Reading back through some recent posts, I had a few thoughts that seemed to be worth sharing.
On the subject of the Old Fashioned, I know what I'm about to say is blasphemy, but whiskey and Sprite, with a few dashes of bitters, is a reasonably authentic shortcut for an Old Fashioned. The only really inauthentic thing is the carbonation. After all, the drink is whiskey, water, bitters, sugar, and citrus. To keep it, again, reasonably authentic, you have to use a light hand with the soda. A ratio of about one-to-one seems to work pretty well, and I'm also generous with the bitters.
Most recipes that call for bitters call for a 'dash.' Gaz Regan taught me to disregard that. Watching him make a Manhattan once, I counted 14 dashes. The folks who have looked into this sort of thing say bitters are essential, both in the drinks that traditionally call for them, and in many that don't. I find the bitterness is what gives the drink its sophistication.
On the subject of 'legal moonshine,' I did notice since I made that post that Short Mountain's label describes a spirit made at least in part from sugar, which I've seen in a couple of other labels and label applications, but have never actually seen on the street as a product.
Several of my critics say I'm behind the times. That people want a legal moonshine product and thus they shall have one. The problem remains, however, that there is no agreement about what moonshine is as a spirit type. Most real moonshine is made using 100% table sugar as the fermentable substrate. This has been true for as long as cane sugar has been plentiful and cheap.
Remember, moonshine isn't about 'craft' or 'quality.' It's about making money, which means making spirit as quickly and easily as possible without getting caught.
One hears about corn being added in some recipes but unless there is cooking involved, and the introduction of enzymes, the corn is just for show. You need to cook corn to get the starch to dissolve, then you need to add enzymes to convert the liquified starch into sugar. If you don't, the corn is just a prop. It has no effect on the final product.
Most of the products that have made it to market labeled as moonshine, such as Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon, from Piedmont Distillers, are either vodka or corn whiskey. Midnight Moon is vodka, distilled from corn. Georgia Moon, a venerable product made by Heaven Hill, is corn whiskey.
Short Mountain isn't the only micro-distiller toying with the 'real' moonshine (i.e., sugarjack) idea, but unless they distill it out to something like vodka, it's probably going to taste awful. That's what people expect from moonshine, they think (mistakenly) that the bad taste means it's strong. (It doesn't, it just means it tastes bad.) It remains to be seen if people will actually buy a true sugarjack product and, most importantly, buy it again.
Under the rules, a distilled spirit made from cane sugar is rum. If it's not 100% cane sugar, then you probably have to call it a 'distilled spirit specialty,' which is a catchall category for products that don't fit any of the established types.
It should be noted that no product made from cane sugar, nor any product distilled above 95% ABV (i.e., vodka) is whiskey. Even the Piedmont product, which is made mostly from corn, is not whiskey because they distill it to vodka alcohol levels and, in fact, it is classified as vodka; which it says, in very small type, on the label.
And, as vodka goes, it's not bad.
But it's not whiskey, and it's not moonshine.
That's another thing that has been going on with the mirco-distillery movement, people griping that they want to call things whatever they want to call them and that the rules should be changed so they can. People have always wanted to do this, and that's precisely why the rules (laws, actually) exist.
I hasten to add that not all micro-distillers are this way. There are some terrific people running small distilleries, people who do things the right way, who are steeped in both the science and the history, and who work their asses off. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know many of them. The poseurs, we reassure ourselves, will surely wash out and go away in time.
It can't happen soon enough.