improving the quality of life with grain

Archive for August, 2015

Moonshine: What is it and where is it going?

Moonshine has appeared many times on television whether it be in a jar with XXX on it or mentioned by name. Very few people can tell you exactly what it is when asked though. The answer isn’t as easy as many people think it is. There isn’t just one alcohol that falls into the category of moonshine. Traditionally the term moonshine refers to any illegal alcohol but even that has changed.

Now moonshine refers to a variety of different alcohols. The most popular, and publicly available, moonshine is white whiskey. Most of these white whiskeys are made in Tennessee and North Carolina. Moonshine has the benefit of being quick to make and sell because it doesn’t need the typical aging process, however; this leads to the harsh taste that is usually associated with the term moonshine.

What many people don’t realize about NASCAR is that it has roots in the tradition of moonshining. Moonshiners used souped up cars to transport their homemade liquor across the country roads and trails. These people were so adept at driving cars fast that they became some of the top NASCAR racers. For example, former bootlegger turned NASCAR driver Junior Johnson won 50 races in his 11 year stint as a race car driver.

Moonshine businesses are able to produce their products legally now that many states have loosened their liquor production laws. The popularity of small distilleries and local alcohol production is to thank for this. The economic boost that towns and cities get from this has helped to make the legalization decision. Tennessee, the former hub of illegal moonshine, has now specifically legalized the production of moonshine.

The illegal moonshine production market has not completely gone away yet though. There are still people in producing shine in locations that have yet to make it legal. These people have a much more dangerous and difficult market but with the increase in the popularity of moonshine these areas will probably soon legalize the business of moonshine production.

Legalization of the production of moonshine brings with it production standards. This means that there is less of a risk during the production process. Moonshine has to be made just the right way or it has been known to cause blindness or death. Now that it is regulated there is virtually no chance that it will be made the wrong way as there are now requirements for production facilities. The main part of shine that is poisonous is the first two or three glasses which are poured then thrown away for safety.

Now you may be wondering where all of this new liquor is going and that is a good question. A lot of the people who were buying moonshine illegally are now able to buy it from licensed alcohol stores in their states. It isn’t only limited to stores though, many restaurants are also buying moonshine to give their customers a new taste.

Another big selling point for moonshine is flavor. A good portion of moonshine sales are flavored. Sellers report that around 65% of all moonshine sales have a flavoring added to them such as apple pie or blackberry. The best production companies have kept the flavored moonshine recipes true to its nature and used the traditional recipes.

There is question from moonshine traditionalists though as to whether modern moonshine even qualifies as moonshine now that it is legal. Since the prohibition moonshine has been illegal and the traditionalists argue that part of the spirit of moonshine is its heritage. Not only that, the fact that moonshine is now taxed adds more to the argument that the age old tradition of smuggling moonshine is gone.

Whether the modern use of the term moonshine is true to its name or not it is hard to miss its popularity. It is selling like crazy with moonshine businesses selling over 250,000 cases a year. The trend of producing moonshine is also alive and well in other countries. Especially countries in the Middle East where alcohol sales are illegal. No matter if you are a traditionalist or new to the moonshine world, the new flavorful yet strong alcohol is worth a try.

Shabby chic – we see it in decor, we see it in clothing and now we’re seeing it in alcohol. All hail the mason jar!

First, it was the hipsters drinking tall boys of PBR. That was, like, the coolest thing to do aside from growing facial hair that rivals the fanciest of topiaries or walking a pet cat on a leash. Now, its sharing a jar of legal moonshine among friends or garnishing a craft cocktail with a moonshine soaked fruit. Why is it popular?

Because it is something different, something new, and it has an air of bad-assery associated with acquiring a mason jar full of booze, regardless of legality.

Legal moonshine on the shelf at your local package liquor store runs anywhere from 40 proof (20% abv) to 128 proof (64% abv), and in flavors ranging from the ubiquitous apple pie to the more refined butterscotch. And while there are still those who seek out the illegal stuff from a friend of a friend’s uncle who lives down yonder in a holler, legal moonshine has definite advantages over the illegal stuff, above the legality issue. These include knowing the proof of what you’re buying (contrary to popular belief spread through a now-cancelled television show, you cannot tell the proof of liquor by shaking it) and knowing you will definitely not go blind by drinking the product. That, and you are guaranteed the same flavor from jar to jar.

Will we see moonshine stick around? Likely. We will see more moonshine fruit, moonshine flavors, moonshine cocktails, etc. But don’t count on sustained domestic growth; tastes in the US are continually changing and seeking the cool-new-thing. Just as mason-jar-decor is becoming tired, so too shall moonshine.


