Review: Saint Luna Aims to Elevate Moonshine
Can a heritage American spirit go legit and reestablish itself in cocktail culture?
What we’re drinking: Saint Luna Charcoal Filtered Moonshine
Where it’s from: A North Carolina-crafted moonshine, Saint Luna is one of the few LGBTQ+-owned liquor brands in the world. It was founded by David Suk in 2019; in 2021, Aubrey Slater joined as co-owner and “Chief Brand Development Queen” (actual title; see below)
Why we’re drinking this: A premium, artisanal moonshine that’s being served at high-end cocktail joints like Mace and Employees Only? And not made from corn? That’s certainly intriguing.
“I thought moonshine was an underrepresented category, and I thought we had an opportunity to pay homage to an American heritage spirit,” says Suk, who actually got his start as an exec for a company that made high-end baby products. He soon enlisted Slater, a longtime NYC drinks vet (and a sommelier and former Marine) who was the beverage director at the East Village cocktail haven Mother of Pearl (RIP).
“Moonshine wasn’t actively on my radar before this opportunity,” Slater admits. “I wasn’t actively a connoisseur and looking up Popcorn Sutton or other infamous moonshiners.” But the chance to reintroduce people to the spirit — which had a moment about 10 years ago and then disappeared — was enticing. “Moonshine’s become so gimmicky. What bartender would showcase what’s out there on the back bar. This was about creating our own category, and making something that could be used in cocktails or on the rocks, like a fine spirit.”
How it tastes: Saint Luna, crafted from small batches of locally sourced molasses (95%) and a bit of rye (5%), comes in at 50% ABV.
If you’re expecting something aggressive like white dog, you’ll be surprised at the balance here. There are certainly hints of vanilla and caramel upfront, but you’ll find the peppery note of rye in there as well, along with citrus and even a hint of smoke on the finish. On follow-up sips, I found it also a bit grassy — it’s somewhere between rum, mezcal and rye, but it also stands on its own (the rich mouthfeel certainly helps).
The best part? It pretty much works with — and transforms — any classic cocktail. Suk and Slater suggest using it in anything from a take on a Boulevardier to anything tropical and citrus-forward, like a daiquiri. (It also makes a mean martini riff.)
Fun fact: Slater’s title (besides co-owner) really is Chief Brand Development Queen, a suggestion she hesitated with but soon embraced. “It’s printed on my business card and people love it,” she says. “It’s memorable. As if being a six-foot-tall trans girl wasn’t enough.”
Where to buy: Saint Luna is available directly from their site, in local liquor stores (mainly in the northeast) and also nationally on Drizly, Caskers and ReserveBar for about $45-$56.
The Secret to Great Cocktails? Find Out in The Spill.
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