in effigy.” Today, the long, bitter conflict between “dry” and “wet” Americans seems quaint and absurd, a strange tale from ancient history.
But that colorful clash illustrates an enduring aspect of American life, a conflict between two sides of our national personality—the secular “pursuit of happiness” versus the religious pursuit of righteousness. America’s epic battle over alcohol is one of the divisive cultural issues that have periodically roiled American politics, like slavery and segregation or the more recent controversies over gay rights and abortion.
- Getting drunk, plastered, loaded, tanked, sloshed, smashed, stewed and stoned is an old American tradition.
- But so is preaching fiery sermons against “demon rum,” attacking saloons with hatchets and enacting laws to prevent your neighbors from getting drunk, plastered, sloshed, smashed, stewed and stoned.
The story of alcohol in America is an inspiring tale of courageous men and women who ventured across stormy seas, conquered a teeming wilderness, created a great nation and built an awesome industrial colossus—and did it all while knocking back heroic quantities of strong liquids.
- Booze came to America aboard Mayflower.
- Like most British ships in 1620, Mayflower carried more beer than water.
- One reason was that beer was safer than water, which was often contaminated with noxious wastes.
- Another reason was that passengers preferred to pass the tedious nine-week voyage in a pleasant beer buzz.
The Pilgrims drank so much beer on Mayflower that they’d almost run out by the time they reached America, and they may have landed at Plymouth simply because they didn’t have enough beer to fuel the search for a better place. “We could not now take time for further search and consideration,” one passenger wrote, “our victuals being much spent, especially our beere.” Not long after landing, the Pilgrims began making wine out of wild grapes.
- They served it to the Indians at the first Thanksgiving, although you probably didn’t hear about that back in kindergarten.
- The Puritans are not known as party animals, but they arrived in Boston in 1630 on a ship that carried plenty of beer—and 10,000 gallons of wine.
- Despite their well-deserved reputation as killjoys, the Puritans didn’t oppose drinking, they merely opposed drinking too much.
“Drink is in itself a good Creature of God, and to be received with thankfulness,” wrote Increase Mather, the famed Puritan preacher, “but the abuse of drink is from Satan.” All over the colonies, settlers quaffed vast quantities of this “good Creature of God.” When they could get it, they drank imported wine, brandy and port, but such luxuries were expensive and tended to mysteriously disappear en route from England in accidents attributed to “leakage.” Consequently, thirsty colonists began making booze out of just about everything, as recounted in this little ditty from the 1630s: If barley be wanting to make into malt, We must be content and think it no fault, For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips, Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.
Among the most popular concoctions in colonial-era taverns was a drink called “Flip.” The bartender filled about two-thirds of a mug or pitcher with beer, added a dollop of rum, sweetened the cocktail with sugar, molasses or dried pumpkin and then stirred it with a red-hot poker, which made the drink bubble, gurgle and steam.
Good for what ails you, especially on a cold winter’s night. Tea is the beverage most commonly associated with the American Revolution, but beer and rum are far more deserving of that honor. Even though Samuel Adams was a devout Congregationalist (see “The Revolutionary Gospel According to Samuel Adams,” p.42), he recruited his Sons of Liberty in Boston taverns, causing Tories to mock him as “Sam the Publican.” And the patriots who dumped British tea in Boston harbor had fortified themselves for their mission by downing several bowls of rum punch.
Later, General George Washington boosted his troops’ morale with a daily ration of rum. “The benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor,” he explained, “have been experienced in all Armies and are not to be disputed.” Unlike today’s milquetoast pols, America’s Founding Fathers were eager tipplers.
James Madison liked to start his day with a tumbler of whiskey. John Adams breakfasted on what his son described as “a large tankard of hard cider.” Washington owned one of Virginia’s most productive whiskey distilleries. Thomas Jefferson was an avid wine connoisseur and so was Benjamin Franklin, who wrote an ode to drinking that concluded with this lovely couplet: That virtue and safety’s in wine-bibbing found While all that drink water deserve to be drowned.
- One of the first crises of the newborn United States of America was caused by whiskey—or, more accurately, by a whiskey tax.
