Dixie Moonshine: Graham Reexamines his Roots

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Is it boiled peanut season yet? Nothing says “summer in the South” like driving down a two-lane mountain road, Tevas soggy from the last jump into a swimming hole, the windows down and a hot bag of boiled peanuts in your lap. Maybe Eat a Peach is cranked on the stereo, barely audible over the wind. Conjuring up this image makes me both nostalgic for my past, but also eager for the future, because I know I’ll find myself in that exact situation several times soon enough. Now, put that scenario—boiled peanuts, Allman Brothers, et al.—in a pickup truck and put some chicks in Rebel Flag bikinis, and you have yourself a bonafide cliché.

Growing up in the South, I’m always weary of anything that feels a bit too “on the nose” Southern. I was a huge fan of The Dukes of Hazzard when I was a kid, but I can’t catch a rerun today without getting a little angry. Why did they have to be running moonshine? Why is there so much straw everywhere? Nobody I knew growing up wore overalls, and yet they seem to be standard issue in Hazzard County.

I’ve always had the same reservations about Drive-by Truckers. Their album Decoration Day opens with a song about incest, then moves on to a family farm getting taken by the bank. It’s as if they’re deliberately trying to hit every Southern cliché described by David Allan Coe in “You Never Even Called Me by My Name.”

I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison

And I went to pick’er up in the rain

But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck

She got runned over by a damned ol’ train

So I was a little hesitant when this bottle of “moonshine” showed up on my doorstep. The mason jar, the “XXX” on the label, the American Born name, the fact that it’s sweet tea flavored and called “Dixie”…it’s all a bit too on the nose for me. I’ll go so far as to say I didn’t want to like this booze because of all that over the top Southern branding, much in the same way I didn’t want to like Drive-By Truckers for the exact same reasons. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t find myself digging on this bottle of hooch, just as I’ll be damned if I don’t crank Drive-By Truckers on a hot summer day when I’m working in the yard. It is a guilty pleasure.

The moonshine is made in Nashville, Tennessee, and according to the press materials it is “the first-ever sweet tea-flavored moonshine.” And it does taste like someone put moonshine in your mama’s pitcher of sweet tea. This particular spirit is not whiskey, per se. It’s “alcohol with natural flavor and caramel color,” according to the label, but honestly, I don’t expect a sweet tea-flavored booze to have a heritage corn and rye mash bill. Therein lies the secret to enjoying guilty pleasures like sweet tea moonshine; You have to love them for what they are. You have to acknowledge that there’s a different set of expectations for items in this category. This isn’t a sipping spirit. This isn’t something you bring out to impress your “craft-conscious” neighbors. You pour a few ounces of this booze in a tall glass with ice and fill the rest of that glass with lemonade, and you crank Drive-By Truckers while wearing a Rebel flag bikini and you revel in the cliché for a little bit.


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