Distilled spirits are as old as human civilization.
We haven’t always called homemade spirits ‘moonshine’ (that’s an American thing), but we’ve always found ways to get drunk using fermented organic materials.
Today, ‘moonshine’ is a general term for most homemade spirits. Nearly every country in the world has its own homemade alcohol tradition. From Canada’s infamous ‘screech’ to the lesser-known Iranian ‘alcohol dog’, here are some favorite moonshines from around the world:
Canada - Screech
Screech, like some rum, is made from molasses, but that’s where similarities end. The word ‘screech’ actually comes from the fact that the first person who tasted the concoction screamed after it passed his lips. Well, at least that’s the story.
Interestingly enough, one enterprising Canadian company decided to capitalize on the screech tradition. Screech Rum is an officially licensed product made in Newfoundland and it tastes a lot better than the homemade stuff found at backwoods hunting cabins.
Brazil - Maria-Louca
Some people believe moonshine is not supposed to taste good and it’s sole purpose is to get you drunk.
Brazil’s Maria-louca moonshine tastes good and gets you drunk. Maria-louca is made from sugar, uncooked rice, and yeast. Prison inmates in Brazil also add whatever fruit they can steal from the cafeteria to add much-needed sweetness and flavor.
Italy - Grappa
Popular with Italians in Italy and around the world, grappa is one of the most infamous moonshines available today.
Grappa is made using the scraps of fermented fruit found at the bottom of a wine keg called ‘pomace’. Pomace includes seeds, pulp, stems, and skins of grapes. Instead of letting these scraps go to waste, Italians mix these scraps together to create grappa. Grappa traces its history back to Roman times.
Russia – Samogon
When talking about international moonshine tradition, it’s tough to avoid Russia’s infamous ‘samogon’. Made from sugar, beets, potatoes, and bread, samogon is the drink of choice on the Russian steppes and has been for centuries. Samogon doesn’t require a specific recipe. Instead, it’s simply the Russian word for “self-distilled”.
Russians have a reputation for swigging back lots of vodka. However, in rural Russia, samogon is far more popular than vodka. In fact, it’s estimated that samogon will become more popular than vodka by the end of 2014.
Uganda – Waragi
Uganda has one of the most unique moonshine traditions in the world. Locals drink a popular homemade gin called Waragi which can be ordered at bars across the country. Waragi is made using unique ingredients like cassava and bananas, although it’s also commonly made using millet and sugar cane.
Also, for whatever reason, Uganda is a bastion of alcohol consumption in a relatively dry part of the world. According to a report by the World Health Organization, Ugandans drink approximately 10.93 liters of alcohol per capita per year. That’s more than Switzerland, Spain, the United States, Australia, and Canada and makes Uganda the highest per capita alcohol consuming country in Africa.
Kenya - Changaa
The most interesting thing about Kenya’s changaa is that it is sometimes steeped using women’s panties. As if that wasn’t gross enough, changaa is also commonly made using jet fuel, embalming fluid, and battery acid. If you don’t feel hungover after drinking this, then it’s probably because you died.
Iran – Aragh Sagi
Almost all Islamic countries in the world have their own form of moonshine. After all, it’s tough to be an alcoholic in a country where it’s illegal to drink any type of alcohol.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is no different. Iran’s Aragh Sagi is made using raisins and pure ethanol. Its nickname is the ‘alcohol dog’ and it was particularly popular before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Today, Aragh Sagi is less popular because sharia law states that anyone caught with it will be lashed 74 times. However, since Persian culture has a rich tradition of alcohol consumption, it’s still commonly found across the country.
Serbia - Rakija
In Serbia, Rakija is traditionally made from all parts of the plum, including the stems. Rakija is rumored to cure many illnesses and has beneficial effect on the whole body. In the past it was used as the only anesthesia during operations, cleansing of wounds, stomachaches, reduction of body temperature, and even rinsing of the throats with people with colds, which is still highly recommended today.
Serbia is our sort of country!