Belle Isle Moonshine

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Party Prepped: Friendsgiving

CocktailsBrandon DayComment

This year, we wanted to go all out for our fall festivities. And what better way to do that than to bring in the experts? We called on our good friend and food festivities extraordinaire Erica Key, of the award-winning blog Eating with Erica, to show us how to plan one unforgettable Friendsgiving feast!

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The fall season has finally made its debut, and I couldn’t be happier. It's time to bring out the comfy sweaters, cranberry- and pumpkin- flavored any and everything, and last, but certainly not least, all of the festive holiday gatherings.

See more of Erica's awesome recipes on her blog, Eating with Erica!

See more of Erica's awesome recipes on her blog, Eating with Erica!

One of my favorite fall gatherings has to be Friendsgiving. Over the years, I have made Friendsgiving more of a traditional event for my social circle. Everyone looks forward to it and genuinely loves it. And to be honest, it’s one of my favorite events of the holiday season.

I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where I would be without my squad, and I am always looking for an excuse to show them how much I appreciate them. 

If you are hosting Friendsgiving at your house this holiday, the Belle Isle Thankful Punch is going to be a hit. Belle Isle Moonshine is one of my latest obsessions. It's a premium, handcrafted spirit distilled from good times and 100% organic corn. Perfect combination for an epic punch, right? It is the perfect spirit for the punch because it's strong, yet smooth. A little goes a long way.

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When I am entertaining, I love creating punch for a few reasons. First, there is minimal prep time. Most punch recipes are fool-proof and impossible to mess up. You don’t have to keep making batches of punch throughout the evening during your gathering. You can make two gallons, refrigerate, and have plenty just in case you run out. 

This year I had a little time to play with recipes, so I decided to get creative with the cocktail containers. If you are limited on time, drinking glasses work great. If you have some time to be fancy and extra, like myself, these mini pumpkins are the perfect way to serve your cocktails. They are so simple to create, and they look great.

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PUMPKIN CONTAINERS

What you'll need:

  • Mini Pumpkins (4) 
  • Paring knife
  • Spoon
  • Kitchen roll

Preparation:

  1. Draw a circle around the stem on the top where you want the lid to go. 
  2. Cut out the lid. 
  3. Use a spoon to clean out the inside of the pumpkin. 
  4. Wipe down inside & outside of pumpkins with some kitchen roll.

    For my gathering, I paired delicious punch with very simple appetizers such as charcuterie, hummus, and a veggie tray. Traditionally, if you are having Friendsgiving at home, it's potluck style. This is the ideal setup to entertain guests while you are preparing your main course or waiting for others with their dishes. Your guests will ask you for this recipe. And since it's Friendsgiving, it's only right that you share it!

    Enjoy! 

    - Erica Key,
    EATING WITH ERICA

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    Preparation:

    Chill Belle Isle and white grape juice overnight. When ready to serve, pour Belle Isle and white grape juice into your serving bowl. Add cranberries & orange slices. Top with ginger ale, serve, and enjoy!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 bottle Belle Isle Black Label
    • 2 bottles white grape juice
    • 2 bottles (750 mL) ginger ale
    • 1 cup cranberries
    • 3 sliced oranges 

     

      Flavored Ice: In a gelatin mold, ice ring, muffin tin, or bundt pan, add a blend of orange and cranberry juices and chill for an hour. Once slightly chilled, add thinly sliced fruits (oranges, blood oranges, lemons, limes, and/or cranberries), and freeze until solid. Once frozen, add to your punch!

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      Recipe & post by Erica Key, editor-in-chief and founder of Eating with Erica.

      Party Prepped: Creepy Cocktails

      CocktailsBrandon DayComment
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      'Tis the season to be scary! Whether you're throwing a spooky soirée for all the creatures of the night or just having a few ghouls over for dinner, you need a Halloween cocktail that's equal parts tasty & terrifying. No idea what creepy cocktails you should be serving? Don't worry - we've got you covered! Check out these two extremely easy recipes that you can make in one big batch, so you don't have to spend all night playing bartender.

      In this petrifying play on a classic Tequila Sunrise, swap in Belle Isle Honey Habanero and use some dry ice to give this colorful cocktail a serious kick and a ghastly look.

      Ingredients:

      • 1 bottle Belle Isle Honey Habanero
      • 1.5L orange juice
      • 8 oz. lime juice
      • 4 oz. grenadine

      Preparation:

      Combine first 3 ingredients in your cauldron or container and stir heavily. Garnish cauldron with oranges, lemons, and fresh habaneros. Carefully add dry ice for the smoke effect.

