Not only do we love to try local food when we are traveling, but we also love to search for local wineries, breweries, and distilleries. See our Florida Cocktails post for a great example.
While visiting the Smoky Mountains, it is difficult to get out of the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville area without trying two things: fudge and moonshine. We are wine lovers but for the most part, Tennesee wine is not our thing. We prefer dry red wines and the local specialties are sweet and mostly fruit wines. Now when it comes to moonshine, we’ll try anything once! On the Gatlinburg strip, there are currently four different places to sample the local goods all within stumbling distance of one another. A short trolley ride or drive away there are several other distilleries that offer samples as well. While the days of free moonshine on the strip are over, samples are only $5 a person making moonshine tastings the cheapest drink in town.
So we have done extensive research during our week in Gatlinburg to bring you our top choices of the local distilleries and three brand new cocktails created just for you, our faithful Cruisers!
Ole Smoky advertises themselves as the first legal moonshine distillery in Tennessee and they certainly set the mold for what is expected in a moonshine tasting. “The Holler,” the original location, has restaurants (Mellow Mushroom and Dick’s Last Resort) allowing you go get a tasting while waiting for a table, an entertainment stage which often features local musicians, a daiquiri bar (just in case someone in your group prefers low-alcohol, over-priced drinks over moonshine), a Paula Deen store, Starbucks, and a 7D Adventure Ride just in case you’d prefer to do shots without the kids watching (although no one will judge and they won’t be the only kids around). Your $5 tasting fee gets you a dozen samples and at least that many corny jokes from the person pouring them. The flavors available rotate but you can count on tastes of some straight moonshine and the most popular flavors of Apple Pie, Cinnamon, and Blackberry. During our research, we also tasted their new Dill Pickle (actual pickles soaked in moonshine) and Cinnamon Toast Cream (think of the milk left behind from Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal).
Just down the street, Ole Smoky has a second location that was formerly Davy Crockett’s Whiskey. Now called the Ole Smoky Barrelhouse, this location also features a $5 tasting but here you will get mostly whiskey with a different round of related bad jokes. Make sure you try the Salty Caramel and avoid the Pecan (“tastes like a mouth full of nuts, and not the good kind”).
Sugarlands Distilling Company
Sugarlands is one of our favorite stops on the strip. The flavors are a little more refined and their apple pie is hands down the best we’ve ever tasted. The process here is just like the one above but at Sugarlands there is a bar in the back where you can purchase drinks and if you buy three bottles or more, your first round is “buy one, get one.” Unusual things to try here would be the Maple Bacon Moonshine (which makes a wicked Bloody Mary) and Hazelnut Rum. Like everywhere else, your $5 tasting fee is refunded with a purchase. If you’re lucky, you will get a real show as part of your tasting, like ours with Stokes.
Doc Collier Moonshine
Our other favorite stop is Doc Collier’s. All of their spirits are made in small batches and we were among the first to taste their products when they first opened in 2014. Back then they only offered straight moonshine, using flavored water drops to create flavored ‘shine. Now they offer a full range of craft spirits including whiskey, brandy, and cream liquors. Make sure you try the ‘Naner and Root Beer Float. They also offer moonshine slushies and your $5 tasting fee can be used towards the purchase of a drink or bottles of product.
And now, on to the cocktails!
Most purists would tell you that moonshine goes best with bad decisions and no regrets, but we prefer to mix ours. Almost any of the fruit flavors will mix well with cola or lemon-lime soda The cream flavors are often really good mixed into a Wendy’s Frosty or milkshake. We have come up with three combinations of flavors that we think you will really like. We’ve tested them out on family, campground neighbors, and of course, ourselves.
Caramel Apple Dream-Cicle
- 1 oz Sugarlands Appalachian Apple Pie Moonshine
- 1/2 oz Evan Williams Bourbon
- 1 oz half and half
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a whiskey glass.
Funky Monkey Martini
- 1-1/2 oz Doc Collier’s Chocolate Cream
- 1/2 oz plus a splash of Doc Collier Naner’ Moonshine
- 1 oz Grey Goose Vodka
- 1 Doc Collier ‘Shine Cherry
- half a grind of Himalayan Pink Salt
- ground Ghiradelli chocolate
Combine cream, moonshine, and vodka on a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and top with a half grind of salt, chocolate, and a cherry.
- 4-6 fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 lime
- 1/2 t sugar
- 1-1/2 oz Bacardi Silver Rum
- 1/2 oz Sugarlands Peppermint Moonshine
- Lemon-Lime soda
Squeeze two slices of lime into a glass and add 4-6 torn peppermint leaves and sugar. Muddle together. Add rum and moonshine and stir. Top with soda. Garnish with mint leaves.
Bonus Cocktail – ‘Shine Glow
- 1 oz Sugarlands Wild Mayhal Moonshine
- 1/2 oz Sugarlands Peach Moonshine
- splash of pineapple juice
- Lemon-Lime Soda
Miranda, a bartender at Sugerlands, shared with us her creation that will be featured on the summer cocktail menu in the Sugarlands lounge. Pour both moonshines over ice in a cocktail glass and add a splash of pineapple juice. Top with soda and enjoy!
Do you have a favorite moonshine mixer? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see more of our adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains in the coming weeks.