Belle Isle Premium Moonshine

The Smoother Clear Spirit | Distilled from 100% Organic Corn

Behind the Bar: Le District // Stefan Bachvarov

Behind the BarBrandon DayComment

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

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

How long have you been bartending?

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

Favorite classic cocktail?


Favorite part about working at Le District?

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

What makes your bar unique?

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

What cocktail do you hope people ask for?

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

Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?

Honey Habanero Margarita! 

Favorite menu item + cocktail pairing?

Steak Tartare and Vieux Carre Nord.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?

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



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


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

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

Happy Hour With: Hummingbird Gardens

Cocktails, Infusions, Happy Hour WithBrandon DayComment

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

Tell us a little about your company.

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

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

How long have you been gardening?

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

What do you love most about gardening?

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

What are you growing currently?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

Home Bar: KK Harris | Richmond, VA

Home BarBrandon DayComment

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

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

What are your home bar essentials?

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

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

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

What’s your favorite thing on your bar?

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

What cocktails do make when you Entertain at home?

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


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

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

What cocktail Are you maKing today?

This recipe makes the perfect punch for a bridal shower.



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


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

Cocktail recipes by KK Harris  |  Photography by Joey Wharton

Want to be featured in our Journal?

Send us a few photos of your home bar setup at [email protected]

Party Prepped: The Halftail

Brandon DayComment

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

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

Halftail #1: The Belle Breeze

Use a funnel to keep things from getting messy.

Use a funnel to keep things from getting messy.


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

How to serve it:

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


Halftail #2: The Manchester Matador


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

How to serve it:

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


Halftail #3: The Shiny Daly



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

How to serve it:

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


Halftail #4: The Coco Latte



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

How to serve it:

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


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

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

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

Behind the BarBrandon Day2 Comments

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.


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.


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.


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


  • 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.


  • 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


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. 


    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. 


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


    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.


    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

    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

    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.


    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.


    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!



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

    • ¼ oz. lemon juice

    • 4 oz. sparkling wine


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



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


    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



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


    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.