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The Art Of Moonshine

Why The Moon Shines

According to Unabridged, and based on the Random House Dictionary, the origin of the word "moonshine" was another word used for 'moonlight." Sometime around year 1468 the word 'moonshine' was related to meaning "unreality," and informal foolish talk, thought, or nonsense.

It is estimated that sometime around 1785 moonshine became associated with "illicit liquor." According to the dictionary and word historians, "moonraker" was a name traditionally given to Wiltshire people, and the word moonraker originates from a joke about fools who mistook the reflection of the moon in a pond for a cheese and tried to rake it out. But as told in Wiltshire, the men were surprised trying to rake up kegs of smuggled brandy, and put off the revenuers by acting foolishly. Amazon Book Store has a wide variety of books about moonshine, its people, and culture..


Graphic Design by Tonie Cook

Graphic Design by Tonie Cook

Moonshine: Lore, Legend, Life, and Beyond

Moonshine is called different things in different languages, and each country has a recipe indigenous to its region.

There are many ways moonshine is hauled, made, shipped, packed, and tested. If it were not for moonshine, there would be no NASCAR. Without moonshine, many a honky tonk song would never have been written or sung.

Moonshine is as old as mankind. Moonshine's role in history, its origins, how it is made, what it is called, where it is found, and its place in this world today is what this place is about. If one sip leaves you yearning for more, Get into the spirit, for here you will learn more.

How To Make Moonshine

Moonshine: 101

Some families have their own recipes handed down from generation to generation. Moonshine can be fruit based, grain based, or sugar based.

Rumrunners, Moonshiners, and Bootleggers

Moonshiner Defined

The US History Encyclopedia refers to moonshine as an old English term for smuggled liquor, indicating its customary transportation was by night. The word evolved into "moonshiners" in the nineteenth century to describe illicit distillers in southern Appalachia. Because moonshiners' stills were located among thickets or rocks, their products were known locally as "brush whiskey" and "blockade"; few described the liquor itself as "moon-shine."

The Moonshiners Video

The Last Of The Real Moonshiners

"Blockaders," as moonshiners were also known, viewed whiskey production as a natural right and as the only way to obtain a fair monetary return on mountain corn crops. Despite intensified campaigns against moon-shining after 1877 involving armed patrols of revenue officers, frequent killings, and pitched battles, the business was never quite eliminated. During Prohibition, the term "moonshine" came to be popularly applied to liquor illicitly made anywhere, even in the home.

The Legendary Popcorn Sutton

The Last Of His Kind

This is one of the last of the original moonshiners, and somehow this elderly gent got to tell his story on YouTube.

At Home With Popcorn Sutton

Popcorn Sutton's Moonshine Video

Living History

This mountain man was not afraid to tell his story and the history about the making of moonshine the old fashioned way.

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, an Appalachian Mountain moonshiner, was born October 5, 1947, and just like many a mountain man, he grew up learning from his father, and father before him, the art of home brewery.

Throughout the course of his life, he made a concerted effort to share his way of life, as there are not many like him anymore. He was a bootlegger and runner most of his life. He avoided trouble for the most part, but ended up on probation in the 70s and 90s.

In 1999, he wrote a book titled, "Me and My Likker." After that, Popcorn Sutton made videos of his way of life, and told the story about how his 'likker' was made. He became the topic of many documentaries, and received accolades for his work and effort to preserve the history and heritage of the people of the land.

About The Legend

The moonshine videos of Popcorn Sutton are truly amazing. This gentleman recorded the last years of his life with moonshine. He shares his knowledge of making it, running it, and living it.

Popcorn Sutton was not a rich man in the sense of the dollar bill, but he was a walking historian of a way of life seldom seen or heard of. His knowledge on the topic of moonshine is priceless.

Popcorn's Last Run

The End Of The Line

January, 2009 the ATF, led by the Waco kid, Jim Cavanaugh raided Popcorn Sutton's home, and arrested him on him on felony charges for making illegal liquor and owning a weapon (aka shotgun).

At the age of 62, Popcorn Sutton, recently diagnosed with cancer was sentenced to serve 18 months in a federal prison. Mr. Sutton and his peers begged the court to allow him to serve his sentence under house arrest, as they were the last days of his life. Even with public pleading and outcries, the rancid judge refused.

Rather than spend his last days on earth in a federal prison for a non violent crime, on March 16, 2009, Popcorn Sutton committed suicide.


The Moonshine Test

Light My Fire

A common "folk" quality test for moonshine was to pour a small quantity of it into a metal spoon and set it alight, the theory being that safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but tainted distillate burns with a yellow flame. Practitioners of this simple test sometimes held that if a radiator coil had been used as a condenser there would be lead in the alcohol, which would give a reddish flame. This led to the phrase: "Lead burns red and makes you dead." While the flame test shows the presence of lead and fusil oils, it does not reveal the presence of methanol, which also burns blue.

