Belle Isle Moonshine

Replace your vodka with something better.

What's Your 'Shine? // Aries

What's Your 'Shine?Stephanie StantonComment

Let the stars and Belle Isle Moonshine be your cosmic cocktailing guides.  Each month, our resident amateur astrologer (and Director of Marketing) Brandon Day gives you the transcendental tee based on your zodiac sign. We’ll also share a sun sign-inspired cocktail recipe that will get you through your zodiac season in one piece–no matter what retrogrades come your way.

Behind the Bar: Sunny Seng // Kith/Kin

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment
All photos by  Joey Wharton .

All photos by Joey Wharton.

“Where we’re standing right now? It was a little scary,” Kith/Kin Bar Manager Sunny Seng says of 1990’s Washington, D.C., long before the existence of the beautiful marble bar at which we sit. It’s hard to imagine this location as anything other than the modern, stylish D.C. restaurant located in the Intercontinental Hotel, but none of this was here three years ago. In fact, not much on this mile-long waterfront strip was here until 2017 when D.C. debuted its newest revitalization project, The Wharf.

Kith/Kin, opened by Top Chef and Eleven Madison Park alum Kwame Onwuachi, is The Wharf’s hottest new restaurant. Onwuachi’s stellar Afro-Caribbean food has definitely created a buzz in the Capital City, but the cocktail program is what we’re here to talk about today–and, trust us, it doesn’t disappoint. Seng’s innovative, refreshing cocktails are the perfect complement to Onwuachi’s food. We recently chatted with Seng about mixing his first Mai Tai at age eight, his method for finding the perfect cocktail for each bar guest, and his tropical, dreamy Belle Isle cocktail, Calypso’s Moon.


First thing’s first, who are you?

My name is Sunny Seng, and I’m the Bar Manager and Lead Bartender of Kith/Kin, Chef Kwame’s restaurant at The Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.


How long have you been bartending?

I’m 40, so 32 years. Seriously, the first Mai Tai I ever made was in my father’s restaurant. It was probably against child labor laws, but this was the ‘80s. The service bar was back behind this blockade, and he was teaching me how to make a Mai Tai like, “More rum, boy!” So I literally made my first Mai Tai at eight years old, but I’ve been bartending professionally for 20 years.

So you come by it naturally. What first got you behind the bar, in a more professional sense?

My father was a chef, so I grew up in a kitchen. I grew up around chefs yelling at each other, and I grew up around, “This doesn’t taste right. What’s wrong with it?” I learned how to balance flavors at an early age. I promised myself I would never be a chef, but I learned to cook French food in my father’s restaurant and at home. I kind of took that to another level when I started bartending in college, and I realized the balance of flavors in food are the same as the balance of flavors in a cocktail. It’s sweet, it’s bitter, it’s sour, it’s bold, it’s spicy, it has umami–those are all things I was taught through cooking. I try to utilize those skills and put that into every cocktail I make.

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We all just learned that Kin/Kin’s Chef Kwame Onwuachi was nominated as a 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Rising Star Chef. What approach do you take to creating cocktails to compliment his food?

Chef Kwame is amazing. If you make a cocktail he doesn’t like, he will tell you it sucks–and I love that about him. He gives you a chef mentality. Plus, anything in his kitchen we can utilize. We look at our bar program as an extension of the culinary program. We’re like liquid chefs–granted, our “food” is spirits and we feed the soul instead of the belly. We really try to use anything that he’s using back there. Whether it’s sorrel, or gooseberry, or habanero ferment–we really try to use anything he’s using and translate it to our bar guests.

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Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

First and foremost, observe before you speak. Find a mentor, and listen to that mentor. Learn something new everyday. I still learn something new everyday, even from less-experienced bartenders, and I add that to my repertoire. It’s kind of like adding pieces to a puzzle and transforming as you watch other people’s skills. Just keep adding, and don’t stop adding.

Favorite drink made by someone else?

That’s a hard one. With all the cocktails we make and the thousands of recipes we know how to make, when I go out I usually just drink a shot and a beer. After work, we’re tired of making drinks and just want to get straight to the point.

If I had to choose one cocktail that anybody made me, I would say–and I don’t know the gentleman’s name–but it was at my favorite bar in New York City called Angel’s Share. He smoked the glass, which I had never seen at the time, and the drink is called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. When I drank it, the smoke got in my eyes. It was delicious, so I was okay with the pain.

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Favorite drink that you make?

