Apparently, back in the day, Pennsylvanians weren’t big fans of taxes. For instance, did you know that a tax collector named Robert Johnson was tarred and feathered by a disguised gang in Washington County? After that, a man sent by officials to serve court warrants to Johnson’s attackers was whipped, tarred, and feathered. Because of these and other violent attacks, the tax went uncollected, and the rebels claimed a temporary victory.
Did I happen to mention that this was AFTER the American Revolution? in 1791? against American tax collectors? during the Washington administration? As in, the very first fucking president of the U.S., Washington. George Washington. Six foot eight. Weighed a fucking ton.
You may be asking, “Since this wasn’t about a tea tax, what the shit was all the fuss about?” Plenty. It was over a tax, on a product far more important than tea. Something that was literally used as currency on the American frontier. Literally.
As one of the first attempts to pay off America’s debt, Washington’s Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, passed the Whiskey Excise Act of 1791. It was the first tax on a domestic product, and was created in hopes of paying back the $54 million that was borrowed under the Articles of Confederation. As you might guess, the act became wildly controversial as soon as it was passed and eventually culminated with Washington amassing an army of nearly 13,000 men from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Jersey, to scare the shit out of rebel factions, and get every one back in line.
Washington didn’t have to fire a shot. Just the fact that he was literally back on the horse, and leading an army towards the problem, was enough to make everyone calm the fuck down. It was known as the Whiskey Rebellion, and not only is it an example of America’s continued rebellious spirit at the time, but it also served to galvanize political lines, and helped to establish the two party political machine that is in place today. Go figure.
When the new “Democratic-Republican Party” came into power in 1800, the Whiskey Excise Tax was repealed by the one and only, Thomas Jefferson. He did it because he loved you. He really loved you.
This may have been the first time that American citizens fought over their spirits, but it surely wouldn’t be the last. Not more than 26 years after the repeal of the tax, the American Temperance Society was founded. The initial goal was for members to pledge abstinence from alcohol. Regardless of its rapid growth across the country, voluntary participation wasn’t good enough apparently. Soon, it began trying to force its agenda onto local, and eventually federal, government, leading to what we refer to in the U.S. simply as “Prohibition”(or W.C. Fields least favorite decade).
This is totally going where you think it’s going.
As it would turn out, the term “boot-legging”, is one of the most literal slang terms in the world. It came from the practice of slipping a flask into the ankle of your boot, in order to smuggle liquor somewhere. And the term Moonshine, is equally simple. During Prohibition, illegal alcohol had to be smuggled at night, under the moon shine, in order to stay hidden from federal law enforcement.
I know there are TONS of great stories about smugglers, and the mafia, speakeasies, and all sorts of other prohibition debauchery, but history and pop culture are lousy with the stuff. Go watch Boardwalk Empire. Write an article about it.
So, what IS moonshine? First we should have a working definition of whiskey.
Whiskey is a distilled alcohol, made from grains, generally either corn, barley, wheat or rye.
Moonshine generally falls into the corn category (as do bourbons, and many other American whiskies.) Moonshine is a whiskey by definition, but unlike most whiskey that you’re used to seeing, this corn whiskey is completely un-aged. It goes straight from the still, into the bottles, and is ready for consumption.
This is the moonshine that we’re focused on this episode, but I’m very aware that corn whiskey isn’t available in all the places that people watch Archer, so, let me assure you that no matter where you live, you can find yourself some cheap hooch.
What is the best way to drink this stuff? Well, when it comes to flavors, you can add fruits, like grapes, cherries, apples, pears, peaches, just about anything you want to the bottle, and let it infuse into the moonshine. A lot of producers, both legal and illegal, will do some of this for you.
Proper serving instructions are pretty straight forward:
Pour your white lightning into a mason jar (if it isn’t already in one)
Drink until there isn’t any left in the jar.
What food goes well with moonshine? I’m honestly kind of surprised you’re even asking that…