      When ready to serve, add a barspoon of grenadine to the bottom of each glass, then top with ice. Ladle the drink from the cauldron over the ice in the glass, garnish, and enjoy! Serves 10-15 drinks.


      This creepy concoction might look black as night, but is tasty as pie. Add an extra dash of activated charcoal to really make your drinks even darker!

      Preparation:

      Combine drink ingredients in your container, then cut the capsule of activated charcoal in half and add half of the charcoal to the drink. Stir heavily, then garnish with blackberries.

      When ready to serve, ladle concoction into a glass over ice, garnish, and enjoy! Serves 15-20 drinks.

      Ingredients:

      • 1 bottle Belle Isle Black Label
      • 1.5L dark cherry juice
      • 750ml black raspberry liqueur
      • 1 capsule of activated charcoal

      Photos by Kate Magee

      Behind the Bar: Chad Painter // Wonderland

      Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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      In our line of work, we cross paths with a wide range of bartenders and walk into an equally diverse range of bars. While no two bars are truly the same, there are some that tend to stand out. Maybe it's because Halloween is right around the corner, but one spot tucked away in the historic Shockoe Bottom neighborhood in Richmond, VA comes to mind. We stopped by and visited our good friend Chad Painter at Wonderland for a peek into the rabbit hole and to hear how this iconic spot came into existence.

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      First thing’s first, who are you?
      Chad Painter, and I am Overlord here at Wonderland.

      How long have you been bartending?
      Probably close to 15 years now. I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years though.

      What first got you behind the bar?
      I’m a Richmond native and I’ve pretty much always been in Shockoe Bottom - I started out at a place that was across the street from where we are now. It started with me working the door at a bar, then became the back bar guy, then front bar guy, booked the bands that came through, and after I figured all of that out, I decided to just do it on my own.

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      Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
      People tell me they want to learn to be a bartender so they’re going to go to bartending school or whatever. Here’s my thing: you can send a monkey into space if you teach it to push the same buttons over and over again. Same thing with bartending - you can go to bartending school and learn to make whatever stupid drinks people are freaking out over today. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good bartender or, at the end of the day, even enjoy doing it.

      Realistically it comes down to maybe 10-20% drink knowledge and the rest is just personality. It’s about knowing how to talk to people and interact. Now I’m not saying you should stand there and bullshit people, but you’re never going to know everything there is to know about making drinks. So why worry about it? Spend more time getting good at bringing people together and showing folks a good time, and the rest will come naturally.

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      Favorite drink made by someone else?
      It’s hard getting out to go places but when I get the chance, it’s more about getting to see specific people than to drink a specific cocktail. I’ll stop by to see everyone at Banditos or head over and see Beau when he’s bartending. A lot of these are folks that I’ve watched over the years and who have taught my how to “hone my craft” in one way or another.

      Favorite drink that you make?
      We don’t do the standard thing here at our bar. I don’t make up names for drinks, I don’t do a set cocktail menu, and so on. It’s different here. We ask what people like, what they don’t like, and from there we work something out. It’s more interactive and forces you to keep flexing that creative muscle. The staff will test out drink ideas on each other beforehand. Our “Bar Experiment” nights have taken a weird turn a few times...

      What is the weirdest concoction that you guys have whipped up during your “experiments”?
      We’ve made some wicked drinks before, so it’s hard to choose. Sometimes we’ll just push each other to come up with the nastiest drink we can think of, but most of the time it’s all on accident. One experiment that we thought might end up tasting decent but ended up being vile was, and I’m sorry to say, a combo of Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit and Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee. Separately, they are amazing. Together, not so great… It’s my new favorite thing to offer people when they ask for a free shot because it’s their birthday.

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      What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
      It’s meeting new people, which is both the best and worst part of the job. You get to know people from all over the world and from different walks of life. We’ve had people walk in here that have heard from friends of friends or just searched for bars on the internet. It’s a lot of word of mouth and that brings in everybody from homeless people to CEOs and directors of whatever boards. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from or what you do, it’s all about just being here and having a good time. That motto works for me and has worked for the past 13 years now here at Wonderland.

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      What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
      I like when people give me the freedom and trust me enough to make something up for them. I’d say 95% of the time, it works out. And the other 5% is just a learning opportunity. The whole “craft cocktail” movement is cool, but it’s a pain in the ass to me. As a casual drinker, I don’t need every drink to be a spectacle. Some of the extracurriculars that go into some of the drinks I see are hysterical. Lots of respect to those that do it and keep the craft movement going. We’re a “beer and a shot” bar though, so it’s just a different mentality.