In all honesty, I don’t really have one. My favorite drink to make almost happens every day, because I profile every guest who comes to the bar as far as their palate goes. So I’ll start off with, “What do you like? What’s your favorite spirit?” I’ll become a “spirit guide,” if you will: do you like vodka? Gin? Rum? Tequila? Whisky? Cognac? Absinthe? Kerosene? Gasoline? We can make a cocktail out of anything. Once we choose that, I kind of figure out if they like sour, sweet, bitter–and usually I don’t even know what’s happening, I’m just gathering information. Then I’ll usually finish with, “If you had to choose one cocktail, what would it be?” I’m not going to make that one, but then I’ll really have an understanding of where their palate is. The coolest part about this is when I create something based on that, their eyes light up when they drink it. That becomes my favorite cocktail every day.


If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Ice! Every cocktail has one ingredient that’s shared, and that’s water through dilution. If you shake too long, it’s overdone. Stir too little? Not diluted enough.

What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?

We get all walks of life from all across the world. Because we’re in a hotel, but have also become a destination restaurant because of Chef Kwame’s food and our cocktail program, we’ll have these people for five or six days. When do you ever have a regular like that? We’ll build relationships with them, then they’ll come back on business or leisure next time and we know their name and what cocktail they like. We know their dog’s name. We really build the kind of relationship that I don’t feel you can do outside of a really busy hotel bar.

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Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

After work? The closest bar possible. Normally, I go to a place called The Brighton , which is right down the street. It’s not really a craft cocktail bar, but sometimes that’s not what I’m looking for. We get out so late that we only have about 45 minutes or so to relax and wind down before we go home. Those bartenders have such great personalities. I really believe that you can teach bartending, but you can’t teach personality. Those guys just make me happy. I go over there, and there’s a shot and a beer ready for me, and we’re high-fiving instantly. More so than the taste of a cocktail or the design of a cocktail, if you don’t have the personality, you shouldn’t be behind the bar.


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

I left for Florida and then New York in 1997, and there was nothing out here. Where we’re standing right now? It was a little scary. I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., so I’ve seen every single part of the district change. When I left, there was no scene–no food scene and no place to get a proper cocktail. When I came back to visit much, much later, I was taken out by a friend, and there were all these restaurants in places that you used to never want to go. Now there are food districts, and art districts, and the cocktail scene is on fire here. Everybody’s taking it seriously, and they’re adding artistry to something that I’m very passionate about. I didn’t think that D.C. would ever come around, but we’ve come such a long way.


Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

There are certain things that you do not talk about behind the bar: sexuality, politics, and religion. Those are the three bar no-no’s. You just don’t talk about them, because it can turn a great environment into a very nasty environment quickly.


What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

I literally stayed up until two in the morning masterminding this cocktail. So, not to toot my own horn, but this cocktail is delicious. Plus it almost took me twice as long to name it, so I’d have to say definitely Calypso’s Moon. Calypso is a type of Afro-Caribbean music, which is a nod to our cuisine, and of course the “moon” is for moonshine. Calypso is also a moon we discovered around Saturn in the 1980’s, so it has a nice astrological tie-in as well.


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Ingredients:

+ 2 oz. Belle Isle Blood Orange

+ ¾ oz. Orange Curaçao

+ ½ oz. orgeat

+ ½ oz. fresh lime juice

+ ½ oz. fresh blood orange juice

+ ¾ oz. pineapple juice

+ ½ oz. simple syrup

+ 2 muddled gooseberries

+ 2 mint sprigs

Preparation:

Muddle two fresh gooseberries in a shaker tin. Slap one mint sprig to release oils, then add to shaker. Add remaining ingredients to tin with ice, then shake vigorously. Double-strain into a rocks glass over pebbled ice. Garnish with gooseberry, blood orange wheel, and mint sprig.


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Belle Isle Moonshine Celebrates International Women's Day: Conversations with a Few of our Favorite Ladies

ConversationStephanie StantonComment
Who run the world?    From top-left: Elisabeth Edelman, Jenna Serafine, Kate Magee, Micah Davenport, Kristin Otto, Lauren Brewer.

Who run the world?

From top-left: Elisabeth Edelman, Jenna Serafine, Kate Magee, Micah Davenport, Kristin Otto, Lauren Brewer.

We’re lucky enough to work closely with some truly inspiring women here at Belle Isle Moonshine. In honor of #internationalwomensday, we want to acknowledge a few of the women that hustle hard to make, sell, and promote our spirit. We recently chatted with a few of the women who run the (‘shine) world–from distribution, to public relations, to photography. Read on to hear these powerful ladies get super real about everything from Imposter Syndrome to self-care to Beyoncé.


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Elisabeth Edelman

Richmond, VA

Founder // Golden Word

Who are some of your lady heroes?

I thought a lot about this question–running through different authors, actresses, and political figures. Ultimately for me, it came down to two people: my mom and my sister. They’re the ones who have had the biggest impact on me.

