Moonshine: The drink you hate to love or love to hate. It’s the white lightning of the liquor store and your soul, a revitalizing twist to your usual go-to. But where did this stuff originate in American history, and how did it become the classic staple of southern tradition that it is today?
It all started around the time of the American revolution, or shortly thereafter. The country had just finished fighting for their freedom, and money was tight. They were struggling to pay the expenses that had been accrued not only by the war, but by the founding of this new country.
Thus, the government did what any new government would do, and placed a tax on the thing that many in the country were investing in: liquor.
It wasn’t just the government who had been suffering from financial woes; it was also the American people, as well. To top it off, the American people had just finished fighting a 13-year war to gain freedom from oppressive British rule and taxes, and here they were getting taxed yet again.
If there was ever a time to continue a rebellion against outlandish taxations, it was after a revolution where tempers were still high in the face of taxing.
In the origins of moonshine production in America, it wasn’t out of hobby or craft that these moonshiners were working, it was out of necessity. They needed the money for survival, and if the government was creating a crack for them to slip into, they were going to take it.
Years later, tensions would erupt and something known as the Whiskey Rebellion would take place, causing President George Washington to call for militiamen to take down the members of the rebellion and its leaders.
Though this rebellion wasn’t a success, moonshining continued to grow and expand in southern states such as Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas. The South’s role in creating and dispersing moonshine is a tradition that has been kept alive, and is one that will last far into the future.
Around the Civil War, there were still taxes on alcohol, and members of the former rebellion and moonshiners alike made amends with members of the Klu Klux Klan, as they both found common ground with angst against federal regulations and the Revenuers who were constantly looking to them to follow government regulation.
With this partnership, moonshining was near impossible to shut down, and with growing demand, there was no way moonshiners were going to close shop.
Moonshiners took protective tactics from the KKK, using them to threaten locals or anyone who may give away their location to authorities. In the 1920s, all alcohol was banned, creating an even higher need for moonshine.
Suddenly, the South had become a place of rebellion in the form of moonshining, and they couldn’t distribute it fast enough to citizens of the North and the South. Though states such as Pennsylvania and New York also participated in moonshining, it wasn’t close to the production the South was cranking out.
Today, moonshine remains a part of Southern culture, and many Southerners relate it back to its historic roots around the time of the Civil War. When the Civil War erupted, the taxes that had been set in place on liquor and spirits was then to be spent by the North to fund the resources for the war.
As Southerners pride themselves in their heritage, moonshine was not only a stance against taxation, it was a stance against assimilation and standing strong in the cultural ways they had been raised upon.
Nowadays, you can buy moonshine in liquor stores as microbreweries have been legalized by the government for the creation of such distilled liquor.
If you want to check out a distillery in action and are in the state of South Carolina, head over to Carolina Moon Distillery for a taste and a tour of history not only of the past, but in the making.