      With the rise in craft cocktail spots, are “beer and a shot” places like Wonderland harder to come by?
      We’ve always stuck with our original idea for Wonderland, so that’s why we remain who we are. Back in the day, especially in Shockoe Bottom, places had their shtick and stuck to it. You could walk down the strip and go into the jazz club, then pop next door into the disco club, stop by the Irish pub, go to the punk bar, and so on. These places weren’t labeled that way, but over time built up a reputation and as a result, there was a greater diversity of the types of bars you could walk into on any given night. With the craft cocktail movement coming back, a lot of places think that they should hop on the trend and do that too. So you see places conforming to that style and they all start to look the same, so now places like Wonderland seem special.

      Wonderland has a very specific atmosphere to it. How did all of this come together?
      I had a very clear vision for the place from the start, but it was definitely a snowball effect. The horror vibe is great because it’s all stuff I love and it helps keep out the riff raff of people who would be tempted to come in here and act like an idiot. Less and less places are confident enough to stick to what they know, and I don’t blame them. But sticking to my guns has made Wonderland what it is. We still have changed over the years, even if it’s all still within the same vibe that we started with. Like recently I’ve put up a lot more clown stuff since that seems to be freaking people out more. Clowns are fun and creepy - what’s not to love?

      Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
      Have respect for yourself and the people you are interacting with. You don’t have to show them love and whatever else, but respect them. You never know what kind of day someone has had and chances are that if they are sitting at the bar, it was probably a shitty one. I just follow the age-old saying: Treat people the way you want to be treated.

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      Some lucky patrons of Wonderland get the pleasure of snapping a "bathroom selfie" with you every now and then. How did that start?
      I don’t even remember how it started. It’s just a thing you do now. When bands come through or random people visiting come by, we make them do it. It’s pointless and stupid to crowd a bunch of people into a tiny bathroom just for a picture, but it’s funny and people love it. I think there’s like 300-400 up on the Instagram hashtag now.

      Halloween isn't the only holiday around the corner. I know you're a part of a cool program in town called Punks for Presents. Tell us a little bit about that!
      Punks for Presents started 13 years ago during the holiday season. A bunch of people get together and we make cover bands, write covers of songs and add holiday stuff to it, then put on a series of shows all around town. It’s all volunteer work and all of the money we get goes straight to buying presents for kids. Each year we work with a different charity, so this year all of the proceeds are going to buying presents for kids at the Children’s Hospital at MCV. We run the shows, get together at the end, and go shopping for the toys, then take the presents over to the kids. It’s a great cause and one of those things where you know for sure that all of the money or support you are putting into it will directly benefit the kids. None of us are walking out with a check or getting anything out of it.

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      What's your favorite way to sip Belle Isle?
      I'm a big fan of Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit - it’s the shit. It’s perfect any time of the year, it’s light and crisp and fresh. And I’m not just saying that because you’re sitting here interviewing me. We make a tasty citrus drink with Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit and Belle Isle Honey Habanero.

      Preparation:

      Combine ingredients with ice, shake, and pour into a pint glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or a mint sprig.

      Ingredients:

      • 1 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
      • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
      • 3/4 oz. sour mix
      • ¼ oz. orange juice
      • Splash of lime juice
      • Dehydrated mint

      Photos by Joey Wharton

      Behind the Bar: Josh Seaburg // The Main

      Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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      Hotel bars have always been a staple when it comes to American drinking culture. As a meeting point for area locals and visitors to the community, they have served as a hub for a wide array of social interactions. And what better place to perfect the art of social lubrication à la craft cocktail creations than there? While there might be a large variation in the kind and quality of hotel bar programs, one spot in particular has risen to the top.

      This is what leads us to the doorway of Hilton Norfolk - The Main, where we met up with Chief Mixologist Josh Seaburg to learn a little bit about how his work and experience has managed to reshape the Tidewater region's notions of hotel bars and elevate Virginia-made spirits like Belle Isle Moonshine within his cocktail program. 

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      First thing’s first, who are you?
      Josh Seaburg, Chief Mixologist for Hilton Norfolk - The Main.

      How long have you been bartending?
      I’ve been involved with the program here since day 0, I’ve been bartending for 6 years, in the industry for 11.

      What first got you behind the bar?
      I was a server from the ages of 16 to 21, so as soon as I had an opportunity to do something different, I took it. I started out working at a tequila bar at the oceanfront, and falling in love with Agave spirits kept me behind the bar long term.

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      Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
      Learn and master guest service and basic cocktails before you start worrying about making your own bitters, or foraging for wild mushrooms for your dope infusion.