My mom was an entrepreneur as well. She had her own French language school, so she was always working as I was growing up. It was a big opportunity for me to see what running your own business looked like. I think she gave me this entrepreneurial spirit and desire to go out on my own. My sister works and has two children, and she never complains. She makes it look relatively easy, but I know she’s really hustling to get it all done. She’s the one person I know who boldly goes after what she wants and cuts out everything else.

What was it like starting your own business?

Starting my own business was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. When I first started, it was fairly easy to get business–which I think was a result of having established really deep relationships in the market–but there were pieces that were much harder. Trying to sustain and keep up with growth was extremely challenging. It’s a good problem, but it was also one that I needed to deal with. So in some regards so much easier than I thought, and in some so much harder.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Ten years ago I was living in New York City and had started my own company. I was very young, and I was working my butt off. Looking back, if I could give myself one piece of advice, it would have been to go to the gym. At the time, I thought working out would take away from my energy, but in reality it probably would have helped my mood and given me an outlet to take care of myself. If I had done a little more prioritizing of myself, I could have sustained that lifestyle longer and just been healthier.

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Elisabeth Edelman was photographed at her home by Kate Magee. She founded golden word, a boutique pr firm, in 2016. Follow Golden Word’s happenings on Instagram @goldenwordco!


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Kate Magee

Richmond, Virginia

Photographer // Kate Magee Photography

What do you love most about photography?

I love that I get to interact with so many different people. I know it sounds really cliche, but I love hearing different people’s stories. Whether it’s a product that they’ve created or I’m documenting someone’s story overseas, you have to get really personal and build trust with the subjects you’re photographing.  Someone has to trust you enough to hand their product over to you and know that you’re going to do a good job documenting it just as much as someone whose home was destroyed by a hurricane at a refugee camp has to trust that you’re going to do a good job telling their story to others without exploiting them. Photography makes you ask a lot of questions and dig deep into understanding the person, their passion, and their pain, and then translate that into a photograph.

How did you make the decision to go into business for yourself?

I wish I had a really good answer! This is what I always wanted to do, but it kind of just fell into my lap. I moved overseas first to do graphic design for a mission agency, and they asked me to do photography as well. I said I could take photos, but I really didn’t know what I was doing. They then wrote to me and said I was the new Director of Photography. I had no idea what I was doing, and it just took a lot of patience to start cultivating my eye and start learning the skill of photography. I moved to Richmond in 2010 and worked for a photographer as his intern, which turned into an associate position. About a year after that, I moved out on my own and started doing my own business. It’s nothing I really set out to do, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

Who are some of your lady heroes? Why?

This is a very intimidating question, because there are a lot to look up to. I started thinking about who are the women whose stories have really stuck with me. One is Irena Sendler, who was recognized for saving more than 2,500 children during World War II. She took them out of camps and risked her own safety for them. Also Harriet Tubman and Corrie ten Boom! The women I look up to the most are the ones who put the safety of others in front of their own safety. They risk all for the greater good of other people. Now in our culture we’re kind of all about ourselves, and I just really appreciate hearing these stories of women who weren’t in it for fame. They just knew it was the right thing to do.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Have more courage. I used to think that being courageous was not being afraid of anything.  I’ve learned that it’s actually being fearful of something–whether that’s success or documenting a story in a war zone–it’s okay to be afraid. I think of all the roadblocks I’ve come across–anything from how I’m going to pay my taxes that year, to having a client I’m really nervous about producing work for, to driving through live landmine fields for a job–whatever it is, it’s okay to be afraid, but you have to push past that.

Also, because photography kind of fell into my lap–and I had the eye for it, but not necessarily the mechanics of working my camera–I’ve carried around an Imposter Syndrome for a while. You know, what if someone’s going to find out that I don’t know what I’m doing? Obviously, I do know what I’m doing, and I’d like to tell myself 10 years ago to stop listening to that voice that tells you you don’t know what you’re doing.


What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail?

It’s in the summer on the rooftop at The Graduate: they have a frosé, and I put a shot of Honey Habanero in it.

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Kate Magee was photographed at The Broad by Joey Wharton. Check out her photography at katemagee.com, or on Instagram @katemagee and @katemageephotography.


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Lauren Brewer

Atlanta, Georgia

Director of On-Premise Spirits // Georgia Crown Distributing

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

Being a strong woman to me means that I am unapologetically myself. It means that I support other women, and that I have the courage to take chances and risks. It means being kind while standing up for my convictions.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

There are so many. My mother is one. She went to college while raising two strong-willed kids. Michelle Obama feels like a given, too–but I’m saying Beyoncé! She stands up for people that don’t have a voice for themselves. She fights for what she believes in, and on top of all of that, her music makes me feel motivated!

