Moonshine: A Global History

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You might think moonshine only comes from ramshackle stills hidden away in the Appalachian Mountains, but the fact of the matter is we’ve been improvising spirits all around the world for centuries. No matter where you go, there is a local bootleg liquor, whether it’s bathtub gin, peatreek, or hjemmebrent. In this book, Kevin R. Kosar tells the colorful and, at times, blinding history of moonshine, a history that’s always been about the people: from crusading lawmen and clever tinkerers to sly smugglers and ruthless gangsters, from pontificating poets and mountain men to beleaguered day-laborers and foolhardy frat boys.

Kosar first surveys all the things we’ve made moonshine from, including grapes, grains, sugar, tree bark, horse milk, and much more. But despite the diversity of its possible ingredients, all moonshine has two characteristics: it is extremely alcoholic, and it is, in most places, illegal. Indeed, the history of DIY distilling is a history of criminality and the human ingenuity that has prevailed out of officials’ sights: from cleverly designed stills to the secret smuggling operations that got the goods to market. Kosar also highlights the dark side: completely unregulated, many moonshines are downright toxic and dangerous to drink. Spanning the centuries and the globe, this entertaining book will appeal to any food and drink lover who enjoys a little mischief.

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