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Local Libations: The Purely Custom

2011 April 1

By Andrew States

I love spice.  Born and raised in Colorado among some serious Mexican food, I respond well to a burn at the back of my throat and, as with Kara’s Michicagolada, I’m a fervent Tabasco user when it comes to beer.  Beyond the minimal risk of spicy food, I generally play it safe, this strategy extends to spirits.  As a result, I’ve never been one for moonshine.  The air of illegality and danger that surround its production and consumption have been enough to keep me away from the stuff.  I’ve heard all the stories everyone else has.  It can blind you.  It can explode.  These are not generally the things that attract me to a beverage, at least not since I was a teenager.  These days I look for smoothness, something to flatten the everyday spikes, but New York is now bursting with small distilleries and many of them start out producing white whiskey or vodka as a means of building some capital until their booze has aged enough to transform into a more socially acceptable whiskey.  Given moonshine’s current abundance and after reading Max Watman’s book, Chasing the White Dog, I found myself intrigued with the idea of actually trying to make something with the stuff.

CLICK HERE the full post and recipe.

At first blush, it seems like something of a fool’s errand to attempt to use an ingredient thought to be highly unpalatable in a cocktail, but the practitioners of craft distilling are generally dedicated folks whose aim is to make some money from their labors, so I found it hard to believe anyone would attach their name to a product that was undrinkable.  In my attempt to keep it local, I came upon Williamsburg based Kings County Distillery’s Moonshine and thought I’d give their 200ml hip flasks a try.  I hot footed it down to Juice Box Wine & Spirits and, after a quick parlay with the clerk, picked up a couple bottles.  Walking back to my place through the rainy evening, I took an illicit pull right there on the sidewalk and was pleasantly surprised.  Taken on its own, the moonshine is lighter and smoother than I’d expected which gave me hope that the flavor might not be impossible to mix with.

The spiciness of Kara’s Michicagolada was key, something sharp to stand up to the distinctive Kings County.  I whipped up a batch of jalapeno simple syrup (instructions are below), which is almost as easy to make as regular simple syrup, and moved to the next ingredient: ginger beer.  After some real digging around, and some sacrifice on my part, I settled on Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale.  I had originally intended to use ginger beer because I prefer the extra bite, but all the ginger beer I could find came up short in both the organic and the local columns.  If anyone knows of a local, natural, ginger beer, let me know.  I crave the stuff.

With some heavy stirring, I got the jalapeno simple syrup to break down enough to spread throughout and, adding some ice, I garnished the drink with a disk of ginger from the Flatbush Food co-op and called it a day.  My earlier misgivings now seemed wholly unfounded as I sipped my refreshingly spicy moonshine cocktail.  For your consideration, the Purely Custom.

The Purely Custom

Prep time: Jalapeño simple syrup: 40 minutes; Cocktail: 1 minute

Yield: 1 serving

Tools:  Knife, cooking pot, ounce measurement, spoon.

Jalapeño Simple Syrup


  • 3 jalapeños
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Cooking Directions

  1. Coarsely chop 3 jalapenos
  2. Add sugar, war and chopped jalapeños to pot.
  3. Bring water to a boil.
  4. Allow to boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Cover.
  6. Let steep for 30 minutes.
  7. Strain Jalapeño from liquid.
  8. Store syrup in fridge to cool.

For the Cocktail:


  • 1 1/2 oz. Kings County Moonshine
  • 1/2 oz. Jalapeño simple syrup
  • 4 oz. fresh ginger beer
  • ice

Cooking Directions

  1. In a highball (I prefer drinking moonshine from jars) add 1 1/2 oz of Kings County Moonshine.
  2. Add 1/2 oz of cold Jalapeño Simple Syrup
  3. Add 4 oz of Fresh Ginger Ginger Beer
  4. Stir until Jalapeño syrup is no longer visibly separated.
  5. Add ice.
  6. Booze up!