The name moonshine was taken from the term “moonlighter”, used by the English to describe the nighttime runners that smuggled brandy from France. Read more about the history of moonshine, and learn about how it’s made.

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Moonshine is a common term for home distilled alcohol; especially in places were the production is illegal.

The illegal production of moonshine is usually associated with the Southern United States and Appalachia.

Since my grandparents had a farm in the Appalachian Mountain Range, I am familiar with the making of moonshine. Not that I ever made any, I was just a child in the 1960’s, but I had kinfolks (as we call them in the south) who did make it.

Now, I am not telling anyone to make moonshine. It is illegal and dangerous. Sloppily produced moonshine can be contaminated with toxins, mainly from the materials used in the construction of the still. Some folks use old car radiators for a condenser in their stills. The lead used to solder radiators and in some cases the glycol products from antifreeze are poisonous and potentially deadly. My family had a friend that was in a coma and suffered kidney damage after drinking contaminated moonshine. Thankfully, he lived but it could have easily gone the other direction.

The History

Moonshine is made from fermented corn mash distilled in a cooker. The name moonshine was taken from the term “moonlighter” used by the English to describe the nighttime runners that smuggled brandy from France. After World War I, the agricultural prices dropped so during Prohibition, many American farmers turned to making moonshine as a way to support their families.

Cosby, Tennessee was known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World”. In the 1960’s it was claimed there were over 200 stills operating on any given day, each averaging 20 gallons a day. It was also locally claimed that they ran moonshine to Atlanta, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Asheville, as well as some unnamed northern cities.

The Still

The first thing you need before you can make moonshine is a still. A typical mountain still uses a stone furnace for heat and a metal still for fermenting and heating the mash. Large barrels are used to collect the steam and for condensing the alcohol. It is always a smart moonshiner who locates his still next to a mountain stream where good cold water can be easily piped in to condense the steam from the liquor.

The Recipe


  • 50 lb of cornmeal
  • 200lb of sugar
  • 200 gallons of water
  • 12 oz of yeast.

A hint: Don’t buy your sugar all in one place because it is a sure sign to the “revenuers” that you are going to make moonshine.


  1. First carry all your supplies up to your mountain hideout. Have someone else there to keep the still nice and hot.
  2. Bring the cornmeal to a boil add yeast and all your sugar to ferment the mash.
  3. When the mash stops bubbling it is cooked in the still and the stream is captured in a barrel filled with cold mountain stream water.
  4. The steam is allowed to cool and condensed by running it though a long copper coil submerged in another barrel with water in a trough from the near by cold mountain stream.
  5. Once condensed. the clear liquor drips from the bottom of the still into a catch can – these are usually ½ gallon glass jars.

Test your moonshine for alcohol content or proof by adding a small amount of gunpowder to it and igniting it. If it burns, and you are still alive, its proof is measured somewhere between 100 and 200 proof or 50% to 100% pure alcohol.

Pour into jugs, old coffee cups or mason jars and enjoy. Will get the entire gang drunk or I am not a good old southern girl.

Just remember this was only written for fun. Don’t let me see any of you out there making moonshine, and if you do don’t forget to invite me over.

Liked it
Glynis Smy, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

Great article! They do that here and brew Zivanhir, I can even clean windows with it!! Powerful stuff

Sharona, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

This was a great article to read. My Grandfather used to make home brew. Brings back memories.

nobert soloria bermosa, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

great stuff.stumbled and reviewed my friend

C Jordan, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

Very tempting to try it!

CHAN LEE PENG, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

Great write. Recipe plus its history..GREAT!!!

hfj, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

You are a good ole southern girl. Your recipe is 100% proof, and it will get the whole gang “lit”. Where i live it is also called white lightning. Well done PR.

macon, posted this comment on Feb 10th, 2009

very informative.. and very tempting to try!

Gone., posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

I haven’t tasted moonshine in years! Wonderful article brings back a lot of memories! lol..

S A JOHNSON, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009


Brenda Nelson, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

I guess now that I live in the country, I should really start making this stuff huh?

Daisy Peasblossom, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

What fun! I have a sewing machine that my great-grandmother purchased from a “revenoo-er”. Selling sewing machines was his cover.

Sotiris, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

Quite interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Bo Russo, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

Fun and great article Pam,my hermanito,(little brother)used to go to a local reservation and drink it,I never have,but I have drinken pruno,jailhouse liquor.

