So, you want to try your hand at making some white lighting? While it might seem like a perfectly harmless hipster pastime, right up there with pickling and the application of moustache wax, making moonshine is not something to take lightly. Let’s face it—moonshine stills were the meth labs of their day (although, the moonshiners themselves were much more dashing and attractive). But fine, if you insist on knowing, here’s what you need: corn meal, sugar, water, yeast, and malt. This mash is cooked until the natural alcohol evaporates, and that vapor is then collected, filtered, and evaporated a second time. The alcohol vapor is then condensed, and the liquid is bottled. This is some serious science, right? And, oh yeah, that alcohol vapor is highly flammable.
In moonshine days, the stills themselves often contained lead and other dangerous impurities, making the stuff more or less poison (hence the nickname “rot gut”). But, on the upside, moonshine runners in the early 1930s were among the first Americans to trick out their cars, eventually leading to the sport today known as Nascar.
If you want to see some grade-A bootleggers in action, check out the new film Lawless, in theaters today, which stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce. We’d love to say no one in this movie gets hurt as a result of moonshine, but that would be a gross understatement—and it would take away all the fun.