White Whiskey, Cynar, Poteen and some twisted ways to enjoy them

March 19, 2012

White Whiskey, Moonshine, White Dog, White Lightning, Shine, Corn “Likker”.  Just the very name conjures up vivid stories of lawlessness and ruffian behavior.  It didn’t matter if you were from the North, South, East or West, where there are people of European heritage, there will be distillation

It’s part of their social and economic thread. 

Look a bit closer to history and find places with a good source of the raw materials like corn, potatoes and grains.  These were good places for making Moonshine.  Farms that raised fruits and grains were primed to make a bit of shine as an easy way to raise money in a tough business environment. Selling crops are much more difficult than selling 'shine. 

The ingredients are free, why not?

The Federal Government traditionally frowns upon a still at home- without paying Federal taxes on liquor.

History teaches us that white liquor distillation was quick, dirty and very inexpensive.  Anyone with a homemade still and some chemical ingenuity could acquire the necessary ingredients to distill White Whiskey or un-aged spirits for nefarious purposes.  White Whiskey is undergoing a revival with the appreciation for craft distillation.  Making White Whiskey is essentially the quick method for making Bourbon.  It is much less expensive to make and satisfies the consumer’s desire for flavor.  White Whiskey has a historic flavor that differs from distillery to distillery. 

Perhaps this is part of the charm! 

For a product to be legally sold in the US, the Government requires that Corn Whiskey must contain at least 80% corn, be distilled at less than 80% ABV (160 proof) and be aged for a minimum of two years in new or used, un-charred barrels.  This barrel aging gives White Whiskey its creamy finish and fire driven power.   

Historically speaking, Moonshine Whiskey used to be distilled from a varied mix of scrap corn and sugar.  Country likker' originally was aged in containers like Mason jars and jugs for the length of time that it takes the customers to get home. 

This was a harsh product with a bad-boy reputation that was well deserved.

The style known presently known as White Whiskey comes from all over the world.  In Europe, un-aged spirits, eau de vie- can be found in nearly every country.  These intoxicating liquors are made from grapes, apples, stone fruits and combinations of grains, fruits and certain herbs and roots. 

Originally the techniques and recipes for distillation found their way into the USA by immigration and good old- fashioned Yankee inventiveness. 

The fermentation of grain, potatoes, corn and barley is as old as written history.

Our history of distilling in the United States is still very young as evidenced by the recent explosion of new brands from craft distilleries. 

White Whiskey is not just about the product known as Whiskey.  The technique for distilling White Whiskey also translates to Gin as exemplified by Few Spirits in Illinois. With a nose of freshly drawn cream and popcorn- the FEW Spirits White Whiskey is a surprise in the mouth.   It has a classic White Whiskey nose and a finish that goes on and on.  Styled like the moonshine Whiskies of the past, there is corn and malt on the nose- but very little in the way of heat.  Weighing in at 40% ABV, the FEW Spirits White Whiskey is aged minimally for maximum Whiskey flavor untouched by time.  It’s magical stuff!

Tuthilltown- White Whiskey from Gardiner, New York is made from local corn.  The variety they use when distilled harkens to a pleasurable-  taste resembling popped Indian-style corn.  It’s uncanny and quite unique.  Tuthilltown exemplifies the ideal of small batch distilling. The bottle is particularly inviting with round shoulders and a hand dipped wax finish. Everything is done by hand, with no shortcuts accepted.  This whiskey evokes the rough hewn elegance of local ingredients.  Tuthilltown is located not too far from New York City and visiting them is a pleasant day trip.

Catoctin Creekin Virginia recalls a vibrant freshness on the tongue they are making their spirit using Rye.  If aged it would become Rye Whiskey, but there is no aging here.  This liquor is for a very discerning clientele.  It is not for everyone.  Rye when un-aged has a very specific flavor.  It calls out to the drinker who is seeking flavor. 

White Whiskey is a liquid driven trip into the minds of our forefathers.  The methods and ingredients have changed very little since prohibition stopped the party.  White Whiskey is hot for a reason. 

It’s like drinking history!

Catoctin Creek-Mosby’s Spirit- USDA Certified Organic and Kosher- from Virginia.  This is a Rye-based, White Whiskey

Sharp on the nose, sweet organic grains give way to vanilla elements and candy sugar finish.  Cork finished bottle is a nice way of showing that the quality of the product within is carefully made and cared for, right down to the packaging.  No screw tops here! The flavors of freshly toasted Rye bread smeared with sweet butter and spicy apricot jam comes into view.  There is toasted rye bread in every sip, along with a light burn in the mouth.  Un-aged Rye takes on notes of hoe- cakes drenched in maple syrup with vanilla like notes on the finish.  Some say this White Whiskey tastes like Tequila!  This is tasty stuff- I see a white “Margarita” cocktail when I sip this spirit. 

