Takin’ a Shine to Moonshine

The Thaxton Speakeasy, the lounge located in the basement of the Thaxton Building downtown, has become known by an insider group of guzzlers as the place to go for moonshine. Well, not technically – no one’s actually distilling alcohol, but its homemade fruit-infused liquor, dubbed Moonshine, is a tasty treat that packs one powerful punch.

Among the flavors Thaxton bartenders have made are raspberry, mixed berry, fruit cocktail and citrus, the last being a combination of lemon, lime and pineapple – and a favorite of owner Kim Pitliangas, who opened the underground bar in November 2008 with partner Peter Venezia, co-owner of Atomic Cowboy in The Grove neighborhood. But the top seller continues to be cherry, a potent, ruby-red concoction with a supersweet taste. The Moonshine is served as a shot or as a deceptively light cocktail mixed with club soda and a splash of 7UP. Another offering is the Shine Bomb, a mighty mix of Moonshine and Red Bull, served chilled as a shot.

The Thaxton’s Moonshine is made using the common infusion process of adding fruit to pure grain alcohol and allowing it to steep for at least four days; the longer it steeps, the more mellow and tastier the flavor. “For sake of freshness, we don’t usually let them go beyond two weeks,” Pitliangas said. But a 4-gallon batch doesn’t usually last that long anyway; the Thaxton’s white lightening has become so popular that the dispenser has been known to run dry after a single night.

Should you want to try a bit of this hooch yourself, you’re in for a bit of an adventure: The Thaxton Speakeasy playfully upholds the tight-lipped tradition and clandestine character of Prohibition-era establishments. Hours are very limited, and patrons can’t enter from the building’s main entrance but must walk around the side of the building and down a dark alley between 10th and 11th streets to a lackluster metal door. If you don’t know the password (which you can find on the Web site, thaxtonspeakeasy.com), you’ll pay the doorman a couple bucks extra for the normally $3 cover charge.