Our Favorite Moonshine Recipes for Cocktails

Women learning about moonshine recipes and tasting during a hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains.

It’s no secret Explorer Chicks love to get their ‘shine on and experiment with moonshine recipes. There’s nothing quite like backpacking with of flask of the apple pie moonshine tucked in your pack during the fall, or sipping on watermelon in the summer. It’s the perfect way to unwind around the campfire for a quick nightcap before hitting the sack. Or how about celebrating with a wee nip at the summit of a difficult hike, toasting the sunset (and yourself of course — job well done!)?

Even better? During our Smoky Mountains Hiking + Glamping Weekend, we like to get a little extra. We just can’t help ourselves. Explorer Chicks who join us in the Smokies spend a few hours of their trip on an exclusive, private Whiskey History and Tasting Tour with our local guide. The tour includes visiting some distilleries and going behind the scenes of a working still house.

A group of women visiting a moonshine distillery, learning about moonshine recipes and flavors.

While drinking “white lightening” straight may separate the women from the girls out on the trail, we also love it in a good cocktail. Here are some of our favorite moonshine recipes to enjoy at home. Cheers, y’all!

A Brief History of Moonshine

First, a little history lesson. It was Scots-Irish immigrants who brought their distilling and whiskey-making know how with them when they settled in Appalachia (God bless ’em). Although mixing cornmeal, sugar, water, yeast and malt and leaving it to ferment sounds easy enough, it’s the distilling and condensation process that takes real skill. And just why is it called “moonshine”? Because back when the stuff was being produced untaxed (and therefore illegally), it had to be made in secret. So moonshine was made at night by the light of the moon — and as far away from prying law enforcement as possible.

You just lay there by the juniper
When the moon is bright
And watch them jugs a-fillin’
By the pale moonlight

— Old Mountain Folk Song

Moonshinin’ Mamas

Think men are the only moonshine makers? Ha! Think again. Ladies know a good business venture when they see it. And let’s be honest: making moonshine is basically just cooking with a little extra science thrown in. Of course women love it! A few of them have even managed to make a name for themselves because of it. Let’s meet two.

Mahala “Haley” Mullins

A mother of 20 children, Mahala “Haley” Mullins lived with her husband and family in the mountains of Tennessee during the 1800s. Described as “larger than life” and weighing over 400 pounds, Mahala was part of a mysterious (and often scorned) heritage known as the Melungeons. The orgins of the Melungeons, and how this mixed race of dark-haired, light-eyed people came to settle in Appalachia, is largely unknown. Some believe they are a mixture of Native Americans, African Americans and white Europeans, while others claim to be descended from Portuguese sailors who were shipwrecked in the area and made their way inland.

Whoever her ancestors may have been, one thing was for certain — keen business sense must’ve run in the family. With a such a large brood to care for and her options limited, Mahala turned her eye to the region’s booming business: illegal moonshine production. It was said she “kept an ample supply of apple and peach brandy, some of which she stored in a barrel beside her bed.” Hiding the stills and other apparatus needed to make liquor around their remote property was easy enough, but it was no secret to anyone how Mahala earned a little extra. Eager customers gladly formed a line by her bedside as she ladled out her wares.

Law enforcement was also keenly aware of what Mahala was up to. Several times they attempted to arrest her, but to no avail. It turns out her great girth proved impossible for them to either get through the doorway, or down the mountainside without injury. One constable reported to a senior officer, “She’s catchable, but not fetchable.” So Mahala was allowed to continue her business, and lived to the ripe old age of 74 to boot.

Woman demonstrating moonshine recipes and tastings during a women's hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains.

Patti Bryan

Growing up with her family in rural Louisiana, Patti Bryan is no stranger to hard work. She’s also no stranger to moonshine. Her father is a third-generation moonshiner who taught his daughter the tricks of the trade. (In fact, the duo have made such a name for themselves, they appear on the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners”.) After being hired by Sugarlands Distilling Co. (one of our tour stops on the Smoky Mountains Hiking + Glamping Weekend mentioned earlier), Patti saw an opportunity to reach a market that remained untapped in the moonshine industry: women.

So Patti set to work creating a unique liquor that would appeal to the ladies. For the main ingredient she set her sights on something a bit unusual: the mayhaw, a hawthorn berry that only grows in the the south. By combining mayhaws, sugar, and some other secret ingredients the resulting 55 proof pink potent potion is, “sweet without being overwhelming, slightly fruity, smooth, has that mayhaw bitter at the end and definitely has a kick. Heck, it just downright good.“, according to the creator herself.

Woman pointing to a moonshine still during a trip to a distillery to learn about moonshine recipes and flavors.

Moonshine Recipes

Now we’re getting to the good stuff! These moonshine recipes create cocktails so good, you’ll think a second one “wouldn’t hurt.” Think again! Moonshine is potent stuff — up to 100 proof! You have been warned. Now, dig out that fancy cocktail shaker (or a Mason jar and lid if you’re feeling authentic) and ‘shine on!

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Martini

  • 2 ounces salted caramel whiskey
  • 2 ounces apple pie moonshine
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce ginger ale

Combine whiskey, moonshine, and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice. Pour into glass, add ginger ale and stir.

Chai Moon-tini

  • 1 1/2 ounces vanilla bean moonshine
  • 1 1/2 ounces chai tea concentrate
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and pour into a glass.

Sex in the Woods
(Adapted from Mantitlement)

  • 2 ounces plain moonshine
  • 1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 3/4 ounces peach schnapps

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and pour into a glass filled with ice.

What are some of your favorite moonshine recipes or favorite flavored moonshines? Share them (please, we beg you!) over at the We Are Explorer Chick Facebook Group page!

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