Belle Isle Premium Moonshine

The Smoother Clear Spirit | Distilled from 100% Organic Corn

Behind the Bar: Alex + Lily // Green Pig Bistro

Behind the BarBrandon DayComment

Being behind the bar sometimes feels like a love-hate relationship. You get to wake up much later than your 9-5 friends, but your work day ends closer 3am. You're able to help people unwind from stress, but have seen them take it too far. Like any good relationship, bartending takes balance.

If anybody has perfected that balance, it has to be Alex and Lily. Not only are they able to run the bar at Green Pig Bistro with expertise and creativity, they have also learned to balance personal and professional. It's not often you see a husband and wife behind the bar together, so we stopped by to learn more about how they mix work & home just as successfully as they mix cocktails.

Tell us about yourselves. 

Alex: I'm Alex and I am the Bar Manager at Green Pig Bistro in Arlington, Virginia.

Lily: I'm Lily, and I am a bartender at Green Pig Bistro. We've both been here at GPB for a little over a year now.

Alex: And we happen to be married as well.

When did you first get behind the bar?

Alex: About 4 years ago, I started at a sushi place (SEI) in D.C. The training there was good, and being friends with the bartenders, they were kind enough to get me started. I was making everything from rum & Cokes to egg white lavender margaritas. 

Lily: I started out young working at a Vietnamese sports bar, mainly pouring beer and wine. 

What drinks do you like to make?

Alex:  I enjoy to make a little bit of everything. New experiences matter to me. I'm constantly changing the cocktail menu because of seasonality, while trying to bring flavor from all around the world to taste new and different combinations. Personal guilty pleasure though, definitely a Cinnamon Pineapple Daiquiri. 

Lily: These days, I finesse classic cocktails. I am an advocate for mojitos done right and anything tiki style that isn't overwhelmingly sweet.

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What’s it like being both coworkers and spouses?

Alex: It feels natural for us being both coworkers and spouses, because we make a pretty good team behind the bar.

Lily: A big pro is that we can rely on each other. A con is that its hard for us to plan a long vacation, because we both work full time in the same place. Overall, we love each other's company and have a really good time working together. 

Tell us about your bar.

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Alex: Green Pig Bistro is a very warm and welcoming restaurant with an awesome bar. The cocktail program is inspired by the seasons, an appreciation of classic cocktails, as well as bartender creativity.  Giving bartenders a chance to place an original cocktail on the menu also helps with its diversity. 

Lily: The vibe is local and cozy. I like to think I'm the inspiration for the cocktail program. 

What’s the neighborhood like?

Alex: Green Pig is located in Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia. It is a few blocks from the busy main street inhabited by chain food spots and various retail, which makes it a hidden gem amongst the neighborhood in Arlington. 

Lily: The people that stop into our bar are folks who live really close by and people who know where to go to get a good cocktail in the area.

Favorite part about your bar?

Alex: The freedom of creativity. Working with fresh and different ingredients keeps me inspired. And not only do we have great drinks, but we have great food too.

Lily: I love the quality of our cocktails. We take pride in using house-made ingredients in our cocktails, as well as juicing our citrus by hand daily.

Favorite cocktail + menu item pairing?

Alex: Fried Chicken Biscuits with the Smoking Old Fashioned. 

Lily: This season, I like the Kiss of Mint on our menu. It's refreshing and not too sweet. It's a muddled mint margarita with fresh grapefruit juice and hopped bitters. I would pair that with our albacore sesame dish.

What inspires your cocktails?

Alex: I am inspired by my surroundings and local produce as well as trying to recreate flavors that I loved as a child, showing just a little bit of where I come from. I am also in love with a food documentary series on Netflix called Chef's Table

Lily: I am inspired by whatever flavors I am interested in during the season. I tend to create cocktails that I would enjoy drinking.


What are your Belle Isle cocktails?

Alex: The inspiration for this cocktail came from a wine that kind of smelled like grapefruit and green bell pepper. I was trying to make the flavors work, but green bell pepper can be a little overwhelming. While randomly speaking with a fellow bartender Ben, he says, "Why don't you try red bell pepper instead?" Then it all came together. I like using ingredients that people don't normally see in drinks.

