There used to be one way to drink moonshine: Sip it out of a mason jar, wait for the burning in your throat to subside, sip again. These days, the stuff has become not only legal, but truly drinkable; it even comes in flavors.
As he's cooked his way across the South, Atlanta chef (and former 'Top Chef' contestant) Eli Kirshtein has had the opportunity to try a few types of moonshine – and to partner up with Ole Smoky Moonshine, which calls itself the "first legal" moonshine distillery in East Tennessee's moonshine country. He says it's time for hooch drinkers to move beyond straight sipping and allow white lightning, a neutral spirit, to be a wetbar workhorse. Hillbilly cocktail hour has arrived.
"Using it as a surrogate for vodka across the board works," Kirshtein says, adding that because moonshine retains its distinctive – if tempered taste, it lends drinks "a more burly, manly flavor." Here are the mixological standouts likeliest to bring moonshine to a bar near you.
Kirshtein also swaps moonshine into another stiff drink standard, the dirty martini, with one small but potent modification: He adds a few dashes of bitters into the briny mix. "I find it cuts down on the roundness a bit and makes it a little more vodka-esque," he says.
• 3 parts Ole Smoky White Lightnin'
• 1 part olive juice
• Splash of dry vermouth
• 2-3 dashes bitters
Credit: Photograph by Chad Springer
Rinse a martini glass with the vermouth. Shake (or stir) the Ole Smoky White Lightnin', olive juice, and bitters with ice, then strain into the glass. Add olives. Tons of olives.