Another test used for moonshine is to "proof". A small amount of gunpowder is poured in a dish with the moonshine. It is ignited and if the mixture starts to flame it is "proofed." In other words if it lights then it contains a good amount of alcohol, but if it does not flame the moonshine has been diluted.

Photo by Brian Stansberry


Moonshine Around The World

Not all moonshine is illicit. Moonshine is also another word for home distilled spirits, and moonshine has been around since the beginning of mankind. Thanks to, I found more information available about moonshine than I ever thought possible.

The photo to the right is of a rural Armenian still, courtesy of Wikipedia. Below is a brief list of what moonshine means around the world.

Country ------ Name Of Distilled Spirit

Albania --------------------------------------- Raki

Armenia ------------------------ Aragh or oghee

Australia ------------------------------ Moonshine

Brazil --------------------------------- Maria Louca

Bulgaria ---------------------------------- Rakia

Burma (Myanmar) ---------------------- Palm Wine.

Canada ------------------------------------------ "Shine"

Colombia --------------------------- "Tapetusa" or "Chirrinchi"

Cyprus ------------------------------------------------------ Zivania

Czech Republic ---------------------------------------------- Slivovice

Democratic Republic of the Congo ---------------------------- Lotoko

Denmark ------------------------------------------------------------------ Hjemmebrændt

Dominican Republic ---------------------------------------------------------------- Cleren

Ecuador --------------------------------------------------------------------- Puro, or Trago

Estonia -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Puskar

Finland (Swedish) ----------------------------------------------------------------- Moscha

Yugoslavia ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rakija

France ----------------------------------------- Eau de vie, gnôle, goutte, lambic, fine

Georgia ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Chacha.

Greece and Turkey ------------------------------------------------------- Ouzo and Raki

Guatemala ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cusha

Haiti ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Clairin

Hungaria ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Házipálinka

Iceland -------------------------------------------------------------- Gambri or landabrugg

India ------------------------------------------------- Desi, tharra, dheno, mohua, chullu,

Indonesia --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Arak

Ireland ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Poitín

Italy ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Grappa

Japan ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sake

Kenya --------------------------------------- "Changaa", "Kumi kumi" or "Kill me quick"

Laos ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lao-Lao

Malawi -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Katchasu

Malaysia - Sarawak -----------------------------------------------------------------'Langkau'

Macedonia ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rakia

New Zealand ------------------------------------------------------------ Hokonui Moonshine

Nigeria ----------- 'Ogogoro', 'Kainkain', 'Crazy Man In The Bottle', or 'Sapele water'

Norwegian ------------------------------------------------ "Hjemmebrent" or "Heimebrent"

Pakistan ------------------------------------------------------------ Thara and Hunza Water

Panama ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Chirrisco

Peru ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Pisco

Poland ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Bimber

Romania -------------------------------------------------------------------- Ttzuika or Palinka

Russia --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Samogon

Saudi Arabia -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Siddique

Scotland ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Peatreek

Slovakia -------------------------------------------------------Slivovica or Borovička

Slovenia ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tropinovec

South Africa ------------------------------------------------------------- Mampoer or Witblits

Sweden -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hembränt

Sri Lanka ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Kashiya

Switzerland ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Absinthe

Thailand ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Lao Khao

Trinidad and Tobago ------------------------------------------ Ba-bash or Mountain Dew

Tunisia --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Boukha

United Kingdom ----------------------------------------------------------- Moonshine

United States ---------------------------------------------------------- Moonshine

Viet Nam ------------------------------------------------------------------ Ruqu

Zimbabwe ------------------------------------------------------------- Skokian

If you are interested in learning more about the world of moonshine, I highly recommend visiting Not only can you learn about each country's moonshine laws, but also how their moonshine is made.

Acquired Taste Test

Moonshine Still Copperline Hills

Copper Lines For Purity

This video is about the moonshine making in the Ozark Hills of Arkansas. Great background music, too.

Hauling Illegal Liquor - National Geographic

Hauling Moonshine

National Geographic provides information about hauling moonshine.

Running Moonshine on Highway 9

Moonshine and Highway 9

Highway 9 earned its reputation for being one of the first major corridors for moonshine transport. The fast haul begins here, and the above video has some great historic footage.

Moonshine and NASCAR

Hauling liquor before, during, and after prohibition is how NASCAR began, and why it is still here today.

Moonshiners, Bootlegers, and NASCAR

NASCAR History

This is The History Channel's documentary about the history of NASCAR

Moonshiners, Bootleggers, and NASCAR 1

High Powered Fuel

Moonshine was made strong enough to run and race automobiles.

