Moonshine, also known as "hooch" (a name borrowed from the Hoochinoo tribe of Alaska, known for its potent homemade brew) or "homebrew," is made by fermenting a sugar source to produce ethanol. Traditionally, moonshine is made from a mash of corn and sugar. The alcohol is separated from the mash by a distillation process.
One big difference between moonshine and other liquors like whiskey or bourbon is that moonshine is not aged. The result is a distilled spirit that contains a high percentage of alcohol, many times greater than 100 proof (50%), like a white whiskey.
The term comes from the fact that it is done at night so people will not see the smoke from the still. Therefore, it can be hidden from the police or thirsty neighbors.
Moonshine was originally packaged in clay jugs, then later mason jars. The old clay jars were often marked with "XXX" on the side. Supposedly each "X" represented how many times the brew had been through the distillation process.
Moonshine - Sonny Boy Williamson II
Bootleg liquor made from fermenting corn.
Corn Liquor Blues - Lewis Black
The distilling process itself produces alcohol vapors, which are highly flammable.
Moonshine can be contaminated with methanol, because methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than alcohol. The first liquid can contain methanol. Methanol is highly poisonous and can cause blindness and even death.
- Very high proof moonshine. Borders on being 200 proof (actually 100% PURE ethyl alcohol); it's pure grain alcohol and is illegal.
- White lightning is any sort of illegal liquor, especially corn whiskey.
White Lightnin' - Mississippi Fred McDowell
Sources: Talkin' to myself: Blues lyrics, Michael Taft, digitalcitizen.ca, federalcigarjugband.com, pancocojams.blogspot.nl, americanbluesscene.com, YouTube, Wikipedia, Hudson Motors Compagny, Archive Minneapolis, The Cruel Plains, M.H.Price a.o., truewestmagazine.com, The Austin Chronicle, Cambridge Free English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary, TheSaurus.com, dragonjazz.com/grablue/blues_travel, Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, Blues by Paul Breman, Blues by David Harrison, Quora.com, urbandictionary.com, Blogs.loc.gov, The Ballad Hunter by Alan Lomax, Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920th by Daphne Duval Harrison, jopiepopie.blogspot.nl, redhotjazz.com, The Blues Lyrics Formula by Michael Taft, American Ballads and Folk Songs by Alan Lomax and John Avery Lomax, The Past Is Not Dead: Essays from the Southern Quarterly by Douglas B. Chambers, EarlyBlues.com, railroad-line.com, Jason Lee Davis' RailFan Pages , centertruthjustice.org