Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Shine

I grew up about twenty minutes from the moonshine capitol of the world: Franklin County, Virginia. There might or might not be bootleggers on my Mom's side of the family. I'll never tell.

Don't believe the hype? Rent the movie Lawless and check out the photos below of the area's largest moonshine still bust-up, taken in 1972:






Around the holidays it's not unusual for someone to show up at a formal cocktail party in my hometown with one of the region's best-preserved heritage cocktails: damson berry moonshine. It's made by steeping wild damson berries (photo below) in the spirit at the height of the fruit's summer season.


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Come Christmas, the concoction is bright, purply-red, sweet, and festive over ice.

Old-timers create the traditional recipe by mixing a cup of sugar, a cup of fruit, and moonshine in a half-gallon mason jar. This how-to video for damson berry gin is also good tutorial (BTW I had no idea that damson berries were such big part of British food culture too).

And while I would love to be home picking wild damson berries in August, that is sadly probably not going to happen any summer soon. But here's the good news: there IS a way to achieve a similar outcome (and reddish color) in less time. I recently made fruit-infused moonshine with organic raspberries and it worked. All it took was making a super-dense raspberry simple syrup, and mixing it with LEGAL Virginia Lightning (pictured below). I added whole berries later. Raspberries are a lot more sour than damson berries so I made the simple syrup really sweet.


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I'm no mixologist but here's how it turned out:



All that's left now is inviting a few friends over to imbibe with me. But I still can't wait to taste the real thing when I'm home!

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