- In 1791 Congress voted to tax whiskey, which proved to be extremely unpopular, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains, where whiskey-making was not only a passion but a major source of cash income for subsistence farmers.
In 1794, near Pittsburgh, a motley army of tax protesters rebelled, attacking courts and tarring and feathering a tax collector. President Washington responded by personally leading a militia army to put down what came to be called the “Whiskey Rebellion.” By then, nearly every American farm contained a sizable apple orchard—not to make apple pie but to make hard cider, which was the country’s most popular beverage, guzzled daily by young and old alike.
In rural areas, cider took the place not only of wine and beer but of coffee and tea, juice and even water,” wrote culinary historian Michael Pollan. “Indeed, in many places cider was consumed more freely than water, even by children.” The cute little tykes would knock back a tumbler of hard cider with breakfast and then proceed off to school with a pleasant buzz, and nobody worried that it would ruin their chances to get into Harvard, perhaps because Harvard served hard cider in its dining halls.
In the early 1800s, Americans drank more booze than at any time before or since—more than five gallons of pure alcohol per person per year. (Today’s figure is about two gallons per adult.) “Americans drank at home and abroad, alone and together, at work and at play,” wrote historian W.J.
Rorabaugh in his classic 1979 book, The Alcoholic Republic. “Americans drank before meals, with meals and after meals. They drank while working in the fields and while traveling across half a continent.” Meanwhile, America’s native-born hard drinkers were joined by hordes of hard-drinking European immigrants who brought the alcoholic crafts of their native lands—Scots-Irish distillers, German brewers and Italian winemakers, each contributing another ingredient to America’s melting pot or, in this case, to America’s cocktail shaker.
As Americans moved west, the first sign of civilization in many new towns was a saloon—or several saloons. In 1876, for example, Dodge City, Kan., contained 1,200 people and 19 saloons. Western saloons sold liquor, of course, but they also served as restaurants, dance halls, casinos, brothels, courtrooms, post offices, funeral parlors and, on Sunday mornings, churches.
Saloons also provided their customers with cultural offerings, some better than others. “At the upper end of Main Street is a one-horse beer hall, called by courtesy a concert garden, where a pianist and violinist have performed so far without getting shot,” reported the Anaconda, Mont., Standard in 1897.
“Occasionally a woman, whose face would stop a freight train and voice would rasp a sawmill, comes out and assists the pianist and violinist in increasing the agony.” But America’s firewater was not always sold in saloons and frequently wasn’t even marketed as liquor.
Much of it was bottled in patent medicines bearing such wonderful names as “Kickapoo Cough Syrup” and “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” and promoted as healthful elixirs. Sold in drugstores and advertised in traveling “medicine shows,” patent medicines were touted as cures for everything from colds to cancer.
Actually, they cured nothing but they did provide relief from physical, mental and spiritual pains with the same secret ingredient found in whiskey—ethyl alcohol. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, advertised as a cure for “female complaints,” contained 18 percent alcohol.
Peruna, America’s most popular patent medicine, was 28 percent alcohol. Hostetter’s Celebrated Stomach Bitters contained 47 percent alcohol—more than your average whiskey—and was said to have steadied the nerves of Union soldiers at the, Paine’s Celery Compound, advertised as a “Nerve Tonic and Alternative Medicine,” contained a mere 21 percent alcohol, but the booze was fortified by a dose of cocaine, which no doubt contributed to its popularity.
“More alcohol is consumed in this country in patent medicines than is dispensed in a legal way by licensed liquor vendors,” Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote in his famous 1905 Collier’s magazine exposé of the hidden ingredients in patent medicines, which influenced the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.
Part of the popularity of patent medicines was their appeal to a growing segment of the American population—prohibitionists. In fact, a patent medicine called “Old Dr. Kaufmann’s Great Sulphur Bitters,” which contained 22 percent alcohol, targeted prohibitionists with ads featuring an endorsement by Mrs.S.
Louise Barton, “An Indefatigable and Life-Long Worker in the Temperance Cause.” For prohibitionists, such patent medicines were a godsend, enabling them to stay pleasantly (but respectably) tipsy while toiling in the great national crusade to rid America of the demon rum.