Once a “dead drink” – a whiskey largely passed over by post-prohibition drinkers as inferior to its sweeter cousin Bourbon – rye whiskey has been making an incredible comeback in the past few years as the trend for classic cocktails has brought rye back to prominence.

In fact, US sales of the spirit have increased six fold in the last six years, from slightly over $15 million in supplier revenues in 2009 to more than $106 million in 2014. That translates to about $300 million in retail sales. And it’s not just Americans leading the trend. “It’s now a global phenomenon,” DISCUS Vice President Frank Coleman told NBC News. “Bartenders in London are crazy to get their hands on American Rye.”

The overall whiskey market has been dominant in the US for the past several years, with sales of whiskey besting the performance of tequila, vodka, gin and all other key categories of spirits. But rye’s rise has been nothing short of stratospheric. “Rye whiskey should be America’s historic spirit,” says distiller Dave Pickerell. “Rye is a gloriously spicy grain. It’s big and full-bodied. It’s what you want to graduate to if you’re an American whiskey drinker.”

Rye has a good claim on the label “America’s historic spirit.” When the colonists threw their tea overboard it wasn’t just tea that went; it was the British way of life as well, and at that time that meant rum. But Americans weren’t ready to quit drinking altogether. With rye adapting well to the climate of the new colonies, there were thousands of rye distilleries up and down the east coast by 1810. George Washington himself made a good living making rye whiskey at Mt Vernon. Now Rye is back, restored to its rightful place in classic cocktails like the Manhattan.

At times, the rising demand for rye whiskey has caught producers off guard. Wild Turkey, for example, essentially ran out of its rye whiskey at one point a few years ago. Now with big brands like Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Knob Creek and Bulleit getting in on the rye action (and more than a hundred craft distilleries across the country producing rye) there’s not likely to be another shortage anytime soon. But can rye maintain its popularity? Pickerell certainly thinks so. “Whiskey is exploding,” he says. “So it’s not about carving the pie. It’s about making more pie.”

Many whiskey drinkers (and even some bartenders!) have a misbelief that a single-malt Scotch whiskey is not a blended whiskey, but this is simply not the truth. In fact, single-malt Scotch is a blend, as are nearly all the whiskies on the market in the US today – including bourbons, rye’s, Tennessee’s, and scotches.

The formal definition of a blended whiskey is one that contains a mix of barrel-aged malt and grain whiskeys, although informally, any blend of more than one whiskey is a blend. Many blends are made by mixing higher-quality single batch whiskeys with cheaper whiskeys to make a more inexpensive product.

American ‘blended whiskey’ must contain a minimum of 20% straight whiskey. Blended whiskey that contains a minimum of 51% straight whiskey of one particular grain type (i.e., rye, malt, wheat or bourbon whiskey) includes the grain type in its label description – e.g., ‘blended rye whiskey’ or ‘blended bourbon whiskey.’

When a whiskey is labeled ‘single malt’ or ‘single grain,’ it simply means that the whiskey is the product of a single distillery. Again, it does not mean the whiskey is the product of a single batch or a single barrel, but merely of a single distillery.

Most whiskeys available on the market are blends, because when whiskey is aged in oak barrels, a number of variable factors influence the final taste of the spirit in each barrel. These include changes in weather and climate, where a barrel is placed in a warehouse, and even variables in the oak used to make the barrels. Therefore, most whiskeys are blended to produce a product that is consistent from one release to the next. The distillery’s master blender is in charge of mixing barrels together to create a whiskey that is consistent with the brand’s flavor profile – which is why all bottles of Jack Daniels’ Old No. 7, for example, taste essentially the same.

So what about single batch whiskeys? A true ‘single batch’ whiskey is one that is made from a single barrel of whiskey, unmixed with whiskey from other sources. Because the flavor, aroma, color, and other characteristics of single batch whiskey vary from barrel to barrel, each barrel release is a unique product.

Most single batch whiskeys available in the US are made by smaller distilleries, although some larger companies (like the aforementioned Jack Daniels) also release ‘boutique’ bottles of single batch whiskey. Single batch whiskey is almost always more expensive than blended whiskeys of a comparable age, and may vary greatly in taste and appearance from one bottle to another. You don’t necessarily know what you’re getting when you choose a single batch whiskey, which is one of the reasons so many whiskey drinkers love the thrill of purchasing a bottle labeled ‘single batch.’

Orange Manhattan

Christmas Burwell Manhattan

These are great…actually one of the house fav’s.

