Shine On

Bye-bye, backwoods: Moonshine has gone legit
Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine

Moonshine is leaving the holler for the cocktail bar. Once a backcountry black market, the illicit elixir no longer warrants its criminal rep (and rubbing-alcohol flavor); instead, modern distilleries are producing white whiskies worthy of our attention.

Devoid of lengthy barrel-aging--which gives whiskey its woodsy flavors and dark hue--moonshine is essentially whiskey's younger sibling. It's mellow enough for sipping, and its delicate grain flavors create excellent cocktails.

Even restaurants are serving 'shine alongside their wines: In Portland, Oregon, local distiller House Spirits custom-makes a rye-based moonshine for steakhouse Urban Farmer, while New Orleans's pig-centric Cochon pours Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine.

Unlike their outlaw brethren, modern moonshiners pay taxes, so you no longer have to hit the boonies to score a drink. Look for these bottles at your local liquor store, or search for an online retailer at vinquire.com.

Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine ($25) Flavors of frosted cake, nutmeg and eggnog dominate this corn-based liquor (piedmontdistillers.com).

Death's Door White Whisky ($37) Delicacy and drinkability define this grassy spirit, which is created mostly from Wisconsin wheat (deathsdoorspirits.com).

Old Gristmill Authentic Corn Whiskey ($20) This artisanal spirit from upstate New York showcases the subtle flavors of roasted corn (tuthilltown.com).

Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey ($25) This 100-proof hooch's potent burn gives way to a smooth, sweet flavor (virginiamoonshine.com).

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