      Favorite drink made by someone else?
      Maggie Tsouris at Voila here in Norfolk makes the best Aviation I’ve ever had. They’ve been my downfall more than a couple of times.

      Favorite drink that you make?
      An awesome Pina Colada. It’s to the point now where I’ll occasionally get asked to bring my blender to parties to make them, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

      Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
      Once in a great while, I’ll make a very time-consuming, ceremonial martini at home, in a wacky ratio of 3.7 to 1. I wind up measuring it with a scale. It’s just so over-the-top and I’m so picky about it that I would only ever do something like that in the privacy of my own home.

      If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose
      Agave spirits. Tequila and Mezcal are two things I couldn’t live without.

      What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
      I like the transient nature of working in a hotel bar. We have our beloved regulars, but the majority of our guest base is only in town for a little while. It’s exciting to turn them on to the fact that there’s a growing cocktail scene in the area, and provide a memorable experience.

      Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
      I love the atmosphere at Shiptown, a clean-cooking seafood restaurant. It’s super close to my house, the food is amazing, they’re oysters are top notch, and they make a mean martini.

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      What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
      On the whole, I’m just really excited that more and more bartenders are understanding that making good drinks is just one part to the equation. Locally, I’m seeing more and more bartenders develop interest in maintaining cost percentages, and taking note of the business side of things, and that’s a must for anyone who wants to advance into management or ownership.

      Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
      For bartenders, don’t get hung up on what your guest is drinking; it’s such a small part of the equation. Good regulars don’t just walk in and start ordering cool cocktails without developing a relationship, and that’s based much more on service and personality than it is on selling them a craft cocktail when they ordered a vodka cranberry.  

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      What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
      Cold Brew Shots! That, and I really enjoy using the Honey Habanero in a Penicillin variation. The spicy and sweetness play with ginger really nicely.

      Why did you want to highlight this cocktail for Virginia Spirits Month?
      I like to share cocktails that are quick and easy to do at home. Getting guests excited to go home and recreate something they had at my bar is one of the more rewarding aspects of the job for me.

      Preparation:

      Combine all ingredients in a tin; add ice, and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, garnish with candied ginger.

      Ingredients:

      • 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
      • ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
      • ¾ oz. ginger syrup*
      • 6 drops Bittermen’s Buckspice Bitters

      *Ginger syrup recipe: equal parts sugar, ginger, and hot water by weight, blended and strained

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      Behind the Bar: Brandice Courtney // Supper Southern Morsels

      Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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      Contrary to popular opinion, we believe that one of the best times to party on a rooftop is at the end of summer, just as the weather starts to cool down. It looks like that season has finally arrived, and just in time to celebrate Virginia Spirits Month too!

      That's why we decided to stop by one of our favorite rooftop bars, Supper Southern Morsels in Norfolk, VA to visit our friend and Bar Manager Brandice Courtney. Not only did she give us some great insight to her bar beliefs and background, she also hooked us up with their new Belle Isle cocktail on tap. And in case you were wondering, yes - it was perfect!

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      First thing’s first, who are you?
      I'm Brandice Courtney and I'm the Bar Manager, Wine Coordinator, and FOH Manager at Supper Southern Morsels.

      That's quite the lineup! How long have you been bartending?
      Just over a year now here at Supper. I have been bartending for 3 years total, but this is definitely the first "craft" - and non-speed-bar - restaurant I've ever been a part of.  The first few months were overwhelming, as my bar trainers pushed me hard and we are slammed in the summertime, especially with our rooftop bar.

      So what first got you behind the bar?
      Sometimes my ability to catch on quickly and perseverance for taking on any challenge in my sight takes me unexpected places, and that's basically how I ended up behind the bar. And that same trait is what took me from bartending to managing. I'm proud of the skillset that has gotten me this far. As a lot of people can attest, the flow of a restaurant is not exactly for everyone.

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      Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
      Don't be afraid to get rough with the utensils. In training new bartenders, I just want them to get down and dirty with slinging bottles and not be afraid to bruise mint with a hard hand-clap and vigorously dash some bitters. Also, I'm always telling bartenders: TASTE EVERYTHING. You should always know what you're handing someone.

      Beyond that, it's all about your mentality. I try to instill in my peers the general rule that the guest is your number one priority. In this business, I think it's easy to get caught up in making sure you are fast and forget the body in the bar stool is a person and not just a tip. You can go a whole shift just getting by, or you can walk away knowing you made someone smile, you gave someone the most unique Manhattan they've ever had, etc. Just be a good person. 

      Favorite drink made by someone else?
      My old colleague Patrick introduced me to a Manhattan with Carpano Antica and black walnut bitters. It's my go-to in the chilly months.