- Prohibition is incontrovertible proof that you don’t have to be drunk to come up with a really, really bad idea.
- Stone cold sober but intoxicated on the powerful elixir of righteous idealism, American prohibitionists believed that the demon rum and its church, the saloon, were the world’s prime sources of evil.
“When the saloon goes,” said Ernest Cherrington, a leader of the Anti-Saloon League, “the devil will be ready to quit.” The American temperance movement is as old as America itself, but it became a political force in the mid-1800s, fueled in part by a bias against immigrants, including Irish and Italian Catholics, who were stereotyped as shiftless alcoholics.
After the Civil War, it spawned two powerful groups—the Prohibition Party and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, whose slogan was “For God, Home and Native Land.” The WCTU’s most famous member was Carry Nation, a Kansas minister’s wife, who led bands of women into saloons, where they sang hymns to the patrons and greeted bartenders with a cheery “Good morning, destroyer of men’s souls!” When those efforts failed to dry out Kansas, Nation prayed to God for direction and was awakened by a heavenly voice saying, “Go to Kiowa.” She went to the town of Kiowa, where she invaded three saloons, smashing the liquor bottles with rocks.
Soon, she replaced the rocks with a hatchet and became famous, traveling across America, smashing up saloons with her trademark wrecking tool. Arrested dozens of times, she paid her fines with money raised by selling little souvenir hatchets. But it wasn’t the antics of Carry Nation who won the fight for prohibition; it was the political savvy of the Anti-Saloon League, which added clout to the crusade for salvation of individual drunkards by strong-arming government officials.
- Founded in 1895, the league pioneered many of the techniques now used by modern advocacy groups.
- Working through local churches—generally rural Methodist or Baptist churches—it raised money, endorsed candidates and successfully lobbied for laws banning liquor in many towns and counties.
- In 1905 the league demonstrated its growing power by defeating Ohio Governor Myron Herrick, who had thwarted the league’s legislative agenda—an upset that terrified wet politicians.
In 1913 the league kicked off its drive for a constitutional amendment prohibiting liquor with a march on Washington and a massive letter-writing campaign that flooded Congress with mail. The amendment failed in 1914, but gained strength during World War I, when the league exploited America’s anti-German hysteria by deliberately associating beer with German-American brewers.
- Aiserism abroad and booze at home must go,” declared the league’s general counsel and wily Washington lobbyist, Wayne Wheeler.
- It worked.
- Congress passed the amendment in 1918, and the states ratified it so quickly that America’s wets barely had time to finish their drinks and start fighting back.
- When the new law went into effect on January 17, 1920, evangelist Billy Sunday held a funeral for John Barleycorn in Norfolk, Va.
“The slums will soon be a memory,” he predicted. “We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs.Hell will be forever for rent.” Alas, it didn’t work out that way. Prohibition not only failed to eradicate slums and prisons, it even failed to curtail drinking, a pastime that now took on the allure of a forbidden thrill.
- Booze was smuggled into the country on “rumrunner” ships, cooked up in countless illegal distilleries, breweries and bathtubs and sold to eager customers in illicit saloons known as speakeasies.
- New York City, which had 15,000 legal saloons before Prohibition, soon had 32,000 speakeasies.
- They came in infinite varieties, and two newspapermen described a few dozen in their 1932 guidebook, Manhattan Oases.
The oases ranged from the prosaic Log Cabin (“designed for the visiting Shriner”) to the seedy Julius’s (“as weird as a witch’s Sabbath and as noisome as the psychopathic ward at Bellevue Hospital”) to the elegant 19th Hole (“a nice hideaway for bond salesmen and their customers’ wives”).
Prohibition made selling booze a crime, which naturally attracted criminals to the business. Gangsters battled for control of the liquor trade, and the winners became big businessmen, millionaires with bribe-bought political power. The most famous was Al Capone, who survived a gang war that created 500 corpses to become one of the most powerful men in Chicago.
“Somehow I just naturally drifted into the racket,” he told an interviewer from Liberty magazine in 1931. “And I guess I’m here to stay until the law is repealed.” Dry forces were confident that the law would never be repealed. “There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment,” said Senator Morris Sheppard, “as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” Propelled by overwhelming public opinion against Prohibition, a hummingbird reached Mars on Dec.5, 1933, and celebrations broke out across America.
