What's the deal with present day urban moonshine consumption?

I recently watched a show about moonshine on one of the learning networks. There was a lot of history, including how the early whiskey runners became NASCAR drivers. What surprised me, however, is that the show claimed moonshine use is on the rise in urban areas like DC, Philly, and Baltimore. They even busted up a speakeasy in some guys house.

The show claimed a jug of moonshine sells for about 20 bucks, and that these underground bars charge about a buck for a drink. Um, that doesn’t seem like a very good deal at the wholesale or retail level. If you wanted to sit around some guy’s house and get drunk, you could probably drink pretty decent legit booze for $1 a drink.

I can understand people making booze for private consumption in rural areas, but to have a whole distribution network including long haul transportation and retail sales doesn’t seem worth beating the revenue man out of his cut when you factor in legal risk and safety issues.

So, did the show exaggerate the prevalence in urban areas and/or mess up the economics? (This is probably the same channel that once claimed there is 50 gazillion dollars worth of gold in Fort Knox)

Or are there a lot of people who actually prefer home made whiskey (with lead, antifreeze, dead raccoons and all) to the corporate stuff on the market?

Any thoughts?

Interesting question. The one thing that comes to mind is that you can do homemade liquor of quite a bit more potency than can be legally purchased. I think. Perhaps that’s the appeal?

Many people-- predominantly younger folk-- will stupidly pay out the nose to be renegades, to feel like they are doing something illicit, even if the payoff is not really worth the cost. I guarantee you that if use of moonshine is climbing, it’s because it has some forbidden fruit value.

Two similar examples:

  1. the Cuban cigar, which has no amazing qualities, and whose value and demand would likely drop dramatically if the US stopped their decades-old embargo that makes it a) illegal, and b) hard to obtain.

  2. Coors Beer in the 70s was hard to get, and people really wanted this mediocre beer for that reason alone, and people would apparently be paid handsomely for smuggling the stuff to locales where it was not easily available.
    I’m almost positive it has nothing to do with potency, since Everclear (190 proof) is available in most states, and a lighter version (I believe 151 proof) is available in all the rest. I shudder to think of who would need anything stronger than even this latter, “watered-down” version.

Nothing to add here except that I’m curious too. I mean, for $12 you could get a QUART of cheap-ass vodka that, while it would taste like raw ass, at least wouldn’t make you go blind (methanol) or insane (lead). That’s crazy.

Come on, you can’t figure it out? Why does anyone do anything in big cities - because it’s cool.

Yeah, it’s $100 billion and $300 million in change (at $681/oz, today’s price for the 147.3 million ounces there.

There was a recent thread about ethanol production for fuel, I seem to recall that it was possible to ferment and distill ethanol without lead, antifreeze, or dead raccoons in the mix. Possibly the producers of beverage grade ethanol have also discovered how to accomplish this.


Hopefully this will answer the question as to its continued existence, who drinks it, and why.

I know your just pointing out that you can make moonshine without poison. Now for my addendum.

They made farmers add gasoline to the mix so it couldn’t be drunk, when experimenting with ethanol in the early 80’s. A gallon or so of gasoline to a barrel.

I think that, aside from the stupid immature college student market, the purpose of ultra-strong potables like Everclear is for use as in mixed drinks. Because it’s so strong, you don’t have to add very much of it to make a decent alcoholic beverage (leaving more room for whatever mixers you like).

In the Ethanol at Home thread, a cite I posted says,

“If you just want to produce fuel for personal use, and to be used on your own property, you aren’t subject to bonds, taxes, and denaturing your product unless it is removed from the premises”.

I didn’t go back over the whole shebang, but everything you ever wanted to know about the legality of making ethanol at home for both fuel and consumption can be found Here. Although that doesn’t address that unscrupulous producers might still throw the odd raccoon in the mix, it does cover most everything else (I’m reminded of “Mister Roberts” where Doc and Mr. Roberts are adding stuff like iodine to straight alcohol to make it pass off as scotch).

This is the second mention of dead raccoons.
Is there something special about dead-raccoon flavored moonshine?

Eh, I knew a couple of moonshiners. One had a chemistry degree from a very respectable institution and claimed it wasn’t difficult to make without resorting to used car radiators (I’m afraid I didn’t ask about raccoons, sorry). She didn’t much care for the taste, but enjoyed the process of making it and they viewed each new batch much like I would a batch of mead, except they didn’t talk about it around strangers.

Weighing in as a Moonshine connoisseur. I have tasted moonshine in 5 states and 2 different countries. The worst is indeed the foulest tasting beverage imaginable. The best compares to Boodles Gin. I was raised in East Tennessee in Tazewell, where moonshinning is still considered an art form. Dozens of makers are there and I have even delivered for a relative whose primary income was from the sale of quality shine. Everywhere I have been there are people that ask me to get them some when they find out I have a supplier. Everyone seems to want to try it at least once.