      Favorite drink that you make?
      Honestly, tequila needs more love and attention y"all! Here's my go-to: 2 oz. blanco tequila, 1.5 oz. lime juice, 0.5 oz. agave, and a muddled fresno pepper slice, shaken hard and strained. So refreshing.

      Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
      A nice Grenache-based rosé.

      If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
      Bulleit Bourbon 10-year.

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      What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
      The immense freedom in what we can bring into our bar - fruit, bitters, spirits, herbs (we grow our own mint, rosemary, basil, dill) and the tools we have - CO2 infusing siphons, immersion blenders, cocktail smoker, etc. As if a bartender and a scientist collaborated, we have our own laboratory. 

      Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
      My couch? Just kidding... I really love our sister restaurant, Public House!  Dark-lit, smoking and pool room, arcade machines (GALAGA!) and a couple of the most impressively knowledgeable bartenders I have the privilege to be acquainted with. 

      What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
      I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better. Again, tequila! It's making a comeback in the craft cocktail scene, as it is more versatile than most perceive it to be. I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request. 

      What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?

      I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better.
      I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request. 
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      Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
      For bartenders: Practice, taste, practice, taste, SLEEP!
      For guests: "I want something fun," is not a cocktail.  I'm just sayin'...

      What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
      My forte is floral and herbal. The Belle Isle Black Label seems to especially open up floral flavors and balances well with the spice of Fentiman's ginger beer. I also really love the combination or rosemary and citrus in our Belle Isle cocktail on tap.

      Preparation:

      Combine ingredients in a tin with ice, shake, then strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

      Ingredients:

      • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
      • ¾ oz. spiced orange syrup
      • splash of pomegranate juice
      • sprig of rosemary
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      Behind the Bar: MaryEllen Fournier // The Public House

      Behind the BarBrandon DayComment
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      This summer, we launched one of our most exciting projects yet - Belle Isle draft cocktails. Yes, you read that right. Tasty, thirst-quenching cocktails available on tap at your favorite bars. For this next feature in our Behind the Bar series, we figured it was time to stop by The Public House in Norfolk, VA, the first bar ever to bring on a Belle Isle draft cocktail. We sat down at the bar across from MaryEllen, the General Manager at The Public House, to hear more about her story and what gives The Public House its mojo - and to try their cocktail on tap!

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      First thing’s first, who are you?
      I'm MaryEllen Fournier and I am the General Manager/Employee Wrangler at The Public House in Norfolk, VA.

      How long have you been bartending?
      4 years at Pub and about 9 years total.

      What first got you behind the bar?
      I was drawn to the atmosphere. I love talking to all different types of people and the fast-paced environment behind the bar makes time fly. There is always something to do and you’re always moving. Perfect fit for me.

      Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
      Always present yourself with a smile, greet your customers with eye contact, and provide great service even when you are crazy busy. It goes a long way.

      Favorite drink to have?
      I’m a beer and a shot kind of girl.

      Favorite drink to make?
      Hendricks and soda, with a splash of elderflower tonic.

      Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
      A tiki drink with coconut and a silly drink umbrella garnish.

      Pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life.
      I love muddled cucumber and basil in just about anything.

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      Favorite part about working at The Public House?
      Pub offers two separate personalities: our more formal, restaurant-style approach up front, and a casual smoking lounge with pool tables and arcade games in the back. Our charm is in our versatility. We’re a full service cocktail bar, a well stocked beer bar, and the neighborhood “Cheers”.

      Where do you stop in for a drink?
      A: Anywhere quiet and low-key. 

      What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
      Today’s cocktail culture has gotten a little oversaturated with complicated takes on classic cocktails. I think it’s time to go back to the basics.

      Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
      Leave your ego at the door.

      What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
      I'll pick up Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee and mix it up. Perfect at the end of the night when you want that coffee taste and a great buzz.

      Preparation:

      1. Pour Belle Isle, Kahlua, Amaretto, and cold brew in shaker tin and toss from tin to tin.
      2. Pour tossed ingredients over ice in a chilled pint glass.
      3. Shake Baileys and heavy cream in a chilled tin and float on top.
      4. Garnish with fresh mint.

      Ingredients:

      • 2 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
      • 1 oz. Kahlua
      • ¼ oz. Amaretto
      • ¼ oz. Baileys
      • Splash of heavy cream
      • Cold brew coffee of your choice
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        How to make it The Public House-style (on tap):

        In a soda keg, combine and shake:

        • 4 bottles Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
        • 1 bottle Kahlua
        • 1 bottle Amaretto
        • 4 bottles cold brew coffee concentrate

        Pull cocktail from tap over ice in a pint glass. Shake Baileys and heavy cream in a chilled tin, then float on top of the cocktail. Garnish with fresh mint.