Preparation:

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain over a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel for zest.

Recipe by Alex of Green Pig Bistro

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Red Bell Pepper-infused Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz, honey simple
  • 2 dashes lemon bitters
How to make Red Bell Pepper Infusion: Blend three large red bell peppers with a bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine. Let sit for 24 hours, then strain through a cheesecloth.

Lily: I am part Vietnamese, so my cocktail is inspired by traditional Vietnamese iced coffee. Creating this cocktail was a fun and nostalgic experience. It's definitely something I would order if I was day-drinking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
  • 3 oz. cold brew coffee
  • 1/2 oz. condensed milk
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Preparation:

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice.

Recipe by Lily of Green Pig Bistro

    Lily's notes: Our cold brew coffee recipe is 1 part local Swing's coffee grounds to 6 parts cold filtered water. The mixture is refrigerated overnight and strained the next day. After straining, I usually premix the condensed milk into the cold brew to allow the ingredients to blend better. If I am batching this cold-brew, I may use up to 4 cans of condensed milk.

    Photos by Kate Magee

    Behind the Bar: Lyndsay Blair // Scotty Quixx

    Behind the BarBrandon Day

    If you talk to anyone who’s been bartending long enough, you’re bound to hear some serious insight into the human psyche. If there’s one truth you discover behind the bar, it’s that we are all creatures of habit. Rather than fight our true nature, sometimes it’s better to embrace it.

    That’s why when you walk into Scotty Quixx, your usual drink is waiting for you on the bar. When you sit down, you’ll see the same groups of friends hanging out, regulars bunny-hopping each other on the jukebox and laughing, and the manager Lyndsay Blair sneaking Harry Potter on a TV somewhere. We made the trip down to Lyndsay’s bar to hear more about the rituals of Scotty Quixx that make this beach bar both a destination and a pit stop for folks from all walks of life.

    Tell us about yourself.

    I’m the manager of Scotty Quixx off Birdneck Road. This location has been open for about four years, and our original location on Virginia Beach Boulevard has been open for seven years.

    How did you get into bartending?

    I started out in the restaurant business when I was sixteen as a hostess and busser. Over the years as I was finishing school, I moved to serving tables, then to bartending, then into management. I’ve been bartending off and on for nine years. Honestly, the money is what attracted me to being behind the bar and is what kept me coming back.

    Any hobbies / side gigs / secret identities? 

    When I’m not working, I’m at home hanging out with my animals. Puppies are my hobby. Well, also cats, bunnies, squirrels and birds. I got a backyard full. I also love to watch the History Channel: Ms. Marple and Murder, She Wrote, because I’m secretly 70 years old.

    Favorite drink to make:

    Shooters, or fancy craft cocktails when I can. We don’t get to do that a lot at Scotty Quixx, so on the rare occasion someone wants something special, it is enjoyable to make. I have also been told I make a mean Lemon Drop.

    Favorite drink to sip:

    Diet Coke.

    Favorite “guilty pleasure” drink:

    Diet Coke. Seriously. I’m a fiend for it. As far as booze goes, my taste buds have changed over the years. Never thought I’d grow away from the light beer and shots. But when I do indulge in an adult beverage these days, it’s been a mule, wheat beer, or glass of wine. 

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    What's the vibe at Scotty Quixx?

    Scotty Quixx is a super laid-back and friendly neighborhood bar. We are both a destination and pit stop. It’s a place you can stop at on the way home from work, on the way out for the night, the last stop before going home after a night out, or just because you don’t want to sit at home. We have a lot of people call or text us that they’re bored and are coming up to sit and hang out. We’ve been dubbed the living room, decompression tank, etc. 

    Who typically comes in?

    We have a really good mix of all ages and types of people. We have families, construction workers, business professionals, etc. We have just as many people over the age of 50 sitting at the bar joking on us, as we do under the age of 30. Everyone fits in. Everyone gets along. And everyone makes friends.

    What makes your bar unique?

