Sipping in the Blue Ridge
“Fruit liquor” (four jars on the left) is made by filling a jar with fruit and then adding sugar and moonshine.  Medicinal “bitters” (right) can include a variety of herbs, barks, and spices.
“Fruit liquor” (four jars on the left) is made by filling a jar with fruit
and then adding sugar and moonshine.  Medicinal “bitters” (right)
can include a variety of herbs, barks, and spices..

Obviously not all the moonshine produced in the Blue Ridge has been shipped out of the mountains to urban areas.  During Prohibition locally made liquor was understandably the main form of alcohol consumed in western Virginia, but even today a jar of moonshine sometimes appears at local parties and dances.  Yet beyond such social drinking, homemade whiskey has also played a role in Blue Ridge foodways and medicinal traditions.

Old-timers talk of starting the day with a “coffee lace,” a shot of moonshine in a cup of coffee.  Another drink mentioned today is “fruit liquor”--a combination of fruit (or berries), one cup of sugar, and moonshine mixed in a half-gallon jar.  Damsons, peaches, fox grapes, and strawberries are the favored fruits.  Fruit liquor is allowed to sit for a few weeks so the flavors blend. 

Blue Ridge folk medicine also incorporates moonshine in several homemade remedies.  Liquor-based tinctures supposedly relieve ailments ranging from chest congestion to arthritis.  Recipes for these so-called “bitters” mix moonshine with such things as sassafras bark, ginseng, and wild cherry bark.  Moonshine mixed with honey, lemon juice, ginger, and/or sugar is taken as a cough syrup.

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