Cynar:  Why Cynar? Because I believe it is sophisticated to mix Cynar into your White Whiskey cocktails.  Experiment!  You'll see!  (this is a cocktail secret!)

Catoctin Creek“Margarita”- makes two illuminating cocktails


3 Shots of Catoctin Creek White Whiskey

1 Shot of Cynar

½  Shot of raw Agave syrup

1 Shot of Tuaca Vanilla/Orange Liqueur

4 Shots of Freshly squeezed lime juice

Mexican Mole’ Bitters from Bitter End in Santa Fe, NM


In a cocktail shaker filled ½ with ice, add the liquors, the Agave syrup and the lime- juice

Shake and strain into a short cocktail glass with a hunk of lime as a garnish.  Add one-two drops of the Mexican Mole’ bitters to each glass at the end and give a quick stir to complete


Knockeen Poteen Irish Moonshine 90%

An almost unknown liquid potion distilled in Ireland and recently

imported into the United States is called Poteen, or “little pot-still.”   What Poteen means is firewater straight from the still. 

Until 1997, the Irish government made Poteen illegal to make or to possess.  Like American Moonshine, there was danger in making it and unfortunately at one time, the mere possession of it.

Poteen is creamy and citrus tinged in the mouth, pure fire to the unwary. Be careful!

Poteen Dream Cocktail

Traditionally Poteen is used in the company of citrus juices.  You should NEVER attempt to drink 90% Poteen straight.  It will make you blind.  Don’t do it.  I’m warning you.  Stop!

The Dream is a combination of coconut, lime, orange, pineapple and coconut water ice.  It is explosively powerful. There is no messing around with this stuff.   But you won’t taste a thing.  The next thing you will see is the floor!


Freshly squeezed lime, orange, pineapple juices

Coconut water ice- freeze sweetened coconut water into an ice tray

Cream of Coconut- with bits.  (Why with bits? Because they are chewy, you like to chew on them and it will give you something to do with your mouth until the floor meets your nose... They also give the drink a certain mouth-feel or body)  Poteen can make you play the fiddle, well, not really, but you'll think that you can!

Preparation:Makes several blindingly powerful cocktails, perfect for a hot day.

1 Mini-bottle of 90% Poteen added to two pints of freshly squeezed juices.  It is essential to freshly squeeze the juices!

(Don’t argue about the proportions. I’m serious this stuff is strong!)

Add to a cocktail shaker filled ½ with ice some of the Poteen/juice mixture, add a tablespoon or two of the cream of coconut

Shake and pour into a short rocks glass filled with coconut water ice


The Sailor’s Dilemma Cocktail (Makes two or more nice long drinks)


3 Shots of FEW Spirits White Whiskey

1 Shot of Atlantico Dark Rum

2 Shots of Cynar Italian Artichoke Amaro

Freshly crushed fire roasted pineapple juice (about 6 oz) (char chunks of pineapple over a grill until crunchy)

Freshly squeezed lime juice (about two shots)

Royal Rose “Tamarind” Syrup

Bitter End Curry Bitters

Fresh Thai Basil


To a cocktail shaker, muddle the crushed pineapple and basil with 5 drops of Bitter End Curry Bitters and the lime juice

Next, fill the cocktail shaker ½ with ice

Add 3 shots of the White Whiskey

Add 1 shot of Atlantico Dark Rum

Add the 2 shots of Cynar

Add 1 shot of Royal Rose Tamarind Syrup

Shake and strain into 2 coupe’ glasses and garnish with a sprig of Thai Basil

Thai Basil works best for this cocktail with its aromatic finish and lingering, sticky, spicy character


 White Whiskey Old Fashioned Cocktail

Makes two quite strong, historically incorrect drinks



4 Shots of Hudson NY Corn Whiskey

2 Shots of Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth

Royal Rose Three Chilies Simple Syrup

Bitter End Mexican Mole’ Bitters

A couple of home cured cherries (essential to make them yourself)

Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water


Add to a cocktail shaker ½ with ice.  Add a tablespoon or two of the Royal Rose Three Chilies Syrup.  Add about four drops of the Mexican Mole’ Bitters

Muddle the bitters and cherries around with a couple of splashes of the Hudson Corn Whiskey

Add a splash of Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water to the mixture, stir some more

Add the Sweet Vermouth and the remainder of the Hudson Corn Whiskey

Stir some more and strain into a short cocktail glass, sip to the first corn on your plate by July


Home cured Cocktail Cherries

Sterilize 6 or more Ball Jars

Pit out some nice firm dark red cherries

Pack them into the sterilized Ball Jars with Thyme (picked clean of all wood, wood makes the cherries very bitter), Cinnamon, Star Anise, and top with White Whiskey, Rye, or Bourbon-Brandy works too!

Set into your refrigerator and do not open for three weeks!

You will have better cherries than you can buy!