    The copious amounts of M&Ms, candy, and snacks that we offer to everyone. Probably the only place you’ll hear a customer jokingly order lasagna and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and they get a Miller Light draft and a handful of M&Ms instead. Every day I have someone bringing me M&Ms, whether it’s to be nice or to keep me happy when I’m getting my butt kicked during football Sundays.

    I also think we're much different from other bars in the area. Besides the ridiculous amount of candy on the bar that I mentioned, we really connect with the folks that come in here. We will learn your name and drink quickly, and we will remember your puppy’s name and kid’s name. We care about our customers because they really are our friends. Not just our front of the house staff either. Our kitchen manager and cooks are always coming out to say hi or hang out if they have a second.

    What makes for a "perfect bartender"?

    Having the ability to read people makes for a great bartender. Anyone can follow a recipe or learn how to make drinks, but it’s knowing what people need, want, or expect that sets you apart. Do they need a laugh, do they need to vent, do they need to be left alone to work or think? Do they need more ranch dressing? Or the answer to the trivia question just asked? I love anticipating what people need or want, whether it’s a drink, service, or personal interaction. I always say it’s what I would want if I were sitting there.

    How has the bar scene here changed?

    With the huge growth of interest in craft beers, bourbons and whiskey, we see a lot more classic cocktails being ordered now, when years ago it was all Jäger bombs and Bud Light. We have a lot more Old Fashioned's, vodka martinis and Manhattans ordered these days. I'm a big fan of the change. Bartending is definitely coming full circle and returning to its roots as an art form. Makes you want to brush up on the history and basics, and learn what’s new. 

    Can you share a Belle Isle cocktail with us?

    I'm a big fan of mules, so when one of our liquor reps introduced me to Belle Isle Honey Habanero, I absolutely fell in love with it and knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Now I search bar shelves for Belle Isle whenever I’m out. This is definitely my new favorite drink to push at the bar whenever someone is unsure of what to drink.

    As for the name, it was actually inspired by a couple of regulars. Over time, we’ve been given tons of nicknames: Squixx, Sqx Jr., etc. One day a group of guys, headed by our good friends Josh and Jason, decided to come up with a nickname for the opposite of Scotty Quixx. Not sure if it was for fun or if they needed a secret codeword - not sure I want to know, either. Naturally, the opposite of Scotty Quixx came to be Tommy Long Times. Made perfect sense. 

    Ingredients:

    • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
    • 6 oz. ginger beer
    • 1/6 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1 lime wedge for garnish

    Preparation:

    Fill copper mule mug with ice. Pour in Belle Isle Honey Habanero, then top with ginger beer. Add fresh squeezed lime juice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

    Warm Weather-Ready Cocktails

    CocktailsBrandon DayComment

    It's official: Spring has sprung. We're shaking off our winter blues with a few of our favorite cocktail recipes that are the perfect way to kick off patio season.

    Want more recipes? We've got you covered.

    Behind the Bar: Tommy Nelson / Sabai

    Behind the Bar, RichmondBrandon Day1 Comment

    The Thai word sabai translates as "happy", but is more commonly used to emphasize a tranquil and relaxed state of mind. Richmond's own Sabai is a paradise in its own right. From the brilliant, custom-made decor to the enchanting lights that line the bar, Sabai transports you, at least mentally, to a place of pure bliss.

    While the ambience of Sabai is tranquil, what comes out from behind the bar is electric and exciting. You can thank Tommy Nelson, Sabai's bar manager and beverage director, for the beautiful creations that are whipped up behind the bar's shiny lights and rows of flowers. We stopped by and got cozy at Sabai to learn a little more about Tommy, his cocktails, and how all of the pieces come together to create such a memorable bar experience.

    Tell us about yourself…

    I'm the Bar Manager/Beverage Director at Sabai, where I've been for a little over a year.

    What got you into bartending?

    I was always reading up on cocktail history and making cocktails at home prior to getting a job in the industry. I had been working from home as a supervisor for a telemarketing company and was really unhappy with it. Working from home was not for me and I knew I needed to do something that was the opposite, something more social and physical. More importantly, I wanted to do something I felt passionate about.