What’s it like being a woman in the male dominated liquor industry?

It’s always an adventure! Most of the time it’s not something I think about, but other times it’s glaringly obvious. There have been times I have been told to temper my opinions or not be so forward. I know that would not be the case if I was a man. For a time, I did that, but at some point I realized that is not who I am.

Sometimes my forward personality has led to me being called a bitch, and I’ve decided that I’m comfortable with that.

What was your first job? Do you think it led you to where you are today?

I was an alcohol and drug counselor, and it absolutely did. It gave me a keen understanding of personality and what drives people.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle Moonshine?

100 Proof Dirty Martini!


Lauren Brewer lives in Atlanta with her family. Learn more about Georgia Crown Distributing Co. here!



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Micah Davenport

Richmond, Virginia

Belle Isle Brand Ambassador & graduate student at VCU’s Brandcenter

As a woman just starting out in your career, why did you want to pursue advertising?

I think advertising has an incredible opportunity to set the tone and start the conversation of important topics. I want to be a catalyst for making things people want to see and helping move along important conversations.

Do you see your intended industry changing for women? Why or why not?

I hope so! Advertising was kind of known as a boys’ club, and I think that’s changed a lot from the past 10 or 20 years to now. I think it’s going to continue to change with more diversity and more women of color hopefully taking larger roles in advertising.  It’s important to have people with different opinions and experiences at the table to push that messaging forward.

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

I think being a strong woman is being at a table with a lot of different people and realizing that your opinion matters just as much as everybody else’s. That’s hard to do a lot of times, because it’s easy to believe that you’re small–and you’re not.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

Caroline Robinson Jones was one of the first black women in advertising who was able to take a VP role at an agency. She started a lot of agencies that marketed, not only to minorities, but created messaging that made sense for everybody. She was one of the trailblazers for marketing and advertising being more about emotions. I think you always have to be grateful for the people who go before you and pave the way for, like, me to even want to be in this industry and have the opportunity to be.


What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail?

I got this one! The Spicy Gentleman. I think [Belle Isle Community Manager] Robert called it this because we were serving them at a Derby Day event. It has Honey Habanero, which is my favorite, honey simple syrup, and a little bit of lemon juice. It’s simple, but it’s the perfect drink.

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photos of micah by kate magee.

Check for Micah serving cocktails at various Belle Isle events around Richmond or modeling our t-shirts on social media. When she’s not slinging ‘shine, Micah is busy pursuing a degree in Brand Strategy at VCU’s prestigious Brandcenter.


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Jenna Serafine

Rochester, New York

Wine & Spirits Brand Manager // Lake Beverage

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

Being a strong woman to me means you are not afraid to show your emotions and use those feelings to connect with peers on a more personal level. Strong women are independent and organized, and they use those skills to set and achieve goals. I also think that strong women do not need to be surrounded by large amounts of people. They shine best when surrounded with a handful of friends or peers that support and guide them to success. We stay true to ourselves and do not try and transform to fit who we think we are supposed to be.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

Both Taylor Swift and Tory Burch. Taylor Swift has always provided positive messages and inspiration through her songs and lyrics. She uses her platform to lift up her fans and give positive reinforcement that it’s all going to be okay. Even in my late 20s, I still use her words as encouragement and inspiration to wave at the haters and focus on my own self.

Tory Burch is not only one of my favorite fashion icons, but she’s also an amazing representative for female entrepreneurs. Tory saw firsthand the challenges and difficulties of becoming a female entrepreneur and started a foundation to help provide resources for future female entrepreneurs to utilize. The Foundation Fellows Program gives women an outlet to pitch their ideas to a panel (including Tory) with one winner receiving a grant investment. She also offers seminars to her Fellows that offer guidance and advice on growing a social media presence, finance, and their companies. She is more than just pretty shoes and beautiful handbags!

What’s it like being a woman in the male-dominated liquor business? 

We can also throw young in there! I was only 24 when I started at Lake Beverage in the current role I am still in today. Although it has grown drastically, six years ago this was still a brand new division with new items no one had sold before. Within my own company, I had to quickly show independence and learn an entire side of business I have never worked in before so I could gain the trust of my fellow co-workers and employees. That meant some self-educating and a little trial and error.

I think that our industry still thinks of females in the liquor business as “shot girls” at promotions. They forget that we can also grow share, manage brands, make deliveries, carry our own sample bottles into accounts, and give valid advice to help others grow their business. It all comes down to trust and making my employees, co-workers, bosses, and accounts trust me.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be? 

It’s okay to have a plan, but let it also be okay if the plan strays slightly off path. You can only control so much.

What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?

