Many people still regard moonshine as a beverage distilled in the sticks with dubious ingredients and even more questionable methods. They’re flat-out wrong. Modern versions are way different than the white lightening of yore. Basically whiskey that hasn’t soaked in oak, moonshine can add bright intensity and body to cocktails without elbowing out the other components. These are three cocktails to encourage you to shine on.
Moon Dance (Birds & Bees, Los Angeles)
Bar manager Jake Larowe created this drink, whose name is an homage to the famous Van Morrison song, a few years ago when he was trying to figure out what to do with a few bottles of moonshine he had hanging around the bar. “The time whiskey spends in wood tends to mellow it and soften the edges,” he says. “But without this aging, moonshine comes through full-force.” Larowe says moonshine mixes especially well with herbal and bitter flavors such as apéritifs, digestifs, amaros and vermouths. This cocktail at the 1950s underground bar is a sweet, herbal sipper with a full body from start to finish.
Pow Pow (Radiator, Washington, D.C.)
Lead bartender Patrick Barrett’s created this riff on a Hot Toddy because he thinks it’s fun to play around with the various flavors of moonshine on the shelf. Here, chai adds complexity and rounds out two apple-flavored ingredients. As for traditional unflavored moonshine? “While [it] can be used in place of spirits such as vodka, I find it works even better as an alternative for more complex spirits like unaged rum,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.”
Holiday Hooch (The Parlour Bar, El Cortez, Las Vegas)
The moonshine for this cocktail is produced at the nearby Mob Museum from double-distilled 100 percent corn mash and measures a stiff 100 proof. Bartender Randy Meyer looked to Irish Coffee for inspiration for this winter warmer. “Moonshine adds a signature burn and when mixed with coffee produces quaffable results.”