    I was at a show one night at Strange Matter and struck up a conversation with a guy who, as it turned out, was a bartender at Rappahannock. We started talking about work and he offered me a job starting as a bar-back. I worked hard and took every opportunity to learn more. I ended up taking over the bar manager position there before working my way to Sabai.

    What’s your favorite thing to drink? Any guilty pleasure drinks?

    I enjoy seasonal drinking. In colder weather, I love a nice whiskey (neat or on the rocks) or warm Cognac. Now that spring is approaching, I've been craving classic gin & tonics. As for guilty pleasure drinks, I'm down with a frozen margarita on a hot day.

    Outside of work, what do you find yourself doing?

    I still read a ton of books about cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine. The more history-focused ones tend to appeal to me the most. I also play electric guitar, when I can find the time. I work a lot.

    Tell us about your bar…

    Sabai is a Thai restaurant and tiki bar with some incredible industrial decor. It's fast-paced, high-energy, loud, and fun. I play a lot of 70s and 80s punk/post-punk music. Flowers, parasol umbrellas, and punk rock. A perfect mix of everything you need.

    What’s the neighborhood and surrounding area like?

    The neighborhood is great. Many of our regulars live and/or work nearby and just walk over. They are dedicated Sabai fans and never fail to come out, even when it snows.

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    Who do you typically find coming in for a drink?

    Depends on the time of night. Earlier in the shift we get families or couples dining. Later we get people who are going out for the night, maybe to a show at the Broadberry. Our late night crowd is a mix of industry folks, regulars, and people (future regulars?) who just want some great late night food and a nightcap. It's a great mix that keeps us on our toes.

    What makes your bar unique?

    I think people are impressed by the decor when they walk in. As for the drinks, they are big and garish but we take a lot of time to ensure they are balanced; they aren't as sweet as they look. We also have one of the biggest rum selections in the city and we are really into it.

    What’s your favorite part about working there?

    My favorite thing about working at Sabai is the diversity of our customers. Getting to talk to people who aren't normally into cocktails is a lot of fun. We make a conscience attempt to be very approachable and love answering questions. We also get a lot of people who know a great deal about food or drinks. It's nice to know they appreciate what we do. We get customers who ask for custom cocktails and are happy to oblige. If all you're looking for is a cheap beer and a shot, we've got you covered too.

    What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?

    The best nights for me are so fast-paced that I barely have time to think. I do my best work in these conditions. When my team is synced up and dancing around each other, everything just flows so effortlessly. 

    What are some of your Belle Isle creations?

    Try it at Sabai...

    + 1½ oz. Paw Paw-infused Belle Isle 100 Proof
    + ½ oz. Aperol
    + ½ oz. pineapple juice
    + 1 tsp. falernum

    Preparation:
    Shake briefly with crushed ice and pour into a champagne flute. Garnish with pineapple leaf and orchid.


    ...or try it at home.

    + 1 oz. Belle Isle 100 Proof
    + 1 oz. Salers Gentian liqueur
    + 1 oz. Dolin Blanc vermouth

    Preparation:
    Stir with ice and strain into an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

    Recipes by Tommy Nelson of Sabai
    Photos by Joey Wharton

    Party Prepped: The Freeze-Ahead Cocktail

    CocktailsBrandon DayComment

    Throwing together a last-minute Galentine's party? Busy schedule right before your Valentine's Day date night? We've got you covered. Thanks to the magic of mixology and the science of modern refrigeration, you can have a delicious cocktail batched and ready to serve in no time. Introducing, the freeze-ahead cocktail.

    The freeze-ahead cocktail is popping up in some of the most popular bars around the country, but its usefulness when fixing drinks at home is what makes the idea so genius. The premise is simple: pre-batch your favorite cocktail (stick to something boozy), dilute with the same amount of water you'd get from adding ice, and stick it in the freezer.

    The result? An incredibly smooth, velvety texture added to your already enjoyable cocktail. For our celebrations, we put one of our favorites, the Cold Brew Negroni, to the test. Want to give it a shot as well? Follow along with us below.

