In the South, tracking down and drinking moonshine is a rite of passage. Whether it’s the booze’s rebellious history or its dangerous reputation. Moonshine has cemented a place in the culture at large.
Part of the problem lies in the lack of federal requirements for labeling something as moonshine. Unlike whiskey, which you must from grain, distilled and bottled at a certain alcohol content, and aged in oak, ‘shine has no equal. Like vodka, you can make it from anything fermentable: fruit, sugar, grain, or milk. Like vodka, there’s no upper limit on its alcohol content. Unless you want to describe it as white whiskey on the label, you can make it any way you please. So, despite what you might have read in the OED, legally made hooch labeled “moonshine” is all over the place.
Despite its super Southern connotation, hooch isn’t only a Southern drink. The term moonshine has been around since the late 15th century. But, it was first used to refer to liquor in the 18th century in England.
The American roots of the practice have their origins in frontier life in Pennsylvania. Also, other grain-producing states. At the time, farms with grain mills would distill their excess product so that it wouldn’t spoil. Back then, whiskey was even used in some places as currency.