- Downtown bars were lined five and six deep,” the Chicago Tribune reported the next day.
- Sweet Adeline’ and other old favorites rang in many of the bars as morning neared.
- Wags made frequent requests of musicians for the WCTU song, ‘It’s in the Constitution and It’s There to Stay,’ but nobody could remember the tune.” Repeal did not set off a wild national bender, as some dries had predicted, but it did result in one permanent change in American drinking habits: Respectable women began patronizing bars.
“Women Flock To Bars As The New Wet Era Opens,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “Many women are crowding up to be served, something considered not quite right in the days preceding prohibition.” Before World War I, the saloon was largely a male outpost—one reason many women supported Prohibition.
- But after repeal, women, who’d recently gained the right to vote, seized the right to drink in public.
- In 1935, two years after repeal, two middle-class alcoholics with wonderfully American names—Bill Wilson and Bob Smith—founded an organization that proved far more effective than Prohibition in combating drunkenness.
Wilson, a former Wall Street whiz kid, and Smith, a doctor, named their group “Alcoholics Anonymous” and it has spread around the world, helping millions of alcoholics kick the habit. These days, American liquor stores are packed with a dazzling variety of beverages, ranging from gourmet single-malt Scotches and domestic and imported wines, to neon-colored concoctions like MD 20/20 Blue Raspberry, and new alcoholic “energy drinks” like Joose, which mixes booze with caffeine, ginseng and tropical fruit juices.
- But the United States is, statistically speaking, a nation of moderate drinkers, ranking somewhere around 20th in surveys of worldwide per capita alcohol consumption, depending on how the data is calculated.
- Although our intake is far behind most European countries, American life is suffused with booze.
We drink at weddings and wakes—and sometimes at baby showers, baptisms, graduation parties, anniversaries and funerals. We drink to celebrate our triumphs and drown our sorrows—but also just to unwind after another dull day at work. The influence of alcohol on American culture is so widespread as to be incalculable.
Much of America’s greatest literature was produced by alcoholics and hard drinkers—Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Edgar Allen Poe, Eugene O’Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack London, Jack Kerouac and Sinclair Lewis, whose classic 1927 novel about a corrupt evangelist begins: “Elmer Gantry was drunk.
He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk.”
- Much of America’s best art has also been produced by hard drinkers, including Jackson Pollock, who enjoyed spilling paint but not his beloved whiskey, and Robert Rauschenberg, who claimed that he drank a quart of Jack Daniels a day, which might explain why he once made a sculpture by sticking a stuffed goat inside an old tire.
- Jazz, America’s classical music, was born in the bars and brothels of New Orleans and came of age in Prohibition speakeasies, including the most famous speakeasy of all, New York’s Cotton Club, whose house band was Duke Ellington’s orchestra. And American popular songs contain nearly as many references to booze as they do to love or lust:
- Roll out the barrel It’s another tequila sunrise Whiskey river, don’t run dry
- Wasted away again in Margaritaville
- Alcohol has spawned many of the iconic characters in American pop culture—the cowboy knocking back a shot of Red Eye, the hard-drinking private eye, the cynical reporter with a bottle in his bottom file drawer and, of course, the anonymous protagonist of a million jokes that begin, “A guy walks into a bar.”
The United States is a sports-mad nation, and our sports are intimately connected with alcohol. We drink a beer while eating a hot dog at baseball games and sip a Bloody Mary while tailgating at football games. World Series winners celebrate by pouring champagne over their teammates’ heads.
- And stock car racing—which came into its own as a sport after World War II—was created by moonshiners.
- In the southern Appalachians, the culture of moonshine never died out, nor did the desire to avoid paying tax on it.
- Moonshiners souped up their cars so they could outrun federal “revenuers” on twisty mountain roads and, in the 1940s, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing began organizing races on dirt tracks.
“About all your good dirt track drivers were involved in moonshine,” Junior Johnson, the famous NASCAR driver, told me in an interview in 1999. “That’s kind of the way it started.” At NASCAR’s first official race in 1949, most of the drivers had learned their craft hauling whiskey.