Lake Beverage started selling wine and liquor [in addition to beer] seven years ago, and I started with Lake Beverage six years ago. In that short period of time, I helped to grow my portion of the business to represent 3% of our total company. That’s pretty dang cool!

When Jenna isn’t dominating the Upstate NY beverage scene, she likes to relax at home with her husband and dog. Check out the great work she does with Lake Beverage!


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Kristin Otto

Baltimore, Maryland

Area Sales Manager // Belle Isle Moonshine

You’re the only Belle Isle employee we’re interviewing–and you were one of the first women at the company! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for Belle Isle. 

Wow, I feel so honored! I'm from Baltimore. I have a Cavapoo named Bixby–who is the cutest dog in the world–and I love to travel. I've worked in the liquor industry since I was 22–so, 16 years now. I started as a promotional model and am now working for Belle Isle as the Area Sales Manager for Maryland, D.C., and soon-to-be Delaware. 

What’s a typical day like for you? 
There is no such thing as a typical day in the liquor industry! You plan your day, then a call comes in that completely changes everything. You have to be able to adjust and go with it. Since we are a new product, there are a lot of account visits–both to new accounts to taste them on our products and existing accounts to show them some love and keep them happy. Really, all day, everyday, I'm educating people on what moonshine is, to not be scared of it, and why they should be drinking us over their typical vodka. 

The liquor business can be pretty crazy. What’s your favorite thing about working in the industry?
First and foremost, the relationships that I get to build with my accounts, my distributor, and my coworkers. Secondly, the creativity it allows me to have in figuring out how to get the brand out there and pulled off shelves. Plus, it's fun! It really is a fun industry. Does it have its moments like all jobs? Of course. But what other job can you go to accounts, hang out with people, and taste them on cocktails! 

What does being a strong woman mean to you?
A strong woman has her shit together, is independent, doesn't rely on anyone but herself, goes after what she wants, is not afraid to fail, is confident, and is kind. A strong woman knows she's fabulous and doesn't need to put anyone down to feel better about herself. 

Who are some women who inspire you? Why?
Well, my cousin for sure. She is a very strong, independent woman who has taught me everything I need to know about the sales industry, relationships, and life in general. I am so blessed to have her in my life giving me advice. Secondly, all the women out there who have been dealt a hard hand in life–whether it be sickness, an accident, bad relationships, a loss–and are overcoming it and come out stronger in the end because of it. I admire people who have a great outlook on life, even after life's been tough on them. 

What’s the hardest thing about being a woman in such a typically male-dominated field?

Really, I've been blessed with the jobs and co-workers I've had. Most have treated me with respect and as an equal. Unfortunately, not all women in this field have been so lucky; however, it is really starting to not be so male-dominated. I actually think Belle Isle now has more female employees than male. 

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Don't underestimate your talent and creativity, and be more confident in getting what you want in life and career. And, for goodness sake, who cares what people think of you? I'm still working on listening to this advice, but I would give it to younger me. 

What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
Well, I just won a Team Leadership award at Belle Isle! I've never won a work award, so I'm pretty proud of that. Outside of work, buying my house was a very proud moment for me.

What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail? 
Where to start? Okay, so I'm on a diet and so right now, and I've been drinking Belle Isle Black Label with water and a squeeze of lemon and lime. I like it better than vodka, because when you mix it with water it literally tastes like water–no vodka after-bite. When I'm not on a diet, I love a skinny Grapefruit Crush, or a sweet and spicy Bloody Mary with Honey Habanero. Also, Circa in DC makes an awesome Purple Rain cocktail with the Honey Hab and a blueberry jalapeño shrub. And Wayward Smokehouse's Spiked Chocolate Milk with our Cold Brew Coffee!

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Kristin Otto lives in Baltimore with her Cavapoo, Bixby. You can usually find her slinging ‘shine in one of our awesome accounts in Maryland or D.C.



we want to say a huge “thank you” to all the women who participated in this story!

happy international women’s day!

Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Behind the Bar: Haley Jeffries // Lures Bar & Grille

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment
Belle Isle 'Behind the Bar' Lures Bar and Grille_2019-02-28_0686_TSUCALAS.jpg


Nestled on the outskirts of tourist-heavy Annapolis, Maryland, Lures Bar & Grille has been serving up some of the best seafood and craft beer in the area for more than a decade. While the 27-draft tap list of only craft beer draw a lot of attention, this small-but-mighty bar staff can also whip up a mean cocktail. Focusing on fresh ingredients, bartender Haley Jeffries and the Lures team create drinks that perfectly compliment good times, great food, and patio weather. We recently chatted with Haley about getting her start in the industry, her favorite spots to stop for a drink in Annapolis, and her “Golden Rule” for bartenders. Haley also shared her recipe for the aptly named Honey Habanero cocktail, Instagrammable.