Duke, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

great article. I would be lying if i said i never was tempted to make shine. Im gunna have a lot of free time this summer, maybe ill just give it a try….. good article

Jojo Skeene, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

Hey Pam, wow! I saw ur article on front page—I mean hot content and yeah, I agree with the rest—so good and informative article…

I haven’t visit my blog! lolzz–but yeah, i’ll be back! I haven’t heard about moonshine as like that…i thought it’s a moon shining! lol–but yeah, good to know!

Melody SJAL, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

Very interesting and informative, thanks, Pam.

R.B. Parsley, posted this comment on Feb 11th, 2009

Excellent article! My dads side of the family are from Kentucky, and my dads uncles on my grandpa and my grandma’s side of the family were all moonshiners. they were and still very very wealthy from they’re little illegal business venture. My dad and grandpa and uncles used to tell us a lot of stories about those days. Great article Pam! I hadn’t thought about those stories in years. I wish I could remember some of them, they would make for good reading here.


Guffin Mopes, posted this comment on Feb 12th, 2009

I know this isn’t a joke, but the recipe’s sheer size makes it funny.

Good work.

Shari86, posted this comment on Feb 12th, 2009

Very well written article. In Ireland homemade alcohol is called poitín (pucheen), and your moonshine sounds just as potent!

papaleng, posted this comment on Feb 12th, 2009

Pam, indeed this article deserved to be in the Hot List, its so interesting and this is the first time I heard this Moonshine stuff. Congratulation my friend.

S M Blomker, posted this comment on Feb 12th, 2009

nice article….I learned something I didn’t know..ty.

LYN CALLANDER, posted this comment on Feb 12th, 2009


fossa, posted this comment on Feb 13th, 2009

The fact they posted this article on how to make moonshine under the “Recreation” category makes it even funnier.

Ruby Hawk, posted this comment on Feb 13th, 2009

I’m a good ole north Georgia girl so I know a bit about “Moonshine” myself. I have seen those reved up moonshine cars that could give the county mounties a run for their money and most of the time get away.I have also been to the boot leggers houses to buy the stuff ( with my husband) a long time ago” I still love my toddy. We call it white lightin too.

Jimteach, posted this comment on Feb 13th, 2009

If you think moonshine is just a Southern thing you have a lot to learn. Lots of farm places in SD made “grandpa’s cough syrup” (illegal alcohol) during the “Dirty Thirties” till the mid-50’s. My grandma used to talk about hearing the “clinking” of bottles in wagons at night going past the farm. During winter farmers had little to do so they’d make grandpa’s cough medicine and store it till springtime.

Poertyqueen, posted this comment on Feb 13th, 2009

Great article! I might make this cause I need it lol

splinter28, posted this comment on Mar 3rd, 2009

Heres a little tip to those who cannot appreciate the taste of pure shine, add an apple, apriocot, cinnamon stick, or blueberries to the jar let it settle for couple days and then drink it. It takes a lot of the sting out lol. p.s. be sure to eat the fruit after emptying the jar. this suggestion comes from Appalachia Va. where shine is still better than whiskey

Nick Kenney, posted this comment on Mar 5th, 2009

Great job Pam!! I used to know a North Carolina moonshiner from the hills…the best shine I ever had anywhere! Had some from Tennessee too once, tasted like antifreeze…kicked good but no taste at all.
Jan and I brought home some moonshine from Ireland called “Potchean”. It’s made from potatotes and tastes great!
It was illegal in Ireland up until recently.

Tmrobotix, posted this comment on Mar 12th, 2009

Cool article, it’s fun to brew your own drinks.
Not only to drink it, but to make something and call it your own is great!

Gordon Wagner, posted this comment on Sep 20th, 2010

Propane doesn’t leave any telltale smoke, btw…

Joe, posted this comment on Jan 14th, 2011

I think the recipe may be leaving out one step — the mash needs to be aged for a few days, perhaps a week to let the yeast ferment. Putting all of the ingredients into a pot, boiling it and then distilling will not yield any alcohol if there’s none present. BTW, I am a current “moonshiner” making all I need to drink. I’ve never tried a corn mash recipe but do distill a lot of wine that isn’t too good. For fruit, it can take a week or two to ferment before distilling. Also, once you have the distilled spirits, putting the results in an oak cask or placing oak pieces makes the alcohol quite tasty. I’d put mine up against some of the best brandy out there.

George P, posted this comment on Jan 28th, 2011

what about popcorn sutton

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