Moonshine Is Invading Dallas Bars

Jars of moonshine behind the bar at Stonedeck. The author especially recognized the second jar from the left.
Jars of moonshine behind the bar at Stonedeck. The author especially recognized the second jar from the left.

When I was in college, moonshine was hardly a trendy thing; the backwoods spirit distilled from a corn mash was an all out ass-kicker that could quickly put you down. One of my friends returned to classes each fall with a gallon jar of maraschino cherries whose red liquid had been swapped out with a measure of this devil-spirit. We'd eat cherries like beer nuts till our stomachs burned like fire.

I'd also seen moonshine at weddings and other celebrations. It was typically passed around in a Ball jar that had previously been used to put up a surplus of summer tomatoes. The first sip of moonshine burned your mouth, your throat and all the way down to your center. If you tried to breathe, it turned into napalm in your nose. And for me, it never gave up until I did. Moonshine kept up the burn for each and every sip until I wrote it off altogether a few years later.

For some insane reason, people are recreating this experience as the nation enjoys a resurgence of this white lightning. Some say that the Moonshiners docudrama on the Discovery channel could be the cause, but it could just as easily be blamed on our increasing desire to return to the good ol' days -- the same reason throwback tattoos, haircuts and shrink-to-fit jeans are all the rage.

Whatever the reason, it's catching on. Stone Deck Pizza co-owner David Haynes opened his Deep Ellum Pizzeria with more than 20 types of moonshine available for sipping. Now he maintains between 25 and 30 bottles, and even offers infused versions of the spirit.

Pizza and moonshine sound like they go together as well as whiskey and caviar, but Haynes says he's got good reason to offer so much of the stuff. "We do American style pizza and American craft ale here," he said. "Moonshine is a genuine American sprit."

With run-down trucks turned into seating booths and an overall decor that could be called redneck chic, the Truck Yard in East Dallas seems like a more likely place to find fans of the 'shine. Leon, a bartender there, answered the phone and said moonshine is selling like crazy since they started offering it a month ago. Remembering my college experience I asked Leon if he actually, you know, liked the stuff. "Of course, I'm a bartender," he answered, as if affection for pain-inducing spirits was a requirement for the job. And then he drove that affection home. "It's awesome as shit," he said.

Feeling fancy? Sissy's Southern Kitchen sells a moonshine punch using lemon, orange, grenadine and blackberries. And if you're feeling corporate Mash'd in Frisco has branded an entire restaurant around the spirit. Their website has pictures and descriptions for moonshine cocktails named Lady Marmalade, Jolly Rancher and the Blue Moon Mojito. They've already got two locations.

But my money is on Haynes back at Stonedeck, where moonshine is treated like a prodigal spirit. Not only is he infusing moonshine with coffee, peach nectar and other aromatics, but he's aging it in small hood barrels, too. A small section of his restaurant is devoted to his carefully curated moonshine program. This ain't your granddad's hooch.

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