Get sugar, feed it to yeast, then concentrate the alcohol––distilling in three steps. Sources of sugar may be assembled into three main groups: GRAINS, FRUITS, and PLANTS.
All whiskeys including Bourbon, Scotch and Rye are grain-based, and corn is usually the foundation. Whiskey is Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps, and Sazeracs. Whiskey is America. No cabin should be without it.
Modern vodka is usually made from corn too, though sometimes wheat or barley. When made badly, it tastes like a hospital. When made correctly, it is flavorless. So why drink it? Pour it into a spray bottle for cleaning surfaces. Try your next Bloody Mary with gin instead and see if you miss it.
Gin is a grain-based spirit in which juniper is typically the most prominent note. Modern American gins are complex and heady with a sense of place. Open a bottle and release the smell of warm chaparral hillsides or conifer forest. Buy good gin and drink it neat on the deck or make a Gin & Tonic.
Grappa is usually distilled to a dangerously high proof from the skins, pulp, stems and seeds of wine grapes after the pressing. Overproof spirits like this contain more alcohol than a typical 80-proof bottle, and are thus more efficient. If your cabin is not accessible by car, you’ll have less to carry.
Brandy is made from the fermented juice of fruits like apple, pear, grapes or plums. It’s easy to make in your moonshine operation since fruit juice ferments quite easily. Pour it heavily into hot spiced cider when the weather turns cold.
Sugar cane, when crushed, yields a sweet juice that is the basis of rum. The rum aisle is full of booby traps: stay away from anything with a pirate on the label, and the many other factory rums. It’s best when aged on wood for a few years and is good for punch.
Tequila comes from the agave plant, and its highest use is the margarita––of course. Use only fresh-squeezed citrus juice for best results. Your cabin may get hot, and you’ll need a cold drink to survive the midday sun.