First thing’s first, who are you?

My name is Haley Jeffries, and I’ve been at Lures Bar & Grille for about a year now.


How long have you been bartending?

I’ve been bartending for way too long–probably six or seven years! This has been my favorite bartending job, for sure. I just got my Associate’s Degree last month, so I’ve been doing that on the side, and next month I’m taking my exam to get my TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] certificate.


So you’ve been busy! What first got you behind the bar?

My parents own a smoothie shop [Robeks] in the Harbor Center in Annapolis, so I’ve worked in the restaurant industry since I was about 13. After that, I jumped around to multiple serving positions. When I started serving at Lures, I kind of got lucky because they needed a bartender. At first when they asked if I was interested, I said “no,” because this place is pretty intimidating and the drinks are kind of complex. I was hesitant, but they threw me in and gave me a really extensive training.

Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is to not freak out. Especially when you get busy or “weeded,” it’s so easy to say “Oh my God, I can’t make this drink,” but you can’t make a good drink if you’re freaking out. Just stay calm and have fun. People are at a bar to have a good time, so just relax and have a good time with them.

Do you have a favorite drink?

I really like a jalapeño Moscow Mule, or any kind of Moscow Mule. Ginger Beer is my favorite thing. We also make this drink here in the summer that’s cucumber vodka, lemonade, and a little bit of agave. Or anything margarita. Clearly, I just like alcohol.

Belle Isle 'Behind the Bar' Lures Bar and Grille_2019-02-28_0898_TSUCALAS.jpg


You’re talking to the right people! If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Agave is my favorite sweetener, especially in the summer. Tequila is my go-to liquor-wise. You can make anything good with tequila.


What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?

More than any place I’ve ever worked, they give people room to grow. They’re very much like, “Hey, you have an idea? Throw it at us, we’ll see if we like it.” Sometimes there’s constructive criticism, and sometimes they’ll just put it on the menu the next day. Management here is really phenomenal. They’re super helpful as far giving advice and encouraging growth, which encourages you to try to be better and work harder.


What makes your bar unique?

The food is great, first of all. We have almost 30 beers on tap, and we don’t serve any of your typical domestics. But also, I think I might be the person who’s worked here the shortest amount of time, and you don’t see that in a lot of restaurants. There’s usually a lot of turnaround in restaurants, but there are servers who have been here for 10 or 12 years.

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

I really like Vida in downtown Annapolis. I love tacos, Mexican food, and tequila, obviously. Paladar has great margaritas. As far as “divey” bars, I really enjoy West End. They’re open until like 1 or 2 a.m., so it’s easy for us to go there after work.


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

Downtown Annapolis is definitely the place for it. People come here to visit, to explore, and to be by the water and be tranquil. I think if you can sit by the water and drink a cocktail that looks pretty, you’ll probably drink more than one of them if you have a good view.

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

For bartenders, my Golden Rule is to greet your customers right away. Now that I’ve done this for so long, I’m kind of picky about the service I get when I go out, and I like to be greeted within a minute. I think it’s important, because you know your experience is going to be good.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

I like spicy in general, so I love the Honey Habanero. This new cocktail [Instagrammable] has definitely been my favorite creation so far.


Belle Isle 'Behind the Bar' Lures Bar and Grille_2019-02-28_0613_TSUCALAS.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero

  • 4-5 fresh strawberries

  • juice from 1 fresh lime

  • ½ oz. agave

  • top with sparkling wine

  • garnish with a lime wheel and edible pineapple flower garnish ( via Dress the Drink)

Preparation:

Blend or muddle lime, strawberry, and agave and add mixture to shaker tin. Add Belle Isle Honey Habanero and ice, then shake vigorously. Pour (don't strain) into a Collins glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lime wheel and edible pineapple flower.

Recipe by Haley Jeffries, courtesy of Lures Bar & Grille.

Photos by Justin Tsucalas.


Still thirsty?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Wanna know more about us?

5 Killer Belle Isle Margaritas For National Margarita Day

CocktailsBICS AdminComment
Salty? Citrusy? Sweet? Sour? Spicy? Confuse your palate in the best way possible with a Honey Habanero Margarita. Photo by  Kate Magee .

Salty? Citrusy? Sweet? Sour? Spicy? Confuse your palate in the best way possible with a Honey Habanero Margarita. Photo by Kate Magee.

The Margarita is no doubt one of the most versatile, well-loved, and recognizable cocktails in the world.

Not only is the margarita a tried-and-true classic, but it's one of the only cocktails you can feel comfortable drinking pretty much anywhere. On a beach? Definitely. In a fancy cocktail bar? No weird looks there. In a dive bar? It's probably pretty sugary, but why not? In the shower? Duh. 

