As moonshiners tend to the stills hidden in the woods or tucked behind the family barns, their children watch closely. Their eyes train on the wooden barrels of mash that
As moonshiners tend to the stills hidden in the woods or tucked behind the family barns, their children watch closely. Their eyes train on the wooden barrels of mash that heat and emit vaporous steam through the pipes that then cools and condenses into precious whiskey. The youths – often in their teens – are learning to taste the mash as they go – checking for flavor – and the right ratio of corn and barley in the mash. And they help collect the spirit in bottles before an older brother, father, or uncle packs it into the car and speeds away on a run.
This time-honored craft of distilling the moonshine is a scene woven into North Carolina’s history. Few simply stumbled into making it. The practice was often passed down through generations like a treasured recipe or precious heirloom. Some of the first to perfect the craft sold the spirit as a means of providing for their family — even during Prohibition when the practice was outlawed.
In addition to your own family traditions this holiday season, get to know these moonshines born of family ingenuity and perfected through generations. No need to sip these straight: Mix them into one of these festive cocktails for a cup of cheer to dole out during the holidays.
Wilkes County legend Willie Clay Call earned his moniker, “The Uncatchable,” from Federal ATF agents who could never catch up to the elusive moonshiner’s fleet of modified cars. These vehicles, including his favorite robin’s egg 1961 Chrysler New Yorker Golden Lion, were almost as notable as Call himself. In this blue beauty, Call tore through back roads under the cover of darkness, running his family’s white whiskey to Forsyth and Mecklenburg counties — often making up to three trips in a night. It’s only fitting that a sidecar that swaps in Call’s 101-proof sour mash moonshine for cognac gets its name upgraded to the Really Fast Car.
Yields: 1 serving.
Ice (for shaking)
2 ounces Willie Clay Call’s “The Uncatchable” Sour Mash Moonshine
1 ounce orange liqueur
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
Sugar (for rimming)
Lemon twist (for garnish)
In a cocktail tin filled with ice, combine moonshine, orange liqueur, and lemon juice and shake vigorously until outside of the tin is very cold. Strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with lemon twist.
Highlighting North Carolina’s unique, intertwined history of bootleg whisky and stock car racing, the Moonshine and Motorsports Trail celebrates both the history and bright future of NC’s distilling and racing industries. Follow along as we share stories, itineraries and more!
Unlike the secret stills of yesteryear, moonshiner Wes Dearbaugh worked with local and state legislation to open Cedar Mountain Moonshine as Transylvania County’s first legal distillery in more than 100 years. And although Dearbaugh didn’t skirt the law like many of his predecessors, his distillery helps support his family, the same motivation of many of those early moonshiners. He launched the distillery in part to promote his daughter-in-law’s art studio, Studio276 Art&Co. in the wake of Covid restrictions. By merging moonshine with art, the family eventually evolved the space into a gallery, studio, tasting room, and event venue.
Yields: 1 serving.
1 cup water
1 cup demerara sugar
Old Fashioned Know-How
2 ounces Cedar Mountain “Honeymoon” Moonshine
½ ounce demerara syrup
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 to 3 dashes peach bitters
Ice (for shaking)
Large ice cube (for serving)
Orange twist (for garnish)
For the demerara syrup: In a small pot over medium heat combine water and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to an air-tight container or squeeze bottle. Syrup will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
For the cocktail: In a cocktail tin filled with ice, combine moonshine, syrup, and bitters and stir until outside of the tin is very cold. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube and garnish with orange twist.
Randy Berry grew up learning moonshine recipes and distillation methods from the old-timers in Yancey County. In his adulthood, Berry honed his craft, eventually becoming a master distiller, and with the help of his business-savvy friend Greg Shuford, his carefully perfected moonshine recipes are available to the public through Copper Creek Distillery in McDowell County. The flagship IL-LIC-IT shines are made using locally sourced ingredients and can be substituted into cocktail recipes in the place of other white and dark spirits. One of their newest releases, the chocolate shine, weighs in at an approachable 50 proof, making it perfect for mixing into a sweet punch just in time for holiday gatherings.
Yield: 15 to 22 servings.
2 cups Copper Creek Chocolate Shine
2 cups Irish cream liqueur
1 cup peppermint schnapps
3 pints whole milk, non-dairy milk substitute, or eggnog
Ice (for serving)
Miniature candy canes (for garnish)
In a large punch bowl, combine moonshine, liqueur, schnapps, and milk and stir. Ladle over ice to serve, and garnish with miniature candy canes.