With three different kinds of citrus flavors in this margarita, KO Distilling’s Moonshine Margarita is refreshingly delicious. It doesn’t call for specialty ingredients and can easily be made individually or in a large batch for a party. This content is intended for readers 21+. This margarita is brought to you by KO Distilling, but all opinions are 100% mine.
It’s National Margarita Day! Did y’all know that?
I just thought I’d share that with you. And because of that I have so much to share with you. Including this Moonshine Margarita. But, before I can to that, I want to share with you how I came to know about this delicious cocktail.
I’m not a stranger to KO Distilling. They’re like 10 minutes from my house so I have to know about them. The hubs and I went there for a tasting when they released their bourbon. Because, well, I’m a bourbon girl. I was born in Kentucky and Dad made sure we were bourbon girls.
Of course, now I drink scotch, but that’s another story.
In fact, when they first came out, I thought about signing up as a PlanKOwner. I’m thinking about it even more after my last visit, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Being a PlanKOwner means you get perks like a discount, free tours, and invitations to special events. No free tastings though. Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Control (VA ABC) prevents giving away free spirits.
I know. I’m sort of jumping in feet first and running off with this post. So, let me back up a bit and tell you about KO Distilling. Two life long friends, Bill Karlson and John O’Mara, started KO Distilling. They’re the KO of KO Distilling.
In 2013 they decided to jump in feet first and create craft spirits. It took them a couple of years to get it all sorted out, but in 2015 they broke ground on their current Manassas, Virginia location. Initially, they got their feet wet with gin. Okay class, for those of you who know your spirits, why gin? Anyone? Beuhler?
Gin doesn’t require aging! Maybe like a day, but not in a barrel. It can “rest” in a steel tank until you’re ready to bottle it. They came out with two gins; Standard Strength and Navy Strength. Both of which have delicious botanicals in them. There’s juniper, of course. But they also have orange peel, grains of paradise, cinnamon, angelical, cardamom, coriander, and orris root.
For those wanting to know, angelical is like nettles or wormwood. It’s an ancient herb used in medicinal healing purposes for centuries. Orris root is basically the root of the iris plant. That’s where the floral notes come from in their gin.
These ingredients makes their gin such a flavorful craft spirit.
From there they introduced the barrel aged gin and the Bare Knuckle American Whiskey which had a different name initially. The original name was Virginia Moon White Whiskey. However, that mean old VA ABC told them they had to change the name of that spirit. It was a little too close to moonshine. Yes, it’s a finicky state to live in. But it’s not as bad as California.
Then they rolled out the rye, the wheat whiskey, and finally the bourbon. Their most recent additions include cask strength versions of their rye and wheat whiskey. Now, I’m not a huge rye fan, but their 120 proof cask strength rye was delicious!! I could easily sip that on the rocks any day of the week.
I see this turning into a hugely long post. Feel free to read the rest of their story here.
So, this lovely consultant for the Virginia Distiller Association reached out to me and said. “Hey! Love your blog. I printed your Moroccan Pad Thai, just so ya know. Would you be interested in featuring KO Distilling and share their Moonshine Margarita for National Margarita day?”
I went on to explain that I had been there and was familiar with KO Distilling. One of my goals for my blog this year is to add more cocktail recipes and learn how to craft cocktails. So, she says, “I’d be happy to help with your cocktail creation goals.” We worked it out that I would visit the distillery and take the tour. I would be able to taste the Moonshine Margarita. It’s not part of the tastings, but you can order it separately from their menu I think.
I chatted with my guide, the marketing manager, and all the other members behind the bar handling customers and tastings. I’m always interested in how and why people work for a distillery. It’s not an industry I think of when looking for a job. Some are in the hospitality industry and just, by chance, start working there. It’s such a great place to work, they just stayed.
My tour guide showed us around the very compact facility. It’s in the space about the size of clothing store. It’s not very big AT ALL! We followed the ingredients from start to finish. It’s all locally sourced Virginia products including the same water that comes out of our tap! That’s just crazy and awesome at the same time.
I have to add an amusing anecdote about the bucket picture. So, part of the process of making alcohol is having the yeast turn the grain into alcohol. And it reminds of an Alton Brown episode of his old show where he shows those sock puppets. They’re eating the sugars in the grain and then basically burping the carbon dioxide out. It made me giggle. So, the bucket tells them when the yeast finishes eating and it’s time to move to the next step.