NASCAR From Moonshine Runners To Daytona Beach

Moonshine Popularity

The folklore among the legends and the legendary have inspired moonshine themes in television and motion pictures from The Dukes Of Hazzard to Smokey and The Bandit.

History Of Stock Car Racing, Moonshine, Muscle Cars, and More

Moonshine & Muscle Cars

Racing has always been part of the moonshine culture, and literally spawned a race car industry.

Moon Shine On The 'Bay


The Big Bopper "White Lightening" 1959

Moonshine and "White Lightening"

Many songs were written about moonshine. Here is the old 1959 original version of White Lightning by The Big Bopper (it was also an old country favorite by George Jones.)

Time To Shine

Moonshine On The Rocks

After falling into The Poor Man's Whiskey, the best thing to do is to pour you a drink on a good note. This band may not look like much, but they have a unique style.

Their incredible tribute to Pink Floyd's epic album, "The Dark Side Of The Moon," is quite amazing.

Poor Man's Whiskey

Moonshine & Money

Poor Man's Whiskey is almost a parody tribute tells the tale of "Whiskey" to the tune of the song "Money."

The Moonshine Olympics

Here we are in the twenty-first century, and the whole world is still mesmerized by moonshine.

Moonshiners & Jug Heads

Some artists are very unique with their craft. This artist creates very expressive moonshine jugs, and their video will show you more.

Jugheads by Ed Kilmek

Face Jugs

Each artist has their own way of making a faced jug, and no two are ever identical, unless a mould is made.

Face The Moonshine - How To Make A Moonshine Face Jug

Here's to the art of moon shine! Kudos to the creative potters and ceramacists! With a little moonshine, you can do anything and below are a few videos about how some artists face off with moonshine jugs.

Part 1

The Beverly Hillbillies

Yes, there were stills in Beverly Hills!

Granny's Still

Granny Needs Her Tonic

Granny and Jethro set up a still by the cement pond because that is how mountain medicine is made.

Moonshine and Andy Griffith

Otis gets tested, Barnie gets snookered, and Aunt Bea goes for a spin on her piano stool . . . All in the spirit of moonshine, tonic, and hooch. Although the Andy Griffith Show aired many years ago, it still possesses a timeless charm.

Barnie Gets Drunk

Aunt Bea Takes Her Medicine

Otis Takes The Jump Rope Sobriety Test

Your Favorite Moonshine Moment

SPECIAL NOTE: It is not the intent of this author or publisher to promote or endorse the consumption or manufacture of alcohol. The purpose of this site is to provide information, links, and historical data to all things pertaining to MoonShine. This page is for educational and amusement purposes only.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to visit a tribute to a culture that is as old as the hills. You are welcome to contribute. If you see a correction that needs made, or if you have a story to tell, information to share, or an old family recipe to brag about, contact me or drop me a line in the guest book.

The MoonShine Bar is always open after hours, and you are always welcome here.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Tonie Cook

Pass The Jug

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on January 09, 2013:

Burns just thinking about it! Not that I've ever imbided, mind you.

Deadicated LM on December 05, 2012:

Gotta love people who shoot their own dinner, brew their own shine and created car racing. Great Lens.

cmadden on July 12, 2012:

If you can run a car on it, it's too strong for me!

Whitwillow LM on June 05, 2012:

Great lens. Thankfully it's legal here. Keeps me healthy.

jdwheeler on April 30, 2012:

Nice history lesson. I really enjoyed the "White Lightning" and "Andy Griffith" videos.

gable2036 on January 07, 2012:

Great lens! I'm a big fan of moonshine promotion. You mention that it's illegal, and you're right, but the reason isn't safety like most people think. It was a way to tax people to keep the country from going bankrupt. Now I agree that we can keep doing this, but I feel we need to legalize it on a "personal use" level. Afterall, you can legally buy stills from sites like Whiskey Still, but you can't own it? makes no sense... but that's my opinion...

anonymous on January 01, 2012:

I tasted moonshine once and it was so strong, whew! I have made wine a few times, and that turns out pretty good.

pawpaw911 on October 02, 2011:

I made some wine once that tasted a little like moonshine.

Bella Stella on April 06, 2011:

You have done an amazing job! I read every single line of this lens. I have tasted some of these "moonshines". They are strong enough to make you drunk after 2-3 shots!

grannysage on October 02, 2010:

Very interesting. I didn't know that was how NASCAR got started. What stories those guys have to tell.

Spook LM on September 29, 2010:

How profound. I once had a sip of this and was left unconscious. Blessed by an Angel.

garyrh1 on April 03, 2010:

I've always wondered what moonshine tasted like. I just remember watching the Beverly Hillbillies and granny drinking moonshine.

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