Kevin Kosar, vice president of policy at the R Street Institute, recently released a gem of a book covering an oft-joked about but little understood topic — illicit distilled spirits. Titled “Moonshine, A Global History,” Kosar’s work uncovers some interesting history beyond the familiar perspective of the friendly criminal life of the “Dukes of Hazzard” or the garish prohibition parties symbolizing “The Great Gatsby.”
Moonshine, which can be made from almost every food stuff imaginable, is not an American backwoods phenomenon as most would assume, but a societal activity that can be dated as far back as 7,500 BC based on distilled rice, honey and fruit jars found in a northern Chinese village. And interestingly, during some, albeit low, points of history, moonshine was said to have medicinal qualities prescribed for children to combat fevers, general malaise and even scarlet fever.
The book covers the history of moonshine, the problems that arise with an illicit distilled spirit, the effect of cinema on the popularity and perception of the industry and even, in what most would consider an excellent bonus section, some moonshine cocktail recipes. Moonshine went legit in 2010 thanks to entrepreneur Joe Baker of Tennessee and his mason jar bottling of Ole Smokey. Not surprisingly, Moonshine has been gaining popularity with sales increasing 1000 percent in just the first four years of its availability.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that licit moonshine, served straight from the bottle or mixed as a fruity cocktail, was offered as tastings at the official book signing held at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) in Washington, D.C Aug. 1. The crowd favorites seemed to be the Apple Pie Moonshine, which tasted strongly of apples and cinnamon, and for those that like their liquor straight, it was the Michigan Dogman Moonshine complete with the tagline “It’s not as scary as you think.”