During the 1920s prohibition era, bootleggers made their own home-distilled liquor, called moonshine. Ingredients in moonshine, such as methanol have been known to blind and paralyze drinkers. Other ingredients, such as lye, lead, chemical fertilizers and paint thinners, can find their way into homemade liquor, causing health and sanitation problems. Though alcohol is readily available and legal today, some hobbyists still enjoy making their own “hooch.” When done properly, moonshine is as safe to drink as the liquor you buy in a store. Be sure to consult your local ordinances about the legality of making moonshine.
Research the person who made the moonshine, if you haven’t made it yourself. Make sure it is someone you trust and cares about your safety.
Make moonshine only with natural ingredients such as sugar, water and yeast and using only glass bottles. If someone else made the moonshine, ask what ingredients he used. Don’t drink it if he mentions using chemicals.
Inspect the area where the moonshine was brewed. Make sure the area is sanitary and free of containers holding harmful chemicals, such as bleach, formaldehyde, manure, paint thinners and lye. If making the moonshine yourself, keep the moonshine, brewing equipment and bottles used to store moonshine away from these chemicals at all times.
Ask about or inspect the equipment used to produce and store the moonshine. Don’t drink it if it was made with lead or plastic equipment, or stored in lead containers. If you made the moonshine yourself, you can identify if your equipment contains lead by buying a lead test kit. If someone else made the moonshine and isn’t sure about lead content, don’t drink it.
Smell the moonshine. If you don’t wince, you are safe from the risks of blindness associated with methanol. If you notice a chemical aroma, don’t drink the moonshine, as it may contain chemicals or have an extremely high alcohol content.
References and ResourcesiBiblio: Moonshine
Wired: Whiskey Geeks Keep Moonshine Tradition Alive
Amazon: First Alert Premium Lead Test Kit