Moonshine is the colloquial name given to liqueur distilled illegally. It has existed in many forms around the world and has a history almost as old as civilization itself. In fact, moonshine is so popular that many countries have legal liqueurs named for their illegal counterparts. For example, White Lightning is a cheap alcoholic cider in the UK and Mountain Dew is a non-alcoholic soda in the United States. In Canada, several legal products are marketed as shine or screech.
In the United States, moonshine holds a special place in history: prohibition. In the 1920s, the government banned alcohol, and many people made their fortunes as "bootleggers," smuggling drinks into parties and speakeasies. This period of history is often celebrated, as is the case at the modern (and legal) speakeasy in New York City: Bathtub Gin. Named after moonshine, it features a hidden entrance and a bathtub in the middle of the floor.
Even though moonshine is popular and often celebrated, there is a good reason for it to be illegal. Brewing alcohol is a precise scientific process that can easily go wrong and create a dangerous instead of enjoyable drink. This happened in Australia after World War II. Italian immigrants brewed grappa, Italian moonshine made from grapes. In this instance, it was made from the leftover stems and skins of winemaking grapes, which resulted in some grappa batches having a poisonous level of methanol and killing large groups of people.
The practice of making moonshine isn't just history. It's a business that is still thriving, especially in the southeast region of the US known as Appalachia. In this rural area of the United States, moonshine stills are hidden, guarded, and booby-trapped to avoid detection from both law enforcement and the competition. It is a way of life that was even featured in a reality TV series!
In some countries, moonshine sometimes dominates the market. This is true in Burma, where several types of moonshine have the majority share of the market, as well as in Cape Verde, where residents use sugarcane to create an artisanal product called grogue. Grogue is such an important part of local culture that nearly all the sugarcane is used to produce this moonshine. Currently, the government has plans to create a legal grogue for export to both promote their local culture and bring in revenue.
|Tapetusa or "Chirrinchi"
|Puskar, samagonn, samakas or metsakohin
|Guaro de Contrabando
|Trinidad and Tobago