    1) Pick your drink.

    When it comes to picking your cocktail to freeze, select something that is "spirit-forward" or boozy. The success of the freeze-ahead cocktail relies on the alcohol content of the drink stopping it from freezing fully through.

    We chose to mix up a Cold Brew Negroni, which is equal parts Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee, Campari, and sweet vermouth, each about a 1 oz. pour. Twists on other classic drinks like a Martini, Manhattan, or Old Fashioned are great options as well.

    2) Do the math.

    Once you've selected your cocktail, find out how many cocktails you plan to serve. You can estimate based on how many guests or by starting with what spirit you already have handy.

    For our Negroni recipe, we can make about 25 cocktails with one bottle of Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee. From there, we calculate how many ounces/milliliters we'll need of Campari and vermouth.

    Since our recipe calls for equal parts, it is pretty simple. For more complex recipes, you'll need to spend a little more time doing the math. And like any great chef would, we recommend tasting as you go along.

    3) Dump, then dilute down.

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    Now that you have all of your ingredients together, dump them into a freezable dispenser. Any carafe or glass bottle will work, as long as it is big enough for your batched cocktail. Before it goes into the freezer, you'll need to dilute down your cocktail with water.

    Deciding how much water to dilute with isn't an exact science, but you can make a more informed decision based on how the drink is typically made (shaken, stirred, built over ice) and how boozy it is. Shaken drinks are more diluted than stirred, and stirred are more diluted than built drinks.

    If your cocktail is lower in alcohol, you can vary more with how much water you add. For our cocktail, we add 3/4 oz. of water per each cocktail serving. If you're serving something stronger like a martini, you might consider adding 2-3 times more water for dilution.

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    4) Stick it in the freezer.

    With all of the math and guessing games out of the way, you can celebrate with an easy step. Stick your batched cocktail into the freezer and get back to your busy day!

    5) Reveal your masterpiece.

    Now that you're ready to relax and celebrate with friends or loved ones, pop open your freezer and pull out your batched cocktail. It should come out still in liquid form, but a little thicker and velvety.

    If your cocktail froze through into a solid chunk, don't worry! Run the container under some cold water and gradually turn the water warmer. Do this for a minute or so, then set the cocktail out on the counter to defrost. The alcohol will cause the cocktail to melt fast, and should be ready to serve in no time.

    6) Serve, sip, and enjoy!

    Grab your glasses and get ready to share your creation. We garnish our Cold Brew Negroni with an orange peel. If your cocktail still tastes a little too strong, pour over ice to dilute it a tad more.

    While enjoying your cocktail, take some mental notes on how it tastes and drinks, comparing it to how it normally tastes. Are certain notes or flavors more prominent? Does the alcohol give off the same heat or burn? Find an inspiration for more freeze-ahead experimentation in the future!

    Photos by Kate Magee

    Ruby Red Grapefruit Cocktails for February

    CocktailsBrandon DayComment

    Did you know February is National Grapefruit Month? We're ringing in the month-long celebrations with three fantastic Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit cocktails that will help you slide out from winter's chill and into something brighter.

    Whether you want to whip these up at your Galentine's Day party or your Mardi Gras festivities, Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit is perfect for entertaining and incredibly easy to sip. Unlike other grapefruit spirits out there, ours is made with all-natural, organic grapefruits and no artificial colors or sweeteners. Let's get to mixing!

    MS. FRIZZLE

    Ingredients:

    • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
    • ½ oz. Domaine de Canton

    • ¼ oz. lemon juice

    • 4 oz. sparkling wine

    Preparation:

    Add first three ingredients over ice into a large flute and stir lightly. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a twist of lemon.


    BELLE ISLE SEGMENT

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
    • Grapefruit wheel or wedge
    • Cherry
    • Sugar for rim

    Preparation:

    Add the fruits to a shaker tin, then top with Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit. Muddle ingredients and top with ice. Shake, then pour over fresh ice into a sugar-rimmed glass. Gently smack a basil leaf between your hands and garnish on top.

