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Still Life
  • June 27, 2013 : 15:06
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A tried-and-true recipe for real-deal moonshine

  • Start with 15 pounds of sugar, five pounds of cornmeal, one pound of corn sugar, five to six gallons of distilled water and four to six ounces of distiller’s yeast. Purchase a 15- to 20-gallon food-grade plastic container online or at an industrial-­supply feed store and clean it thoroughly. Then clean it again. It can’t be too clean.
  • Combine sugar, cornmeal, corn sugar and distilled water in the plastic container. The water should be at or just below 104 degrees. Anything above that will kill the yeast. Stir for one minute and sprinkle in the package of distiller’s yeast, which can be found online or at any home-brewing store.
  • Test alcohol content: When you start the mash it should register anywhere from 14 to 20 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) on a hydrometer. Cover the container and let the mash ferment for three to seven days, depending on air or room temperature. It’s done when it stops foaming. Check the mash with your hydrometer again. It should read between zero and four percent ABV.
  • Strain the mash to remove clumps of corn and pour it into your still, leaving at least six inches from the top. Heat the bottom of the still until the mash reaches about 172 degrees. Alcohol evaporates at 172 degrees and water at 212. It’s crucial the mash not approach 212 degrees, or your moonshine will become watered down. Alcohol vapors will gather in the cone, elbow and worm. Add cold water to the cooling barrel so it cools the moonshine as it flows through the worm.
  • Prepare an entire package of oatmeal as directed. Let it cool and add one to two cups of rye flour to make a paste. If leaks appear on the still, cover with the paste. It will harden as it heats, forming an airtight seal. Place a clean container under the spout coming out of your cooling barrel to collect the moonshine. Continue collecting until it no longer pours out, about 15 hours. Transfer the moonshine to clean mason jars. But you already knew that.

Finding moonshine—real moonshine—is like picking up a woman: You need to be cool, convincing and confident. Start at a cocktail-centric bar. Take a seat and chat up the bartender. Talk about liquor, bitters, wines, beer—anything that shows you’re in the know about booze. When you’ve established a rapport, slip in a story—true or not—about how you were in Alabama, Texas, New Orleans or Nashville and came across some moonshine. Compare it to grappa on steroids. Odds are the bartender will ­reciprocate with a story of his or her own. No one likes to talk about booze more than a knowledgeable bartender. Once you’re at this point, it’s only a matter of time before they’re pulling out a jar or pointing you to another bar that has the real shit.

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read more: lifestyle, alcohol, issue july 2013


  • Greg Horfield
    Greg Horfield
    Rough cut kimchi-noodle knuckleeduster