They have turned their distillery into a state-of-the-art system with this huge monitor on the wall. It lets them know when there’s equipment that needs adjusting, issues to deal with, and the general well being of their distillery. It was rather amazing seeing all those lines like a maze on the wall.
KO Distilling uses a rather interesting way to double distill their spirits minus the gin. There’s this long, copper tube where the spirits work their way to the top and then into the still. It’s called column distillation and it’s how they distill most if not all their spirits. It’s a faster process than two pot stills and produces a more consistent product.
The spirits are aged in charred barrels. Each barrel is used once before being sold to wineries and breweries across the country. They’re great for making fortified or port style wine. Excess mash and corn goes to local farms to feed livestock. There’s nothing in this distillery that goes to waste.
They have the finishing machine that puts the label on, the cork, and the wrapper. However, there are some spirits that require hand bottling and some that require the actual strength of that batch to be written on the label. Since it’s a craft spirit, the proof can vary from batch to batch. They don’t blend them with others to maintain consistency like some distilleries.
Since I don’t follow boxing or MMA I didn’t make the connection of the boxers on the labels with the KO in the KO Distilling. KO meaning knock out. Yeah, I totally missed that part. The pictures on the labels represent actual boxing figures in history. One of them is a woman, which is amazing.
They have added some KO body paint to some of them like a tattoo on the shoulder or something. I didn’t notice that until they pointed it out They’re a crafty little distiller in more ways than one.
As I was chatting with Sarah, I asked her who creates the cocktails like the Moonshine Margarita. The staff! They get some inspiration from popular cocktail recipe books. But they want to create cocktails that are easy to make and don’t call for lots of special ingredients or other mixers specific to that drink.
That’s always my complaint with recent cocktail recipes; 12 ingredients and only 2 of them are reusable in other recipes. It’s ridiculous! Their goal is to show you how to enjoy their spirits simply and deliciously. I love that concept.
And I love this Moonshine Margarita!
Moonshine Margarita has traditional lime juice and simple syrup. But adds the kick from some orange juice instead of Cointreau. And there’s an added citrus kick from some grapefruit sparkling water. Oh yeah. It’s a triple citrus explosion with a Bare Knuckle American Whiskey kick.
Their Bare Knuckle American Whiskey is a wheat based, traditional, Blue Ridge moonshine style whiskey. However, unlike most moonshine whiskey, theirs calls for 60% wheat, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley.
Since it’s made with wheat, it has a sweet flavor on the front end and the peppery rye on the back end. It’s very smooth and can easily be serve on the rocks. Or you can serve it in this Moonshine Margarita, their Manassas Mule, Whiskey Sour, or Whiskey Ginger.
You can whip up the base for the margarita and keep it in your fridge for expected guests, parties, you name it! Just stir with the Bare Knuckle American Whiskey, pour over ice, and top with grapefruit sparkling water or soda. The recipe calls for San Pellegrino Grapefruit Soda, but I couldn’t find that. I used Bubbly instead. Use what you can find. If you use Sparking Ice, you might want to cut the simple syrup a bit as that has Splenda in it. Just saying.
So, now that I have this delicious bottle of Bare Knuckle American Whiskey, you should see a few more cocktails on my blog. You’re probably going to see the cask strength whiskeys pop up sometime, too. They’re so smooth and delicious. All their spirits are super delicious and can easily be serve on the rocks or in cocktails. They offer cocktail recipes for each of their spirits. Try some of those or whip up some of your favorites!
I’m thinking maybe a moonshine caipirina. Yes that is my favorite cocktail of all time! Moonshine Mojito which is my second favorite. I did have a chuckle there because they have a lime rickey on their recipe list, too. I shared one of those on my blog! It made me laugh and I shared that with my host.
Since I don’t want to miss out on any new products or recipes, I’m following them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Not only do they have events at the distillery (like free yoga once a month), but they also participate in Virginia Distiller Association events throughout Virginia. I plan on attending the one in March.
Finally, they have great ratings on Yelp, Tripadvisor, Travelocity, Groupon, and many other travel sites. Their staff is friendly and knowledgable. The spirits are delicious. It’s definitely a must see if you’re in the area. Besides, it’s not far from the Manassas Battlefield. You could add that to your travel itinerary while you’re here.
- Add Virginia Moon, lime juice, OJ, and simple syrup in a mixing glass, stir thoroughly then pour into a rocks glass filled with ice. Add grapefruit soda, stir & enjoy!
Shared with permission from KO Distilling.