    Recipe by The Betty on Davis


    MOULIN ROUGE

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
    • 1 oz. pineapple juice
    • ¼ oz. lemon juice
    • ¼ oz. Chambord

    Preparation:

    Combine the first three ingredients into a shaker tin with ice. Shake lightly, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Sink a bar spoon of Chambord to the bottom of the glass, and garnish with a twist of lemon.

    Spirit School'ed, Ep. 1: Water You Drinking?

    Spirit School'edBrandon DayComment

    We’re staunch believers in the idea that better input equals better output. When it comes to cocktails and spirits, we also like to think that when you drink better, you feel better. The first step to drinking better is knowing what exactly you’re putting into your body. That’s why we’re rolling out a new series we are dubbing Spirit School’ed. Through this series, we’ll take a look at the vast selection you might behind the bar and how it ends up in your drink. Ready? Bottoms up.

    For our first episode, we’re starting with the basics: water. Even the simplest ingredient like H2O can drastically impact your drink, depending on how you use it. We’re going to break down the most popular sparkling options you’ll find in cocktails: soda water, tonic water, and mineral water.

    1. Mineral Water

    Although a typical choice for cocktails, mineral water is the most naturally occurring form of sparkling water. By definition, mineral water comes from a spring that contains various minerals, typically salts and sulfur compounds. The “sparkling” or lightly carbonated nature of mineral water is caused by contained gases within the water, which is noticeably less bubbly in comparison to other carbonated waters. A Perrier Rondelle, or Perrier with a slice of lemon, is a common French apéritif or café offering for its dry and light taste.

    We pair mineral water with our original Belle Isle Premium Moonshine for a light, refreshing spritz. The natural minerality of the water and slight effervescence mix perfectly with our base spirit's notes of sweet corn and molasses to create a smooth, evenly balanced cocktail.

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    2. Club Soda

    Club soda, sometimes another moniker for soda water, is identical to mineral water in look and somewhat similar in taste. Whereas mineral water draws the minerality of its contents naturally, club soda’s mineral components are artificially added. This addition gives club soda a slightly stronger mineral taste and more intense carbonation as well. Because of its brighter, more intense taste, club soda pairs well with flavors that are equally as bright like citruses and fruit-forward spirits.

    Our go-to simple cocktail recipe is Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit and club soda. The sweet and bright citrus notes of the spirit are accented by the sharp taste of the club soda, resulting in an insanely refreshing drink you can always come back to.

    3. Tonic Water

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    Although colloquially known as tonic water, our next sparkling cocktail ingredient is probably closer to a soda. Tonic water is a sweetened, carbonated infusion made with quinine, a naturally occurring compound found in the bark of the Cinchona tree (or more commonly the Remijia tree). Tonic water was originally used as a preventative malaria treatment, and is still sometimes used as a treatment for leg cramps. Although the tonic water you find today has much less quinine than the original medicinal recipe, the same unique bitter flavor can still make for a fantastic addition to your cocktail of choice.

    While the classic gin and tonic is a great default, pairing tonic with other botanical, savory, or bitter spirits can make for a fantastic cocktail. Our favorite is the Rise & Shine Tonic, just a simple and invigorating combination of Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee and tonic water.

    New Year's Eve...And the Day After

    CocktailsBrandon DayComment

    No matter how you plan to ring in the New Year, you're going to want something tasty to toast on New Year's Eve and something invigorating for the day after. Have no fear, we've got you covered.

    A Sparkling Citrus Celebration

    2 oz. Sparkling Wine + 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit

    Toast the new year with this simple and delicious champagne cocktail. Just top your favorite sparkling with our Ruby Red Grapefruit. This recipe also works great as a punch so you can make sure the whole party has something tasty to toast at midnight.

    A ZESTY REFRESHER

    4 oz. Bloody Mary Mix + 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero + Ice + Garnish

    Leave the vodka in 2016. Try our Honey Habanero with your favorite Bloody Mary mix (our pals at Texas Beach make a great one) and garnishes for a spicy restorative tonic that will help you shine on New Year's Day.

