When it comes to drinking, Arkansas has always had an angel and a devil weighing on its shoulders. On one hand, the state is known for their old-fashioned soda fountains—an emblem of innocence. On the other hand, Arkansas has a long history of illicit moonshine consumption and production in the Ozarks. Rather than giving in to the will of one side, Arkansas residents are embracing both with moonshine-spiked soda fountain desserts.
Leading the charge in adult milkshakes and floats in Arkansas is Purple Cow, a local chain of diners known for its retro 1950s style. Bright purple swivel stools surround the soda fountain bar, where servers mix up kid-pleasing favorites like Cherry Coke floats and malted chocolate shakes. But grown-ups are more interested in creme de menthe-spiked Grasshopper shakes and Baileys-laced coffee shakes from Purple Cow’s adult soda fountain menu.
The most iconically Arkansas offering is the Apple Pie Lightning, a float made with vanilla ice cream, chunks of fresh-baked apple pie and Apple Pie Arkansas Lightning—apple pie-flavored moonshine. The moonshine is made by Little Rock’s Rocktown Distillery, which proudly calls itself “Arkansas’ first legal distillery,” a necessary distinction in a state famous for bootleg booze.
Arkansas’ original moonshiners took their craft very seriously, passing distillation secrets down to their children long after Prohibition ended. Some folk were such sticklers that they’d call you out for not referring to the hooch by its proper moniker. “Moonshine” was made at night, while “lightning” was made during the day, and “white mule” was made so deep in the hills, you needed a mule to get it out.
Even though it is now legal to produce moonshine with a permit in the state, the high-proof, typically corn-based spirit is still seen as unseemly by many. Purple Cow and Rock Town Distillery hope to change the liquor’s unsavory, backroad reputation by showcasing the spirit’s sweeter side with flavors like peach, blackberry cobbler, grape, cinnamon and, of course, apple pie—all of which are milkshake or ice cream float appropriate.
By the way, if you now have a hankering for apple pie, try our apple pie moonshine, infused to perfection.