Here is what you will need

  • cocktail shaker
  • ice
  • dash of sweet vermouth
  • 1.5 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1.5 oz Cointreau
  • dash orange bitters
  • dash maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 maraschino cherry, to garnish – well, make it 2

Mitch Morgan


The Mitch Morgan

-One shot of bourbon;

-One-half slice of cooked bacon;

-Combine ingredients, enjoy.

Yep.  That’s it.  The smoky bacon pairs wonderfully with the wood in the bourbon and makes a delicious garnish, and its fat cuts the bite of the alcohol with ease.  Put them together and you’ve found the perfect way to stay warm this winter.

The drink originates from Telluride, Colorado, specifically a BBQ and Bourbon joint called “Oak…The New Fat Alley.”  Telluride makes sense for this cocktails’ birthplace: know for cold, snow and mountains, the one-time silver mining camp has emerged as a destination ski resort town.  The Mitch Morgan speaks to the town’s hardscrabble roots (it’s easy to see a drink like this counting as breakfast for a miner) and it’s foodie/ski resort present.

One thing, however, is certain: The Mitch Morgan will warm your belly and put a smile on your face at the same time.  Time to stock up on ingredients before the snow cuts you off from the store.

Mint Julep

Mint julep

4 cups bourbon
2 bunches fresh spearmint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar
Powdered sugar

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice.

Serve immediately.

Manhattan Italiano

Manhattan Italiano

2 ounces bourbon reserve
1/2 once Tuaca
1/2 ounce triple sec
6 dashes of Orange bitters
1/2 ounce of white sweet vermouth


Dark and Bloody Bourbon Mary

Bloody Mary

Dark and Bloody Bourbon Mary

1 teaspoon salt / pepper / paprika mix
2 ounces Kentucky Bourbon
2 large lemon wedges
1 tablespoon Bourbon Barrel Aged Worcestershire Sauce
1 can (6 ounces) campbell’s tomato juice

Blackberry Soda


Blackberry Soda

1.5 oz Ole Smokey Blackberry Moonshine
top off with soda water on ice

Rye Rocks

Rye Rocks

Locate your favorite whiskey glass
add ice
pour Rye


Bourbon Iced Tea

Rye Iced Tea
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus mint sprigs for garnish
  • 6 good-quality black tea bags

Good-quality bourbon

Integer eleifend laoreet orci. Sed eleifend scelerisque sapien, ac cursus massa interdum in. Praesent ac mauris pellentesque, consequat lectus vitae, feugiat enim. Nulla non nulla vel massa iaculis gravida quis vel odio. Duis tincidunt odio vitae orci posuere rhoncus. Nulla suscipit vel ipsum ac adipiscing. Duis non lobortis nunc. Morbi in odio mollis, placerat nibh vitae, scelerisque libero. Integer facilisis urna sit amet euismod semper.

Bourbon Burger

Rye Burger

Burger Patties and Cheese:
30 ounces ground chuck (20 percent fat)
2 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (recommended: Bulleit brand)
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
30 grinds fresh black pepper
6 ounces Dubliner cheese (Kerrygold brand), thinly sliced and divided into 6 (1-ounce) servings

Sauteed Onions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (European style)
1 large Vidalia onion, halved (through the core) and thinly sliced (1/4-inch)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 grinds fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup bourbon (recommended: Bulleit brand)

Brioche hamburger-sized buns, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (European style), at room temperature

Rye Sour

Bourbon Sour

2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp superfine sugar
1 slice orange
1 maraschino cherry

Bourbon on the Rocks


The Plan

Find a good bourbon
Select your favorite glass from your bar
Drop in a couple of cubes
Pour over ice



Classic Manhattan


3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 dash  bitters
1 maraschino cherry
1 twist orange peel

Combine the vermouth, bourbon whiskey, and bitters with 2 – 3 ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir or shake gently so you won’t cloud the drink. Place the cherry in a chilled cocktail glass and strain the whiskey mixture over the cherry.

Perfect Manhattan


2 oz blended whiskey
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 dash bitters

Shake with ice to chill, pour into a low ball cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Cara’s Feature


750 JB White
1 can Concentrated OJ (Do not add water)
1 can Concentrated Limeade or Lemonade (Do not add water)
1 jar Maraschino Cherries. (I use DK Michigan Cherry since I don’t care for the Cherries)
2 Ltr Lemon-Lime Soda

Blend all ingredients together-place in freezer minimum 24 hrs.

**Once you remove from freezer, stir mixture from the bottom. Slight separation may have occurred during the freezing**