No matter where you go on earth, there is moonshine. It has been made from just about every imaginable foodstuff: grapes, grain, raw sugar, tree bark, horse milk and more. College students in the developed world drink it; so do day labourers in the world’s poorest slums and villages. All moonshine has two characteristics: it is highly alcoholic, and it is illegal. Kevin R. Kosar tells the colourful history of moonshine with characters that range from crusading lawmen, earnest farmers and clever tinkerers, to vicious smugglers and ruthless gangsters; from pontificating poets and sneaky swamp-rats, to adolescents looking for a thrill.
‘As Kevin Kosar documents in his excellent book, Moonshine: A Global History, governments from Ancient China to Ancient Mesopotamia have been defining which types of alcoholic drinks are legal, and therefore acceptable for people to drink, and which types of alcoholic drinks are illegal, and therefore unacceptable for people to drink . . . Kosar's book has much to offer to spirit enthusiasts. And, while I can't imagine enjoying spirits made from carrots or horse milk, Kosar’s documentation of all sorts of exotic spirits is certainly interesting . . . an understanding of the history of moonshine has a great deal to teach modern political leaders.’ – Forbes Magazine
‘[a] vibrant and entertaining new study of the drink’s 600-year history . . . Kosar, an authority on booze and a director of alcohol policy at the R Street Institute in Washington, DC, discusses this aspect of his subject with pace, learning, insight and good sense. He is convincing when he argues that “the more a government’s policies reduce access to affordable, safe, licit alcoholic drinks, the more it encourages the production of cheap, dangerous, illicit booze”. And he is arresting when he links the production of moonshine to moments of political resistance . . . But the book is at its most grimly arresting when Koshar describes the pernicious effects of the drink, and the extremes to which people will go to create and consume it.’ – Irish Times
Kevin R. Kosar is the author of Whiskey: A Global History (Reaktion, 2010). He lives in Washington, DC.