Originating in the 1930’s in Tijuana, the margarita is now a worldwide drink staple. But who says it has to be made with tequila? In honor of National Margarita Day (Friday, February 22) we're sharing our favorite Belle Isle Moonshine margarita recipes! Whether you prefer your 'ritas with a little extra citrus or some spice, our tasty spins on the OG classic are sure to brighten up your day.  After all, in the words of the margarita's most famous fan: 

If life gives you limes, make margaritas.
— Jimmy Buffet


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.


Wanna learn more?

Break Up with Vodka: 3 Reasons to Fall for Belle Isle Moonshine this Valentine's Day

CocktailsStephanie StantonComment
Vodka has done you wrong one too many times. It’s time to upgrade to a more refined spirit.  All photos by  Joey Wharton .

Vodka has done you wrong one too many times. It’s time to upgrade to a more refined spirit.

All photos by Joey Wharton.

Sick of constantly getting burned by vodka’s tasteless tricks and disappointing drinks? Leave those immature games in the past and upgrade to the smooth, bold, and dependably delicious taste of Belle Isle Moonshine. Not ready to let go of your tired, old go-to spirit? Here are three huge reasons why it’s finally time to ditch your vodka for something better.


REASON #1: YOU DESERVE A SPIRIT WITH SOME FLAVOR

Blood Orange Cosmo  = the reigning kween of cranberry juice cocktails.

Blood Orange Cosmo = the reigning kween of cranberry juice cocktails.

Be honest: how many vodka-crans can one human ingest in a lifetime? Yes, they go down easy, but isn’t that because they don’t taste like much more than watered-down cranberry juice that burns all the way down?

Vodka prides itself on being tasteless, and you deserve more than that. Get you a flavorful spirit you’ll be happy to savor, like the bold, bright Belle Isle Blood Orange! Kick those vodka-crans to the curb and shake up a Blood Orange Cosmo instead.

BLOOD ORANGE COSMO

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. cranberry juice

  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice

Preparation:

Add all ingredients to a mixing tin over ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist, or a dehydrated blood orange.
.


REASON #2: YOU’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN BASIC

Chocolate Berry Boost : all of the boosted buzz with none of the crash and burn.

Chocolate Berry Boost: all of the boosted buzz with none of the crash and burn.

Okay, so you’re sleepy, but you still want to party. There’s no shame in that! You may think you’re doomed to a night of the shakes after sipping on a Vodka RedBull, but you’re wrong! There is a better (and less basic) way to get that boosted buzz you crave.

The caffeine-laced jolt of our Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee will get you up and dancing without the harsh taste or night-ending crash. Try it solo with regular coffee, or for a fully refined treat, add a splash of Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur and raspberry whipped cream!

CHOCOLATE BERRY BOOST

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Add first three ingredients to an Irish coffee glass. Top with raspberry whipped cream**


**Raspberry Whipped Cream: Over medium heat, mix 1 cup muddled raspberries, 1 cup white sugar, and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, then let cool and strain out the seeds. This will give you a tasty raspberry simple syrup! Add this syrup to chilled Heavy Whipping Cream at a 1:2 ratio, then shake or whisk vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Layer this whipped cream on top of your cocktail!


REASON #3: LIKE THINGS A LITTLE SWEET & SPICY? GET YOU A DRINK THAT CAN DO BOTH

Let our  Southside of the James  be your hero, baby.

Let our Southside of the James be your hero, baby.

SOUTHSIDE OF THE JAMES

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. lime

  • ¾ oz. simple syrup

  • 2 mint sprigs (1 in cocktail, 1 for garnish)

Preparation:

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin over ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with second mint sprig.

Here at Belle Isle Moonshine, we pride ourselves on our versatility. We can be sweet, spicy, bold, soft, hot, cold, herbal, floral, sour–you name it, we can do it.

Take this simple Southside of the James. Our spin on a classic Southside, this drink is just as mind-blowing with our bright, citrusy Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit as it is with the sweet heat of our Belle Isle Honey Habanero. Baby, we can multitask. Can your vodka do that?


toiletSquare.jpg

HAPPY

VALENTINE’S

DAY 💕


galentine’s day more your thing?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Our 10 Favorite Cold Weather Cocktails

CocktailsBICS AdminComment
Baby, it’s cold outside. Warm up with some ‘shine.

Baby, it’s cold outside. Warm up with some ‘shine.

