I am very biased but I believe I live on the best street in Winston-Salem. We have amazing neighbors. I remember the first summer we lived on the street. I was up the street watching the boys play with the other kids on the street. Joe Michalek, one of our neighbors and founder of Piedmont Distillers, brought out the moonshine in different flavors for all of the parents to try. We all had a blast taste testing the different flavors. A fun fact is that Joe’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law are our next door neighbors, Sarah and Eddie LeRoy. Sarah is Vice President of Piedmont Distillers makes Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Moonshine and was nice enough to answer a few questions I had about this delicious libation.
Dashing through Winston-Salem (D): How do y’all come up with different flavors??
Sarah LeRoy (SLR):We like to stay true to the roots of moonshine, so most of Midnight Moon’s flavors are traditional moonshine flavors that you could find around North Carolina, like, Apple Pie, Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry and Cherry. We also have Cranberry, which is a little bit unique, but it’s still made the traditional way by pouring 100 Proof Midnight Moon in the jar and hand-filling it the rest of the way with actual cranberries. We also have two unflavored varieties – the Original 80 proof and we just launched 100 Proof. Midnight Moon is made from 100% corn and triple-distilled, so it’s very clean and smooth even without the fruit. The 80 and 100 Proof Midnight Moon make excellent alternatives to top-shelf vodka.
SLR:Apple Pie tends to be the most popular, but it really comes down to individual taste. If you have a favorite type of fruit, I recommend that you try that one first. All of the fruit flavor and color in the Midnight Moon flavors comes from the fruit itself, so each one has its own unique taste. Apple Pie is made with apple juice, Midnight Moon and a cinnamon stick, so it really does taste like apple pie (with a kick). The Midnight Moon Strawberry is a tad sweeter, because the strawberries themselves are sweet. People tell us it tastes like homemade strawberry jam. On the other hand, Midnight Moon Cranberry is more tart because of the nature of cranberries. All of the Midnight Moon flavors are delicious and taste like real fruit taste – it’s not like a lollipop, sugary sweet, flavored vodka kind of experience.
SLR: We explore new flavors all the time. We hope to have some other fruits flavors in 2014, but nothing I can announce just yet. 100 Proof unflavored just came out in September. We also just launched “Half-Moons,” which are half-sized jars of Apple Pie, Strawberry and Blueberry. These little guys are a great ways to try Midnight Moon without buying a full bottle. They’re also fun party flavors, hostess gifts or stocking stuffers.
D: What is the best cocktail you’ve had with your moonshine in it?
SLR: Oh gosh, there are so many delicious drinks. Below are some of my favorite, go-to recipes. They range from easy mixers to more complex punches. The last one, Junior’s Cran-Apple Punch, is so great for the holidays. It takes a little extra work, but totally worth it. It’s light and refreshing, but full of Fall flavor. I’ll definitely make a batch for Thanksgiving. It’s a recipe that can be multiplied easily so you can make a big batch for a party and serve it out of a punch bowl or pitcher. When I first started at Piedmont Distillers, I was intimidated by making cocktails. Then I realized it’s just like baking a cake. Measure the ingredients, follow the recipe and wham-o, you have a yummy drink.
2 oz. Midnight Moon Apple Pie poured over ice, topped with a splash of ginger ale or ginger beer (for a less sweet, spicier cocktail).
STRAWBERRY & SODA
2 oz. Midnight Moon Strawberry poured over ice, topped with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lemon twist. Note, you can also use Sprite instead of club soda.
OLD FASHIONED APPLE PIE
1 ½ oz. Midnight Moon Apple Pie, ½ oz. to 1 oz. Rye Whisky (depending on how much you like whisky), 5 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 Orange Slice. Muddle (or hand squeeze) the orange slice into a rocks glass. Fill glass with ice and add all other ingredients. Stir gently.
JUNIOR’S CRAN-APPLE PUNCH
1 ½ oz. Midnight Moon Cranberry Moonshine, ½ oz. frozen cranberries, 1 ¼ tsp. sugar, 3 oz. apple cider, ¾ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 oz. ginger beer. Muddle cranberries and sugar in a rocks glass. Fill with ice and add all other ingredients. Stir gently.
D: What has been the best surprise to come from Junior Johnson’s midnight Moon moonshine?
SLR: I think the biggest surprise so far has been the broad appeal of Midnight Moon. When we started, we thought it might be a Southeastern thing, but that’s not the case. Midnight Moon is sold in 50 states and some of our biggest markets are New Hampshire, Missouri and California. In states where it’s allowed, Midnight Moon is sold in Walmart and Costco. Seems that everyone likes Midnight Moon and is draw to Junior Johnson’s and North Carolina’s moonshine heritage. It’s exciting to share a piece of home with some many other people who have never had the chance to taste moonshine before.
D: What would you like everyone to know about y’alls moonshine?
SLR: We take a lot of pride in Midnight Moon. We go through the trouble to make it the ole fashioned way by hand-filling each jar with actual fruit. Infusing the fruit in the very clean Midnight Moon spirit makes a delicious liquor that’s not like anything else. I know I’m biased, but if you enjoy a cocktail, you really should give Midnight Moon a taste.
D: Your favorite flavor??
SLR: It depends on the season and my mood, but Apple Pie, Strawberry and Cranberry are probably my favorites.
Many Many Thanks to Sarah for answering my questions and for being such a great neighbor 🙂 Our family loves celebrating with Midnight Moon. July 4th is more fun with Apple Pie Moonshine and watching fireworks with the family. If you haven’t tried Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moonshine it is absolutely worth a try. I think you’ll enjoy it. Tomorrow … we are on to Sunshine!