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        Behind the Bar: Stefan Bachvarov // Le District

        Behind the BarBrandon DayComment

        Right in the heart of the Financial District is the last place you'd expect to find one of the most serene spots in Manhattan, yet that's exactly where Le District lies tucked away. Complete with cafes, fresh markets, upscale dining experiences, and an impeccable bar, Le District is a one-stop shop for quality French-inspired fare.

        We stepped away from the hustle and bustle of the city to sit down with Stefan Bachvarov of Le District's bar, appropriately named Le Bar, to learn how the surrounding market at Le District provides him the ingredients and inspiration to create his gorgeous and ingenious cocktails.

        How long have you been bartending?

        I've been bartending over 15 years now. It started out as just a summer job as a kid. That summer was so busy for us that I had to help work the service bar, and I fell in love!

        Favorite classic cocktail?

        Manhattan.

        Favorite part about working at Le District?

        I like learning something new every day thanks to all of the amazing people around our bar. I also love the diversity of our clientele.

        What makes your bar unique?

        At Le District, we have everything. From our Michelin star chef Nico Abello's incredible creations, to our coffee, our fresh fruit and vegetables we use, to our cocktails and wine - there is so much to work with and create. Being around like-minded people is so encouraging and creates a fantastic atmosphere.

        What cocktail do you hope people ask for?

        Something classic with some French inspiration, like Armagnac, Calvados, or Cognac, that we can pair with something like Belle Isle Moonshine to create a fun, new drink.

        Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?

        Honey Habanero Margarita! 

        Favorite menu item + cocktail pairing?

        Steak Tartare and Vieux Carre Nord.

        Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?

        We always like to have a variation of a margarita on our cocktail menu. When we found Belle Isle Honey Habanero, we knew we had to use it! It's the perfect balance of sweet and spicy - helps you pass the day as you guzzle down some oysters!

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        Preparation:

        Shake all ingredients over ice, then strain and serve in a chilled coupe with freshlt cracked pepper on top.

        Ingredients:

        • ¾ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
        • 1 ½ oz. Altos Olmeca Tequila
        • ½ oz. Cointreau
        • ¼ oz. Belfoir Ginger Syrup
        • ¾ oz. lime juice
        • ¾ oz. pineapple juice

        Recipe by Stefan Bachvarov of Le District | Photos by Matt Evans

        Happy Hour With: Hummingbird Gardens

        Cocktails, Infusions, Happy Hour WithBrandon DayComment
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        One sunny summer afternoon, Amanda Montgomery, owner of Hummingbird Gardens, invited us over to see her amazing garden and, of course, mix up some delicious, refreshing cocktails using fresh herbs. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, Amanda will teach you everything you need to know about using fresh herbs in infusions and cocktails.

        Tell us a little about your company.

        Hummingbird Gardens is an herb, edible flower, and cut flower-focused market garden (or yard farm) that is in my front and backyard in Southside Richmond. I source mainly to local restaurants and have a small garden share program that provides folks with herbs, a bouquet, and an item from another partner business. In addition, I make herb salts that I sell on my website, some retail sites, and at events like Brunch Market.

        We broke ground in October of 2015 and I had my first season in 2016. It feels like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time!

        How long have you been gardening?

        I’ve done it in spurts my whole life. I had some marigolds as a kid and spent a lot of time hauling plants around for my grandmas when I would visit them in Savannah and New Jersey. I started gardening in earnest my senior year of college and continued after I graduated. I volunteered with Tricycle Gardens not from from the Belle Isle Moonshine distillery and helped break ground on their farm in Manchester. After that, I went to graduate school in Pittsburgh where I worked at a small farm called Churchview Farm and at my school’s farm, Eden Hall.

        What do you love most about gardening?

        There's so much to love! I love bringing more life into the world. I love creating a space that other people and creatures can be happy in and can thrive. I love watching things grow and (hopefully) helping them along. Most importantly, I love sharing what I grow with others.

        What are you growing currently?

        Loaded question! I grow a variety of herbs including 3 kinds of thyme, 7 kinds of basil, 4 kinds of sage, and a bunch of edible flowers including bachelor’s buttons (which I'll be using in a cocktail today), cosmos, anise hyssop, and gem marigolds. 

        Who do you work with in the area? How are folks using your products?