With January in full swing, it's easy to let freezing temperatures, icy streets, and dark skies give you a serious case of the winter blues. Don't let Seasonal Affective Disorder bring you down! Let Belle Isle help you warm up, get cozy, and embrace the hygge with some of our favorite wintertime cocktails! From our simple, warming Hot Toddy to our classic Corpse Reviver with a twist, Belle Isle has your winter drinking game covered. 


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Still thirsty?

Party Prepped: Bubbly + Bloodies

CocktailsBrandon DayComment

With New Years festivities right around the corner, it's time to send 2018 off with a bang. But ringing in the new year tends to have some consequences the next morning. We're compiling our favorite Belle Isle + bubbly recipes that are perfect for your midnight cheers AND our favorite Belle Isle Bloody Mary recipes that are the fix you'll need come Tuesday morning.

BELLE ISLE + BUBBLY


BELLE ISLE BLOODIES


WANT MORE RECIPES?

'Shine Spotlight: Heather Frechette // Encore Gastrolounge & On the Roxx

'Shine SpotlightStephanie Stanton1 Comment
Heather Frechette (l) and Elizabeth Hunt (r), co-owners of On the Roxx and Encore Gastrolounge in Greenville, South Carolina.  All photos by  Kevin Ruck .

Heather Frechette (l) and Elizabeth Hunt (r), co-owners of On the Roxx and Encore Gastrolounge in Greenville, South Carolina.

All photos by Kevin Ruck.

Every great bar begins with a great concept, and that’s exactly what Heather Frechette and Elizabeth Hunt started out with nearly a decade ago. By steadily saving up bartending tips and working various day jobs, the duo opened On the Roxx in Greenville’s historic West End in 2009. With their first success under their belts, the duo opened Encore Gastrolounge earlier this year. We recently chatted with Heather about what it takes to be a successful bar and restaurant owner, her Golden Rule of hospitality, and her favorite Belle Isle cocktail.


First thing’s first, who are you?

Heather Frechette, co-owner of On the Roxx, Encore Gastrolounge, and the Encore Event Venue.

How long have you owned a restaurant? What did you do before you owned a restaurant?

We have owned On the Roxx for nine years! I did everything from teaching school to technology sales but always bartended as a second job and saved up tip money to open our own place.

Encore Gastrolounge.

Encore Gastrolounge.

What first got you behind the bar?

When I moved to South Carolina from upstate New York, I didn’t know a lot of people. I started out as a cocktail waitress to fill some time and meet new people. I would stay late and come in on nights off to learn to bartend.

Any pro-tips for someone starting up a restaurant?

Do your homework! It takes a lot of hours and dedication, not to mention the amount of paperwork, licenses, and permits needed just to get open. There is so much more to running a successful restaurant than just managing during operating hours.

Favorite drink made by someone else?

I love a good spicy margarita.

Favorite drink that you make?

The Tucker G&T which is on the menu at Encore. I actually came up with the recipe in a dream. It consists of gin, Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic, club soda, and a scoop of house made lime sorbet.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

A great sour beer.

If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Jalapeños!

What’s your favorite part about owning restaurants and bars?

The many amazing people that I get to meet. I love hearing about their vacations, families, and everything else. Several people who have met at Roxx are now married and having children. It’s really fun to celebrate these special milestones with our customers, who are now friends!

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

I enjoy going anywhere with outdoor seating when weather permits. A great view is always fun, too. When traveling, the first thing I look for is the best rooftop bar.

Mellow Habanero  at Encore.

Mellow Habanero at Encore.

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

I love the popularity of craft cocktails and creativity in mixology, but I also appreciate a good hole in the wall.

Give us your golden rule when it comes to the restaurant business?

Golden Rule for anyone in the hospitality industry: Give the best experience to every customer. A bad review or shared bad experience can go viral and destroy a restaurant’s reputation.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

I love the Belle Isle Honey Habanero in the Mellow Habanero.


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Wanna know more about us?

Five Festive Cocktails to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

CocktailsStephanie StantonComment
That’s the Jingle Bell(e) Rock.  All photos by  Joey Wharton .

That’s the Jingle Bell(e) Rock.

All photos by Joey Wharton.

Since it’s already mid-December, we’re all aware by now that the “most wonderful time of the year” is upon us. There’s a chill in the air, holiday tunes ring out in nearly every public space, and everything smells vaguely like pine and cookies. With your Christmas cheer rising more and more every day, shouldn’t your cocktails be as festive as your mood? Wind down from that hectic Christmas shopping with one of these five holiday cocktails, courtesy of the boozy lil’ elves here at Belle Isle Moonshine! They’re tasty enough to make your spirits extra bright, and easy enough to make in your PJs! Why leave your house for a good drink? Stay in and play bartender–because, baby, it’s cold outside!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Still thirsty?


Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.

We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.

Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.

From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Wanna know more about us?