Belle Isle Moonshine

Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.

Richmond

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

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

Behind the Bar: Beau Butler / Star-lite

Behind the Bar, RichmondBrandon Day1 Comment

In our line of work, we meet a wide variety of brilliant and renown bartenders, each who bring their unique talents and personalities to the table. While most bartenders we know have built their credibility and clout behind the bar, one Richmond bartender has a legacy that followed him there instead.

Enter Beau Butler, formerly known as the hype man/cheerleader of Richmond's very own Avail. And while it's been close to a decade since Avail last took the stage, Beau's magnetic energy and garnered following within the local and national punk scene hasn't faded one bit. We stopped into Star-lite, Beau's stomping grounds for the past 13 years, to hear more on how his turbulent experiences have shaped his current status as one of Richmond's most quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and beloved bartenders.

Tell us about yourself…

I’m the head bartender at Star-lite in the Fan. Back in the day, male tattooed bartenders weren’t a thing, so it took me a really long time to get behind a bar. Star-lite is the first bartending gig I’ve ever had, and I have been here 13 years. This is it, this is what I know.

What got you into bartending?

I honestly had no real interest in doing it, but I came in as a barback and that’s where you really have to bust your ass and learn things quickly. After that, it was just a natural progression of mastering one thing and moving on to learning another. As I came to find out, bartending played really well into the skills I naturally have - being able to talk with people. That’s one of the biggest parts of the job for me.

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

Drink of choice is probably Chopin vodka. I really enjoy that. The two guilty pleasure drinks come right from my dad, and they’re the worst things ever. The first is Kahlua and soda, it’s really good. And the other is Malibu and Diet Pepsi. I’ll drink the hell out of those.

Outside of work, what do you find yourself doing?

About 9 years ago, I had a kid. Since then, I’ve basically become a soccer dad. I go to hockey games, gymnastics practice, BMX races, and the list goes on. If I’m not here, I’m with my kids and wife.

Tell us about your bar…

Star-lite has changed over time, and that’s because the neighborhood has also changed in recent years - some will say for better, some will say for worse. There’s a lot more bars and restaurants around us now, so more competition for business. Bartenders don’t really see it as a competition per se. Everyone wants to have a busy night and a full bar, but not at the expense of someone else.

The drinking culture in general has changed, and that’s impacted our area. There’s less focus on “bar stars” these days. People used to go to a bar for a specific bartender they liked or that was popular - now it’s not as much that. It’s the other things a bar might offer, like drink specials or a DJ.

Who do you typically find coming in for a drink?

Star-lite’s customer base is still very neighborhood-centric. A lot of people like the fact that they can just walk right over and sit down for a drink. Tons of VCU and U of R students are in here as well. It’s not a place downtown, where you’re there to be seen, but it’s not like a deep neighborhood bar where you’ll get frowned at for not being from the area.

It’s the weirdest combination of downtown and Southside, all blended in with families in the Fan. