Watch clips from Discovery Channel's Moonshiners
Watch clips from Discovery Channel's Moonshiners

Moonshine operation at Pinckney Island, South Carolina, 1931.

Photo courtesy NOAA

Rotgut, white lightning, bathtub gin, popskull, panther's breath, corn liquor or just plain old shine... It has many names, but a couple of things are always true about moonshine alcohol: It's made in secret, and it's illegal.

­ ­Moonshining is tied to the history of the United States in many ways, and it's tied to the character of the American people just as strongly. From the Prohibition Era distillers to the backwoods stills of Appalachia, historians agree on one thing -- moonshine will always be around in one form or another. In this article, we'll find out how moonshine is made, why it exists and what makes it different from store-bought alcohol.