Are Moonshine Pickles Actually Made With Booze?

The cocktail section of any specialty store is going to be stocked with plenty of ingredients both alcoholic and not, and the difference isn't always immediately clear. If moonshine pickles aren't already a cultural facet you're accustomed to, you might wonder if the name is just incidental, or if we really are talking about booze-soaked veggies.

In this case, the answer is a very loud yes. Moonshine pickles are exactly as their name implies — pickles soaked in a jar of moonshine. Not only are moonshine pickles indeed made with moonshine, but the alcohol isn't cooked out or otherwise neutralized, so these pickles pack a punch. There are a handful of brands that commercially produce moonshine pickles, and these tend to hover between 20-30% alcohol by volume. (For reference, most straight spirits are about 40% ABV.) So, yeah, this is one treat you won't want to share with the kids.

If dill pickles that get you drunk sound like a tempting proposition, you can typically find a jar in stores or online for somewhere from $20 to $30; or, if you're really struck by the rustic spirit of the moonshine, you can make your own. Use them to dress up a bloody mary, or snack on them as-is. Just maybe have a chaser on hand, too.

Moonshine: from criminal to trendy

The term "moonshine" historically referred to any kind of spirit made unlawfully in a home environment — usually unaged whiskey, but not necessarily — and usually for the purpose of evading liquor taxes. Moonshine was and still is a tradition closely associated with the American South and Appalachian region, particularly the more rural areas. But today, moonshine has something of a more cosmopolitan appeal, with a number of devoted "moonshine" distilleries popping up, producing their unaged whiskey legally and safely.

So when we're talking about moonshine pickles, we're just referring to cucumbers (or other veggies) that have been pickled with clear, unaged whiskey instead of vinegar, as well as dill and any other flavoring ingredients desired. If you find yourself with a jar of moonshine pickles (be it one purchased legally or one that, erm, fell off a truck), you've got a lot of options on your hands. The pickles themselves are great garnishes for savory cocktails. Instead of leaving it all up to a single stick of raw celery, take your Bloody Marys up a level by garnishing them with moonshine pickles. Shoot the liquor itself straight, or use it to add some Southern flair to briny drinks, like dirty martinis. You can even use moonshine pickles in place of regular ones to make pickle wraps for a boozy hors d'oeuvre to pass around at your next party.

Making your own

If moonshine, for you, evokes a sense of rugged individualism, good news: Moonshine pickles are a DIY that only requires as much time and effort as you want to invest. The easiest, fastest method is to simply pour the brine out of a jar of store-bought pickles, then replace the liquid with moonshine and other flavoring ingredients, then let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the booze and flavor permeate the pickles. If you want to start with fresh cucumbers, expect to let them rest in the booze for about a week. If you're new to pickling, you'll want to find a recipe from a trustworthy source and follow its instructions, especially as it pertains to sanitation. Improperly preserved vegetables can pose a serious health risk.

Whether you're quick pickling some jarred gherkins or preserving your own garden-grown cukes, flavoring the brine is your chance to get creative and make them your own. Fresh dill and garlic might be obvious choices, but they're classic pickle components for a reason. It's also a popular choice to add some element of heat when making moonshine pickles, and the medium of spice totally depends on the kind of flavor profile you're looking to create. Add your favorite hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or both. For a different, cleaner kind of heat, try some horseradish. Just be sure to pace yourself when it comes time to actually enjoy the hot pickles — the spice may mask it to a degree, but remember, these babies are still seriously boozy.