    Better with Belle Isle: Cocktail Recipe Gift Tags

    CocktailsBrandon DayComment

    With the holidays right around the corner, there's no time like right now to pull together a great gift for your friends, loved ones, or colleagues. We're teaming up with Studio Two Three + Richmond artist Daniel Torraca to make it that much easier for you.

    Just pick up a bottle of Belle Isle Premium Moonshine and print out a cocktail recipe gift tag below. Click the tags to get a printable PDF with the full recipe.

    Big thanks to our friend Daniel Torraca and the folks at Studio Two Three for illustrating some of our favorite cocktails! Head here to check out the full zine of Daniel's illustrations with even more recipes.

     

    BELLE ISLE PREMIUM MOONSHINE


     

    Belle Isle Honey Habanero


    161004_BelleIsle_017.jpg

    Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee


    Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit

    161212_BelleIsleHoliday_023.jpg

    Behind the Bar: Kacie Shortridge / Laura Lee's

    Behind the Bar, RichmondBrandon DayComment

    Despite being a newer addition to Virginia's thriving dining scene, Laura Lee's is no spring chicken. Under ownership of restauranteur extraordinaire Kendra Feather, Laura Lee's is set to take southside Richmond by storm. While Laura Lee's summons a number of inspirations for its concept and ambiance, the real magic lies in the execution of its bar menu and offerings.

    You can thank Kacie Shortridge for Laura Lee's delightfully unique and honest cocktail menu. A veteran of another Kendra creation, the award-winning Roosevelt, Kacie brought her expertise and creativity to develop Laura Lee's bar program. In a world full of a million iterations of Manhattans, Kacie isn't afraid of being more an Uptown Girl... or an Uptown Squirrel, which coincidentally is a cocktail right off her menu.

    Tell us about yourself…

    I'm Kacie, and I head up the bar program at Laura Lee's, Kendra Feather's newest restaurant in Forest Hill.

    How long have you been bartending?

    I've been bartending for over a decade. At first, it all happened by just helping friends out that were in a bind at different dive bars here and there. Initially, I liked the money that came from it and the crazy environment that surrounded it all. Later, I found an appreciation for making a solid cocktail and expanding my knowledge of the history that comes with being a bartender.

    What’s your favorite thing to drink? Any guilty pleasure drinks?

    I love a good Negroni. They are perfectly bitter and make me feel all warm & fuzzy inside. My guilty pleasure? A Bigroni - that's a double Negroni.

    Outside of work, what do you find yourself doing?

    I spend most of my time striving to be as loving and excited about life as my dog Nico.

    Tell us about your bar… 

    The bar at Laura Lee's is very feminine and warm. That was Kendra's vision from the start, and that is what inspired me to be a part of it. She envisioned a modern-day version of the fern bar.

    For those of us who aren't so hip, what's a fern bar?

    The "fern bar" was a movement that started in the late 1960s and continued well into the 1980s. Fern bars looked like someone's living room and had a much more laid-back atmosphere than their preexisting counterparts. The standard decorations in fern bars were beautiful Tiffany lamps and, as the name suggests, live ferns. Beyond just the ambiance, the fern bar was important because, for the first time in modern American culture, women were joining men behind the bar. As a result, women slowly trickled in as customers as well.

    Why were fern bars so important in bringing women into the bar and cocktail scene? 

    Prior to the rise of fern bars, it was illegal in most states for women to bartend, and women weren't welcome in the local pubs. I used to bartend while I lived in California, where women were officially barred from "pouring whisky" as late as 1971. If women weren't barred from the bar scene legally, they were socially at least.  Once fern bars brought women in and behind the bar, the newly introduced feminine energy began to balance out the bar scene.

    Along with the change in clientele, there was an addition of new, fruity cocktails to the menu. This is where classics like the Harvey Wallbanger and the Lemon Drop originated. These new options were easier on the palate and not so boozy, and began the movement of breaking away from Prohibition Era speakeasies and the dark taverns that preceded them. Fern bars still had scotch and whiskey, but they offered a lighter alternative to drinking.

    What’s the vibe at your bar?