Standard moonshine Joke :

Man gets lost way back in the woods and as he is trying to turn his car around around. An old man with a shotgun steps out of the bushes and hands the man a jug.

Drink, he says. The man refuses whereupon the old man levels the shotgun at him and repeats, Drink!

The lost man drinks and instantly falls to the ground and exclaims, "Damn, that’s the worst stuff I have ever tasted.

The old man says, “It sure is, now you take the gun and make me take a drink.”

Maybe I should open a thread, Ask the moonshiner.

Heh. My Grandfather had some friends from there who brought him a couple of gallons every year when they would come to hunt. That, and strawberry/blackberry wine. Good stuff on both counts.

They made (well…still make, I’m sure- My Grandfather has been gone for a few years, and I haven’t kept in touch) it as a hobby, pretty much. It was one of those “Mine is bigger than yours” type of contests amongst folks (whose Fathers, Grandfathers, Great-Grandfathers, etc.) who made the stuff.

I’ve never seen any maker of it who, when told it was good, didn’t say something along the lines of: “People used to come from miles around to taste my Daddy’s ‘shine…This is the saaaaaaame recipe, and I have ALMOST got it to tastin’ like his!” (It is never as good as the predecessors moonshine :stuck_out_tongue: )

Twenty bucks for a gallon sounds like a good deal if it’s good stuff. That’s 128 oz, and it’ll yield you 85 honest to goodness shots. It you have a 750 ml bottle, you’ll only get 17 shots, and only if you’re a bit niggardly with one of them.

So, let’s say a good bottle of Johnnie Walker, say the Red label so it’s not so premium. In Michigan, the minimum shelf price is $22.95. So we’re already well ahead of a gallon, which would set you back by about $115. Hell, at a buck a shot, you’re not even breaking even on the shelf price.

Even if I go for rotgut like Jose Cuervo at $44.97 for a 1750 ml, I’m still paying $97 for a gallon.

Still think $20 is too much to pay for a gallon of something decent?

(Damn, I never thought about it before – makes the price of gasahol seem darnright cheap! I get 15.5 gallons of Labatt at a time for under $90).

When I was a young wild cat in my early 20’s, I made a vacuum still, and “made” about 3 gallons of more or less pure grain alchohol (it self reacts almost immediately, forming CO2 and Water, brining it down to about 93% pure)
1 gallon got used up in various early 20’s escapades… the other two more or less got forgotten about and were left in my mom’s cellar.
Now aging grain alch does nothing to improve the taste (it is toxic and poisionous at that level of purity and needs to be diluted).
None the less, my Mom found it a few months ago and told me to “get it out of there!” (She doesn;t want it in the same are as the furnace, for some reason).

Its nasty stuff, hydrolytic to the extreme! (A straight shot will destroy any tissues it encounters by extracting the water from them)

So far I have used about a quart, most of which went to some killer coffee liquor. I also preserved some thinly sliced ginger in it as a cooking liquor.

It mader great panty remover, and was also a good competition eliminator at bush parties when I was younger. (Big jock claims he is a real man, so I only cut it 15% with water, and let him do a shot)… Instant comatose teen

I ahve tasted home made “spirits” since then, and wonder why more people don’t go blind/crazy from denaturing…


Hah, no, the show I watched claimed that sometimes animals would pass out from the fumes and fall in a hole in the still.

Do the people who make tasty moonshine and have a sanitary set up ever just decide to pay Ceasar his and go legit, or is that just not done on principle? I suppose there’s probably quite a bit more to it than just paying the tax though.

According to a article I once saw on distillery.com (I think), getting a license to set up your own still isn’t much more complicated than opening an restaurant. You need a bond and the forms are “maddening”, then you might have to repeat the process with your state authorities. And get the business license.

And this guy was trying to talk people into doing it. Seems there was a full paragraph on “all you have to do is…”

No, paying the tax is pretty much the whole enchilada. That, and you avoid markups by bypassing the state-licensed alcohol distribution system.

The feds tax alcohol at $13.50 per proof gallon. (A proof gallon is a gallon of 100-proof alcohol.) To the extent that moonshine is more than 100 proof, the federal tax would be more than $13.50 per gallon. Most states add a buck or two. Then to sell legally you have to go through a licensed distributor, or in some states through a state-run liquor store, which naturally adds a markup. Finally the distributor has to charge sales tax at the point of purchase. Add it all together, and that $20 jug of corn squeezin’s would cost $50 or $60 minimum if you sold it legally.

There is no other reason for moonshine to exist. There’s nothing unique or illegal about the product itself.