        I have a Garden Share program that several local restaurants participate in - it’s basically a CSA and they get 5 items from me a week for 20 weeks. My clients all use my products differently, but I’ve seen edible flowers in anything from cocktails to desserts, and recently I saw that Hutch used my pineapple sage in one of their fish dishes. Sometimes we come up with things together!

        What are some tips for using fresh herbs in infusions and cocktails?

        You can use fresh herbs as a garnish, muddle them when mixing a drink, or make a simple syrup infusion.

        Fresh herbs are a lot of fun to experiment with in cocktails and infusions. Unlike dried ingredients such as tea leaves that infuse very quickly, fresh herbs give you a bit more room to play around. You can adjust how powerful you want the flavor of the herbs to be by changing quantity used and time left infusing.

        My infusion recipes are typically 1 part herb to 4-6 parts spirit. When you use a spirit with a higher alcohol content like Belle Isle 100 Proof, it pulls flavors from the herbs quicker than a lower proof spirit will. I'll put my infusion in a sealed container for a full day, taste it, and continue to infuse it for another 2-4 days, just tasting it along the way. Once it gets to where I want, I pull the herbs out, fine strain out anything left, and put it back in a bottle.

        My favorite herbs to use in cocktails are basil, lemon verbena, or rosemary.

        I think of herbs as the knot that ties other ingredients together by complementing their flavors or adding a new element to a cocktail to round it out. So if your other ingredients are all bitter, you might use something citrusy or tea-like. If your cocktail is hearty and heavy, you might use a bright, spicy herb to finish it off. A lot of times I'll use dishes from cuisines around the world to think of flavor pairing ideas and inspiration.
         
        What fresh herb-infused cocktails did you make today?

        Preparation:

        Muddle blueberries and thyme in the bottom of a highball glass. Add ice to the glass, pour in Belle Isle Premium Moonshine, top with seltzer, and stir.

        Ingredients:

        • 2 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
        • 6-10 fresh blueberries
        • 1 sprig of thyme
        • 2 oz. seltzer water

        Preparation:

        Add a coffee ice cube to a glass, then top with lavender-infused Belle Isle & tonic and stir.

        Ingredients:

        • 2 oz. lavender-infused Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee Moonshine*
        • 3 oz. tonic water

        *Add 1-2 lavender flower heads to 12 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee Moonshine, let steep for 4 hours, tasting occasionally.

        Home Bar: KK Harris | Richmond, VA

        Home BarBrandon DayComment

        Welcome to Belle Isle's first Home Bar Highlight. This week, we visited the home of KK Harris, owner of House of Floralie, a Richmond, VA boutique specializing in thoughtfully made chocolates, soaps, fragrances, accessories & stationery from around the world. KK's attention to detail is equally evident on the shelves of her store as in her home.

        Join us as KK discusses her approach to entertaining, shares her favorite spot at home to enjoy a cocktail, and offers few easy and delicious Belle Isle cocktails.

        What are your home bar essentials?

        We enjoy traveling and whenever we go out of town, I always make a point to stop at a liquor store. We were in London for New Years and I bought a rare gin at Fortnum & Mason that is only available in small quantities in the UK. For me, the small batch bottles make the bar more interesting.

        What parts of your bar most reflect your style and personality?

        My Mom really inspired a love of vintage from a young age, so many of the items I use to style our bar have been collected through the years. I love antique cut crystal coupes for punch and old apothecary milk glass vessels for fresh herbs. At the same time, I mix in newer pieces I find that can really take a beating. I don’t worry about anything looking worn. It makes things feel more approachable.

        What’s your favorite thing on your bar?

        Our cocktail napkins. I had a crest that was especially created for us by Happy Menocal digitally printed on fabric in North Carolina. Together, my Mom and I sewed them for a party we had. They’re one of a kind, we have enough for a big crowd, and they wash easily in the laundry. I never have to buy paper napkins again.

        What’s your favorite cocktail to make for yourself right now?

        Lately I’ve been experimenting with flower blossom syrups that are imported for our store from Provence, as well as handmade tinctures with different botanical and spice ingredients. One tincture I made from cardamom and pink pepper berries is incredible with Belle Isle Honey Habanero.

        Ingredients:

        • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
        • 1 tsp. L’Epicurie Rose Syrup
        • 8 drops cardamom-pink pepper tincture
        • juice of ½ a lemon
        • 1 ½ oz. Fentimans Rose Lemonade
        • 6-8 mint leaves

        Preparation:

        In the base of a chilled cocktail shaker, muddle freshly picked mint leaves with Belle Isle Honey Habanero. Add ice, then add L’Epicurie Rose Syrup, cardamom-pink pepper tincture, and juice of half a lemon. Shake 25-30 times, then strain into chilled cocktail glass and top with Fentimans Rose Lemonade.

