What is Moonshine Made From?

Moonshine, also known as shine, white lightning, or hooch, is a high-proof distilled spirit that has been around for centuries.

boozy alcoholic american moonshine shots ready to drink

It is typically made in small batches in a homemade still, which contributes to its illicit reputation. While moonshine can be made from a variety of ingredients, it is most commonly produced from corn mash.

The process of making moonshine involves fermenting a mixture of grains, sugar, and water, which is then distilled to increase the alcohol content. Corn is the most popular grain used in moonshine production, but other grains like wheat, rye, and barley can also be used.

The choice of grain affects the flavor and character of the final product. Some moonshine makers add fruits like apples or peaches to the mash to add flavor. The resulting spirit can range in color from clear to amber, depending on the aging process used.

History of Moonshine

Moonshine has a long and storied history in the United States.

moonshine origins

The practice of making moonshine dates back to at least 1785, when the Whiskey Rebellion erupted in protest of a tax on whiskey. Moonshine was a way for farmers and other rural residents to avoid paying taxes on their alcohol.

During the Prohibition era, moonshine became even more popular as the sale and consumption of alcohol was outlawed in the United States. Bootleggers and other illicit distillers made moonshine in secret, often in the Appalachian Mountains, to avoid detection by law enforcement.

The term “moonshine” comes from the practice of creating the alcohol during the nighttime, thereby avoiding detection. Bootleggers in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s transported their moonshine at night to avoid detection by the local police, racing along backcountry roads.

Moonshine has also played a role in the history of NASCAR. Many early stock car racers were moonshiners who modified their cars to outrun the police. Junior Johnson, one of the sport’s most famous drivers, got his start as a moonshiner before becoming a professional racer.

Despite its illegal status, moonshine has remained a popular drink in the United States. Today, many craft distillers make legal versions of moonshine using traditional recipes and techniques.

Moonshine Ingredients

Moonshine is a clear and unaged whiskey that is typically made from grain, sugar, water, and yeast.

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The base ingredients can vary depending on the recipe, but the most common are corn, malted barley, and fermentable sugar. In addition, some recipes call for additional ingredients such as fruit, starches, or juice to add flavor and complexity.

Base Ingredients

Corn is a common base ingredient for moonshine, as it is widely available and contains a high amount of starch. The corn is first ground into meal and then mixed with hot water to create a mash.

Malted barley is often added to the mash to help convert the starches into fermentable sugars. Yeast is then added to the mash to begin the fermentation process.

Sugar is another common base ingredient for moonshine. It is often used in recipes that do not contain grain, or as an additional source of fermentable sugar. The sugar is dissolved in hot water to create a syrup, which is then mixed with yeast to begin the fermentation process.

Water is a critical ingredient in moonshine, as it is used to create the mash and to dilute the final product. It is important to use clean, filtered water to avoid any impurities that could affect the flavor or quality of the moonshine.

Additional Ingredients

Fruit is a popular addition to moonshine, as it can add flavor and complexity to the final product. Fruits such as apples, peaches, and berries are often used in recipes. The fruit is first mashed or pureed, and then added to the mash during the fermentation process.

Starches such as potatoes or rice can also be used as a base ingredient in moonshine recipes. The starches are first cooked and then mashed to create a mash, which is then mixed with yeast to begin the fermentation process.

Juice can also be used as a base ingredient in moonshine recipes. The juice is first pasteurized to remove any bacteria, and then mixed with yeast to begin the fermentation process. Popular juices used in moonshine recipes include apple, grape, and peach.

The Moonshine Distillation Process

Moonshine is a type of distilled alcohol that is generally made at home.

Manufacture of moonshine at home

The process of making moonshine involves several steps, including fermentation, distillation, and proofing.


The first step in making moonshine is to create a mash. A mash is a mixture of grains, such as corn, and water that is cooked and then allowed to cool. Yeast is then added to the mixture, which begins the process of fermentation. During fermentation, the yeast consumes the sugar in the mash and produces alcohol.


Once the mash has fermented, it is time to distill the alcohol. Distillation is the process of separating the alcohol from the water and other impurities in the mash. Moonshiners use a pot still to distill their alcohol.

The pot still is a simple device that consists of a large pot and a long coil of copper tubing. The mash is heated in the pot, and the alcohol vapors rise up through the tubing and are collected in a separate container.


Once the alcohol has been distilled, it is important to measure its proof. The proof of alcohol is a measure of its alcohol content. Moonshiners use a hydrometer to measure the proof of their alcohol.

The hydrometer is a simple device that floats in the alcohol and measures its density. The higher the density, the higher the proof of the alcohol. Moonshiners can adjust the proof of their alcohol by diluting it with water.

Types of Moonshine

Moonshine is a high-proof liquor that is traditionally made and distributed illegally.

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It is also known as white lightning, mountain dew, hooch, or white whiskey. Moonshine can be made from a variety of ingredients, but the most common one is cornmeal. Other ingredients include sugar, fruit, and grains. Here are some of the most popular types of moonshine:

  • Corn whiskey: This is the most common type of moonshine and is made from a mash of at least 51% corn. It is usually aged in oak barrels for a short period to give it a smoother taste.
  • Unaged whiskey: Also known as white whiskey, this type of moonshine is not aged in barrels and has a harsher taste. It is usually made from a mix of grains and has a higher alcohol content.
  • Vodka: Vodka is a clear, neutral spirit that is usually made from potatoes or grains. Moonshine vodka is made in a similar way, but it is not distilled as many times as commercial vodka, which gives it a stronger taste.
  • Rum: Moonshine rum is made from molasses or sugar cane juice. It is usually aged in oak barrels to give it a smoother taste.
  • Applejack: Applejack is a type of brandy that is made from fermented apple cider. Moonshine applejack is made in a similar way, but it is not aged as long as commercial applejack.
  • Brandy: Moonshine brandy is made from fermented fruit, usually grapes or apples. It is usually aged in oak barrels to give it a smoother taste.
  • White dog: White dog is unaged whiskey that is bottled straight from the still. It has a harsher taste than aged whiskey but is popular among moonshine enthusiasts.

Moonshine can also be flavored with various fruits, spices, and herbs. Some popular flavors include peach, cherry, apple pie, and cinnamon. It is important to note that moonshine is illegal in many countries and can be dangerous if not made properly.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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