Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Keeping Up the American Tradition: Moonshine!

What is America's oldest drink? Why, it's moonshine. This clear corn whiskey all started in 1612 in Jamestown (apparently excess corn production is an old issue in this country) and really took off in the early 1900s during the prohibition. These days, it seems to have disappeared, but now it's starting to make its way back into mainstream America.

I met with Chuck Miller, co-owner and distiller of The Original Moonshine, and his wife Janette. We talked about the history and process of his corn whiskey - over some moonshine, naturally.

Chuck Miller's grandfather started making moonshine in Virginia in the 1930s. In the mid 80s, Chuck started thinking of starting the production back up again using the same recipe his grandfather had used. It took a couple of years to get the license but they finally got up and running in 1987. The whiskey and brand at its current state didn't come until later, though, when a restaurateur from New York, Adam Perry Lang, looked around to start making and marketing moonshine. He had Chuck experiment with the distilling and filtering for flavor (he found that the best was distilling it four times and filtering twice).

Can you picture it?
The Millers grow their own corn for the Moonshine in their farm/distillery in Culpeper, Virginia. They boil the corn mash (the leftover corn mash goes to their cows) and make their whiskey in the same copper tanks his grandfather used during the prohibition. It's boiled twice until it becomes 150 proof, then they filter it through charcoal.

The distillery is open to the public but the roads are closed during the winter. They do plough snow so they can make their shipments.
Sounds like what it might've been like back in the day.

The Original Moonshine at 80 proof is some strong stuff, but still smooth and drinkable. It's aromatic, yet tastes clean.
Some places around town have started using it in cocktails, as well. We tried two Moonshine cocktails from The Hudson: the "Hitman" is made with muddled blackberries and a peppery one called the "Spicy Shine" (which was everyone's favorite).


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