        *How to make the cardamom-pink pepper tincture: Combine 2 oz. Belle Isle 80 proof with 1 teaspoon cardamom and 1 teaspoon pink pepper berries in a food safe dropper bottle. 

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        Where is your favorite spot to sip a cocktail at home?

        We are very fortunate to have a lovely enclosed back yard that is a haven for wildlife. I’ll sit on our back porch and hope for a magical glance of a bunny or rare bird.

        What cocktails do make when you Entertain at home?

        Always a punch. It’s so easy and people can help themselves. I like to make it once everyone has already arrived, so it’s nice and cold. I invested in a vintage Limoges punch bowl for our wedding, and it has been the highlight of every party since. I co-hosted a baby shower this past weekend and made a peach limeade punch. The crowd loved it.

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        Are there any cocktail recipes that hold a special place in your heart and on your bar?

        Two that I can think of really stick out, both punches. 
         
        First, a bourbon punch that I made for a pre-graduation party while at College of Charleston, called “Open House Punch.” It came from the St. Michael’s Faithfully Charleston cookbook, which one of my girlfriends had given me. That was a fun night.
         
        Second, a recipe that was developed by my Mom called “Hummingbird Punch,” and was served at our wedding. (When we make this in the winter, we call it ‘Partridge in a Pear Tree.’) Combine one part pear vodka, one part white cranberry juice, and one part ginger ale. The white cranberry juice makes all the difference. Garnish with pomegranate seeds or edible rose petals.

        What cocktail Are you maKing today?

        This recipe makes the perfect punch for a bridal shower.

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        Ingredients:

        • 1 bottle Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
        • 2 bottles brut champagne or sparkling wine
        • 5 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
        • 5 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice
        • 2 ½ oz. lemon juice
        • 2 ½ oz. lime juice

        Preparation:

        Combine all ingredients into a punch bowl, stir, then garnish with an ice ring and fresh herbs of your choosing to add a twist to your punch. Serve over ice.

        Cocktail recipes by KK Harris  |  Photography by Joey Wharton


        Want to be featured in our Journal?

        Send us a few photos of your home bar setup at info@belleislecraftspirits.com

        Party Prepped: The Halftail

        Brandon DayComment

        Here at Belle Isle Premium Moonshine, we're always dreaming up new ways to create cocktails in easier, less complicated ways. One of our favorite no-stress methods is the Halftail, an easy to-go cocktail you can build when you have half a bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine left. The Halftail is a perfect solution for the party procrastinator or anyone who has just run out of cocktail recipes, especially for outdoor entertaining when there's not a fully stocked bar or kitchen nearby. The concept is simple, and the method is even easier.

        To keep the Halftail easy to make in a pinch, we like to create cocktail recipes using ingredients you can find in your pantry or at any grocery store. Each Halftail recipe is as simple as combining all the ingredients into your half-empty bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine, shaking, chilling, and pouring over ice.

        Halftail #1: The Belle Breeze

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        Use a funnel to keep things from getting messy.

        Use a funnel to keep things from getting messy.

        Ingredients:

        • Half a bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
        • 10 oz. cranberry juice
        • 2 oz. lime juice

        How to serve it:

        Pour over ice in a rocks glass, garnish with a lime wedge, and optionally top with a splash of soda.

         

        Halftail #2: The Manchester Matador

        Ingredients:

        • Half a bottle of Belle Isle Honey Habanero
        • 10 oz. pineapple juice
        • 2 oz. lime juice

        How to serve it:

        Pour over ice in a Collins glass, garnish with a lime wheel, and top optionally with a splash of lime seltzer water (we're La Croix diehards here).

         

        Halftail #3: The Shiny Daly

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        Ingredients:

        • Half a bottle of Ruby Red Grapefruit
        • 6 oz. iced tea
        • 6 oz. lemonade

        How to serve it:

        Pour over ice in a Collins glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

         

        Halftail #4: The Coco Latte

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        Ingredients:

        • Half a bottle of Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
        • 10 oz. sweetened coconut milk
        • 2 oz. orange blossom honey
        • 2 cinnamon sticks

        How to serve it:

        Pour over ice into a shaker tin. Shake vigorously, then strain into a glass over fresh ice. 

         

        While these Halftail recipes are certainly tried and true, that doesn't mean they are an exact science. You can adjust, shift, and swap recipes and ingredients to fit your preferences by playing with proportions and taste-testing along the way.

        Do you have an easy, mobile cocktail recipe or method you like to us? Let us know in the comments below!