    Even though we are a new addition to the area, we have a lot of fantastic regulars already. We have a lot of good-looking groups of ladies coming in to grab a drink, so it's great to see the fern bar feel is thriving. And where there are good-looking ladies, the rest will follow... Seriously though, it's been great to see that our bar is a welcoming environment across the board.

    What’s the neighborhood and bar crowd like?

    I live in this neighborhood and I love it over here! There are a lot of young families and a huge artist community here that some folks don't know about. Everyone is really involved with the community and cares about what's happening. Our bar has attracted a lot of neighborhood folk who are likeminded and laid-back. They all are lovely to talk with and they have been so supportive as we settle in and get our bearings.

    Another interesting part of fern bar history - because the atmosphere of the fern bar was brighter and more welcoming, it became the first of the "neighborhood bars", where there was something for everybody. All of this history heavily inspired and influenced the program at Laura Lee's. Through the bar program, I have a little something for everyone and try my best to make the menu approachable and light.

    What’s your favorite part about working there?

    I'm happy to be a part of something new for this neighborhood. People have seemed very receptive and excited, and that makes me want to work as hard as I can to keep things fresh and interesting.

    Back to you…

    What are your thoughts as a woman working now in the modern bar and cocktail culture? Are things different?

    Women have most definitely made a strong name for themselves behind the bar, and there's no going back. In my own experience, women bring nurturing attitude and fluid energy behind the bar, more so than men alone. Of course, my absolute favorite is a mix of both masculine and feminine energies working together. When a man and woman can hold down a bar together, I feel like everyone instantly becomes more relaxed. There is something for everyone's comfort level and it eliminates that feeling of disparity between the two.

    Women patrons have also been a huge part of the current cocktail movement. Today, you'll always find women right there in line to taste the next boozy concoction you've crafted and they are more than willing to tell you if it's balanced or not. It's awesome to see women take ownership over that knowledge and to become experts in the field.

    As far as some people still living in the past, I've pretty much heard it all over the years. Sexist comments still get made and I don't think it's going away anytime soon. If it's in our society, it's going to be in our bars as well. Not too long ago, a man said to me, "You make a pretty good bourbon drink for a woman." Um... thanks?

    Not only is your cocktail program pretty fantastic - it’s also intelligent and quippy. How do you go about naming your cocktails?

    There's a few inside jokes here and there that I like to slip in, but most of the cocktails were named right before we opened the doors. I had thought about all of the cocktail recipes for so long, I forgot about actually naming them. In a delirious state, Michael Smith, the General Manager, and I named them. He has helped me ever since.

    What personality traits or skill sets make for a great bartender?

    I honestly think that a welcoming and warming smile goes a really long way, no matter what. I will still tip really well on a bad drink or slow service if the bartender has an awesome personality. When I'm behind the bar, I just try to be friendly and do my best to help them unwind. If there was one thing that I've always wanted to be better at, it would be to tell a killer joke. I just can never remember the punchlines to save my life.

    What is it like developing a cocktail program for a brand new bar?

    Developing a cocktail list for a brand new bar was intimidating and a lot of fun at the same time. I would definitely say that the hardest part of the process was not getting our ABC license until the day before we opened the doors. I had so many ideas that had to magically come together at the last minute. No sleep, lots of drinking, and nerves galore...

    Name two things that are staples found on your bar.

    Gold spray paint and Gumby. One's useful, one is for good luck.

    Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?

    My Belle Isle cocktail is called the Dirty Bird. It's a play on a drink that came out of the 70s called the Jungle Bird. Instead of using rum, I used Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee and I spiced up my simple syrup with some ginger! When I first tried it, I fell in love with it for the combination between bitter and tropical flavors.

    The Dirty Bird

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
    • 1/2 oz. Campari
    • 2 oz. pineapple juice
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1 oz. ginger simple syrup*

    Preparation:

    Shake all ingredients, strain into a hurricane glass over ice, and garnish with your choice of tropical fruit.

    Recipe by Kacie Shortridge

    *Ginger simple syrup:

    Allow 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup peeled and chopped ginger to simmer for 30 minutes, then strain.

    Photos by Joey Wharton