- Six years later, Johnson, then one of NASCAR’s biggest stars, was arrested while tending his father’s illegal still in North Carolina and sent to federal prison.
- When he got out, he started racing again, won the 1960 Daytona 500 and became a folk hero.
- In 1986 President Ronald Reagan pardoned Johnson for his moonshine conviction.
By then, NASCAR’s outlaw image had helped to make it a major spectator sport. “I think it did appeal to people,” Johnson told me. “I think the exposure of you being a good moonshiner and having the fastest car of anybody—it was sort of a glorified thing, like Babe Ruth hitting his 714th home run.” Last year, Johnson, now age 77 and retired from racing, returned to his first love—making whiskey.
Did moonshine originate in Tennessee?
The History of Moonshine | Old Tennessee Distilling Company The history of moonshine in the United States is deeply rooted in Appalachia and East Tennessee. In fact, the history of East Tennessee is almost synonymous with moonshine. Moonshining became a legitimate trade when the U.S.
Placed a tax on the sale of alcohol. In order to avoid paying these hefty taxes, early moonshiners had to become very methodical in their production and distribution practices. Federal Revenuers were government agents who were sent to collect the taxes from the local moonshiners. Often met with much hostility, some revenuers were even attacked and run out of town.
Hostility between moonshiners and the federal government boiled over during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Townsmen became enraged when a tax collector came to a town in western Pennsylvania to collect unpaid taxes from distillers. More than 500 angry protesters surrounded the tax collector’s home, and President George Washington was forced to send militiamen to quell the uprising.
- In all, 20 men were arrested, but this rebellion proved that America’s government was committed to, and capable of enforcing its new taxes on alcohol.
- Despite the government’s commitment to controlling the sale of alcohol, moonshining continued to grow in Kentucky, Southern Virginia, and East Tennessee.
As time went on, the persistence of revenuers only increased, and as a result, the determination of moonshiners increased as well. Laws against moonshining hit their peak in 1920 when the nationwide prohibition laws went into effect. These laws completely outlawed the sale and production of alcohol across the entire country.
- Prohibition sent the demand for moonshine through the roof.
- Suddenly, illegally-made moonshine was the only source of alcohol available, and many moonshiners had trouble keeping up with the demand.
- Quantity-over-quality” became the name of the game, and mass-produced, cheap moonshine became a highly sought-after commodity.
Making the moonshine was the easy part. Many moonshiners had cleverly disguised stills hidden deep in the woods. Delivering the moonshine to their customers in the city was the difficult part. While their still may have been hidden, federal agents had the roads well-patrolled.
- Fast cars and brave drivers became the best method for delivering moonshine.
- Whiskey and moonshine runners became the most skilled wheelmen in the south.
- Their ability to drive fast — and drive well– was their ticket to making a living and staying out of jail.
- Competitions between drivers are what led to the invention of early stock car racing, and eventually NASCAR.
Now legal to produce in many states, moonshine is made commercially for public consumption. Although legal, the government has levied very heavy taxes on the production of moonshine. Despite the taxes, the legal moonshine industry has flourished, with many variations and flavors now widely available.
Where did moonshine originate in Virginia?
Many people know a little bit about the era of Prohibition in America or have at least watched films about moonshiners, such as the 2012 Hollywood drama “Lawless” starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, adapted from the novel The Wettest County in the World by Virginia-native author (and descendant of the Bondurant family) Matt Bondurant.
What is American Born moonshine made from?
American Born Moonshine Original 750ML American Born Moonshine Original White Lightning 750ML Do you have a bit of the bootlegger spirit inside of you? Powerful, 103 Proof, this 100% authentic American Born Moonshine is an un-aged corn whiskey made with three simple ingredients.
- Using a 200-year old recipe, American Born White Lightening uses just corn, sugar and water to create an exceptionally smooth, beautifully clean liquor.
- Perfect to drink neat, it is also remarkably mixable with lemonade for Margaritas or devise your own incredible cocktails.
- Whichever way you choose to drink it, you’ll be lifting your glass with something of the fiercely independent Appalachian Mountain freedom of spirit.
: American Born Moonshine Original 750ML