> Bless Their Hearts Mom: History Corner / Book Review: Moonshine A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor by Jaime Joyce
Thursday, October 9, 2014

History Corner / Book Review: Moonshine A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor by Jaime Joyce

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Zenith Press, via Edelweiss, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

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Today I have a book for the adults on your holiday list!

moonshine cover


Nothing but clear, 100-proof American history.
Hooch. White lightning. White whiskey. Mountain dew. Moonshine goes by many names. So what is it, really? Technically speaking, "moonshine" refers to untaxed liquor made in an unlicensed still. In the United States, it’s typically corn that’s used to make the clear, unaged beverage, and it’s the mountain people of the American South who are most closely associated with the image of making and selling backwoods booze at night—by the light of the moon—to avoid detection by law enforcement.
In this book, writer Jaime Joyce explores America’s centuries-old relationship with moonshine. From the country’s early adoption of Scottish and Irish home-distilling techniques and traditions to the Whiskey Rebellion of the late 1700s to a comparison of the moonshine industry pre- and post-Prohibition and a look at modern-day craft distilling, Joyce examines the historical context that gave rise to moonshining in America and explores its continued appeal. Even more fascinating than the popularity of the liquor itself is moonshine’s widespread effect on U.S. pop culture: moonshine runners were NASCAR’s first marquee drivers; white whiskey was the unspoken star of countless Hollywood film and television productions; and numerous songs inspired by making shine have come from such musicians as Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Metallica, Ween, and others. While we can’t condone making your own illegal liquor, reading Moonshine will give you a new perspective on the profound implications that underground moonshine making has had on life in America.


The cover of this book caught my eye, while looking for a different book, and once I read the synopsis, I knew it was one I would want to read! It was literally a revelation in the history of a liquor that truly helped to form our country! I found myself bookmarking page after page after page, as the author gives the reader SO many interesting facts. Moonshine is truly the product that was a foundation for this country! Some of the things I learned:
  • The term Poteen came from the moonshine made by Irish farmers in the 1600s
  • The first anti-liquor law in the states was in 1654 at the Massachusetts Bay Colony!
  • The Scots Irish of Ulster brought the making of moonshine to American in the 1700s
  • A typical Colonial day included at least 7 servings of alcohol! There would be bitters before breakfast, hard cider (which would have been double the strength of what we get now!) with breakfast, a hot toddy with apple brandy for 'elevens' (instead of our coffee or tea break), more hard cider with lunch and dinner, then a late meal with more alcohol and then a spirited drink before bed (aka a nightcap). That is 7 gallons of spirits, 0.2 gallons of wine, and 34 gallons of hard cider a year, roughly 6.6 gallons of PURE alcohol yearly. We had some hearty ancestors didn't we?
  • How was the War of 1812 financed? A tax on distilled spirits!
  • Mississippi was the last state to end statewide prohibition in 1969- 36 years AFTER national Prohibition was cancelled!
  • Junior Johnson, of NASCAR fame, was a corn whiskey runner for his dad. His Ford V-8 had a Cadillac ambulance over-head valve engine in it for speed, that had been souped up! He even had lights and sirens on it to get around liquor blockades! He was 22 when he won his first NASCAR race, but ended up in jail the next day, when he ran a bootleg run for his dad and got caught! 
  • Moonshine is officially categorized as either corn WHISKY (government spelling) or grain neutral spirits. Sounds less illegal, don't they? Traditional Appalachian moonshine was made from corn and sugar. 

As you can see, if you're a history buff, there is a LOT of information in this book to peak your interest! I read it in 3 sittings, only because I was bookmarking so much! Joyce's writing style is very fluent and easy to get into! You'll find yourself hooked by the end of the first chapter, and ready to go buy some 'moonshine' by the end of the third chapter! So if you have a history or alcohol buff ion your holiday list, be sure to get them a copy of this great book! 

About the Author:

Jaime Joyce's work has appeared in Saveur, Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn, and the online edition of  The Atlantic as well as on the Big Roundtable, a website for long-form narrative nonfiction. She earned master's degrees at Bank Street College of Education and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where she was awarded the Lynton Book Writing Fellowship. She is an editor at Time Inc.Check out her website, http://jaimejoyce.com , for more.

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