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Tennessee Moonshine Mussels with Tarragon

I would never have expected to see legal moonshine being sold in my local Costco in Los Angeles. When I saw the Tennessee apple pie moonshine for sale, I knew I had to get it. During my travels across America as a pitmaster and the world as an airline pilot, I’ve sampled hooch ranging from “Happy Sally” white lightning to Indian toddy from the fermented sap of the flowering palm in Southeast Asia.

Illegal moonshine is sold by a bootlegger and the word moonshine comes from the fact that it’s done underground or “in the moonlight”. One thing I find pitmasters have in common with moonshiners is the diversity of their chosen equipment: BBQ smokers versus custom moonshine stills.

BBQ Pits versus Moonshine Stills

Since Costco also had fresh mussels for sale, I decided to use the moonshine to make a sauce to steam the mussels. You can also try my recipe with clams. If you can’t find any apple pie hooch, use your favorite Tennessee whiskey and add 1 heaping teaspoon of sugar.

  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 2 1x


Units Scale
  • 1 lb mussels
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup your favorite moonshine
  • 1 Roma tomato, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup clam juice or substitute with chicken stock
  • SYD Hot Rub
  • 3 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lemon
  • A few sprigs of tarragon herb


  1. Wash your mussels in cold water. Repeat a couple of times until mussels are clean. If there is any beard sticking out, cut it off with pair of scissors
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in an 11-inch saucepan. Add chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant
  3. Before the garlic starts to turn light brown, move your saucepan away from the stovetop burner and add half-cup of your favorite moonshine. The one I used was from Costco. It was Apple Pie Moonshine in a mason jar by the Ole Smokey Distillery, Gattinburg, Tennessee
  4. Move your saucepan back onto your stovetop burner and keep it there until it just begins to boil.
  5. Tilt the saucepan slightly until the alcohol at the edge of your saucepan catches into flame. Lower the saucepan back on the burner and allow all the alcohol to catch fire. Wait a bit to allow the alcohol from the moonshine to burn off
  6. Once the alcohol has burned off, add 1 cup of clam juice or chicken stock. Add a pinch of SYD Hot Rub and the chopped tomatoes
  7. Once the liquid boils, put in 1 lb of washed mussels. Cover your saucepan with a saucepan of similar size and cook until mussels open, about 4-7 minutes. Discard any that don’t open.
  8. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon and place on a serving plate. Keep the mussels warm while you finish the sauce
  9. Simmer the liquid and then add three heaping tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir with a whisk until the cheese has dissolved then add juice from half a lemon. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to thicken the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking
  10. Add tarragon herbs and simmer for a minute. Pour the mixture over the mussels. Garnish with fresh tarragon and serve immediately. The mussels go well with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce.
  • Author: Harry Soo
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Category: Enree
  • Cuisine: American