Where the Moon Shines

Moonshine is high-proof liquor that is produced illicitly, on the sly, without government authorization.

Moonshine was big during prohibition, when you couldn’t buy liquor legally. Its name is a nod to its origins. Because it’s illegal to distill spirits outside of a registered distillery, moonshine is traditionally made at night, covert-like, in homemade distilleries, or stills. Sometimes moonshine is called Apple Jack, Mountain Dew, and White Lightning.

You can still buy moonshine today, but strangely enough, there is a lot of fraudulent moonshine out there, produced by legal distilleries, who just like the moonshine aesthetic.

Both pictures are labeled moonshine but one is an imposter.


Clues the moonshine you are drinking isn’t legit:

  • Your drink is listed on the menu at a restaurant
  • You order it at a restaurant and it is served to you in a clean glass
  • The drink has garnish

The only respectable way to drink moonshine is in tin cups, mason jars, or potentially a jug.

Someday, I’d like to write about moonshine, but today I’ll just share two remarkable pictures.

The first is a find from the Tennessee Library and State Archives, entitled “Where the Moonshines.” Apparently prohibition agents or the police busted somebody and photographed their equipment.

Tennessee still for moonshine, circa 1909 – Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives


During prohibition, moonshine was big business that required wily bootleggers to evade prohibition agents and the feds were often outwitted. A shining example of this is the “cow shoe”, which was a strip of metal nailed to a wooden block shaped like a cow’s hoof. This contraption was then affixed to a man’s shoe.

All of this was done so that a bootlegger could go to a still in a rural area and any agent shadowing him would quickly lose him, since instead of leaving footprints, his path would resemble that of a cow.

Prohibition agents found this “cow shoe” in the early 1920s, near Port Tampa.

Cow Shoes, circa 1922 (image from kottke.org)


I’m not sure where to get cow shoes these days, but you can make or buy your own still. It’s probably not legal, but you can do it!