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Turning Sunshine into Moonshine

Disclaimer: Last week, I asserted in this post that some of my ancestors were moonshiners, only because that was what I was told. Let me preface this post by writing that I have never seen any of my ancestors or more recent relatives making moonshine; consuming moonshine either before, during or after production; contributing any component to the making of moonshine; constructing a still; owning or harboring a still on any property; socializing or visiting a location where a still may be present; or having anything to do with devil water and stills whatsoever. Never mind that they hail from an area where walking through the woods and hollers to this day would probably conjure up more stills than human beings. I’m sure that they all refrained.


Having made that disclaimer, I will admit that I like to make moonshine of a sort, though my husband and I do it right in our very own kitchen, sans the still and secretiveness. Our backyard may be overgrown enough at times to hide a still back there, but we’ve found that the stove, a freezer, some basic ingredients and time can make some tasty hooch. Specifically, we like to make arancello and blackberry liqueur. Both of them are exquisite summertime sippers and toppers for ice cream.

For those of you who’ve never tried it, arancello is Italian in origin, an orange flavored sweet liqueur. While limoncello, the lemon flavored version, is very common in the United States, I rarely see arancello anywhere. In my own experiences with dining in Italy, arancello is what they often serve at the very end of the meal to cleanse the palate. Once we were introduced to it and couldn’t find it anywhere, we decided to try to make our own at home. Luckily, the sunshine smiles on our back yard orange tree enough to give us an ample supply of oranges for our tiny distillery.

Making arancello starts with the following tools: a large sealable glass container and a micro plane grater. You will also need a fine mesh strainer and some glass bottles further in the process. While many recipes call for vodka, we’ve found that Everclear makes a tastier, more rounded liqueur given time.

Arancello Ingredients

Zest of 20 oranges
500 milliters (2 cups) Everclear
1 cup water
2 cups sugar

Zest the 20 oranges with the micro plane grater. Place Everclear in the large sealable glass container and add orange zest. Store in refrigerator for 2 – 4 weeks, shaking periodically to distribute the flavor. Once the mixture appears ready (and this takes some experimentation), remove and strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove impurities.

To make simple syrup, dissolve 2 cups sugar in 1 cup water on the stove, stirring constantly until the sugar is fully incorporated. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix together 2 cups simple syrup in 1 cup of the alcohol mixture. Place in glass bottles and chill in freezer for at least 2 months before tasting. Initially, the combination tastes like cough syrup, but given time, it becomes very sweet. The longer it is left in the freezer, the sweeter it gets. In fact, the batch we made two Christmases ago is at its peak right now.

Sip as a refreshing after dinner drink or pour over ice cream for a kick.

One final note: This process is more a technique than a recipe. You may prefer different proportions. Enjoy your time experimenting and tasting!

Tomorrow, I will post the variation of this recipe to make blackberry liqueur. Because blackberries are in season in much of the US right now, it’s the perfect time to try it.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Melissa Kovacevic #

    I can’t wait to see your blackberry recipe. My Hungarian grandmother would make a blackberry liquor and let it “rest” for a year in time for Christmas presents for friends and family. I remember feeling very grown up when I got a sip at age 14 and felt the “burn” and the fruit in my mouth. Thanks for sharing!

    June 30, 2010
    • Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to try to emulate your grandmother. She would likely be proud. 🙂

      June 30, 2010
  2. yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    June 30, 2010
    • You’ve sampled this, haven’t you? Didn’t we give you some?

      June 30, 2010
  3. Wow this is really neat! Great post.

    June 30, 2010
    • Dennis, I love your blog. I’m going to go over there and give you kudos, too, but dang! The photos are great.

      Please let me know if you make this recipe and how it turns out for you.

      June 30, 2010
  4. Linda Watkins (Mom) #

    I remember my mom making some brandied peaches one summer and keeping them in the cellar for months. Dad proclaimed them a great success. He drank all the juice and left the peaches.

    June 30, 2010
  5. Tes #

    Wow… so perfect for summer!

    June 30, 2010
    • Tes, try it and let me know how it goes for you. It is like bottling summer, something you can pull out and have instant recall any time of year.

      June 30, 2010
  6. Amber Deutsch #

    A legal disclaimer I can be proud of 🙂

    June 30, 2010
    • I’m glad you approve. I struggled with the legalese part the most in this post. 🙂

      June 30, 2010
  7. Such fun to make these special drinks and love the story, too. Either they were or they weren’t moonshiners, our ancestors all enjoyed imbidements!

    August 6, 2013

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