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.
The Negroni calls to mind Florentine piazzas and dusky Manhattan speakeasies, not the misty mountains of Appalachia. But this classic cocktail has seen a number of geographically open-minded variations (the Negroski, for instance, uses vodka instead of the traditional gin). Subbing in moonshine gives the drink a sweetness that plays well against the bitterness of Campari.
• 1 part Ole Smoky White Lightnin'
• 1 part Campari
• 1 part sweet vermouth
Credit: Photograph by Chad Springer
Pour into a glass over ice; stir.