White Lightning, Hooch, Homebrew, Mountain Dew or White Whiskey is all synonyms of Moonshine, an illicit proof distilled spirit made mainly using corn mash. Moonshining or the process of brewing moonshine is a part of the American history. It all began in the Appalachian backwoods shortly after the Revolution when the USA was struggling to cater to the expenses of the long war. Federal tax was placed on liquors and spirits. But since the American people had just fought a long war to get away from the oppressive taxes levied by the British, they did not take too kindly to this federal tax placed on liquors and spirits. They continued to brew the moonshine while completely ignoring the federal tax laws.
Eventually, the liquor control laws prohibited moonshining under the 18th amendment of the United States Constitution due to the evasion of revenue taxation on these spirits. The government control of the alcohol trade eventually made moonshining something to be done only under the light of the moon to evade the risk of being caught. The thrill of doing something that could potentially land you in trouble with the law seems quite irresistible to the American people giving moonshining a lot of fame and eventually making it a staple part of the American culture.
Today, Moonshining is still practiced in a couple of states across the country. A few modern and legal liquors have also been named Moonshine and variations of the word in solidarity to the historical Moonshine drink. For those who cannot partake in the brew, they have to content in keeping the culture alive through apparel such as caps, t-shirts, mugs, mason jars and bottles printed with famous quotes derived from moonshining activities such as “I love the still life” and so on.
One common symbol in moonshine apparel and accessories is the XXX symbol. This symbol has been cartooned in modern portrayals on the moonshine drink. However, putting XXX on a bottle means more than just the presence of moonshine as the contents of the bottle or jug. It actually shows the number of times that the moonshine was run through the still, therefore three Xs means that it was run through the still three times.
The distilling technique for moonshine included a simple boiler for cooking the corn mash and the condenser that collects and cools the alcohol vapor. Due to the crude nature of this equipment, you had to run the same batch through the process about three times to get a better concentration of pure alcohol. To test the purity of the moonshine drink after the three distillation processes, the common folk used the flame text. They placed a small amount of the brew on a spoon and set it alight, a blue flame meant pure alcohol, and a tainted yellow flame showed impurity and a red flame meant you are dead. The red flame showed lead contamination.
Moonshining is not unique to America. There are variations of the practice all over the world. Almost every country has its own history of illicit brews that made it through the cracks of time as stories.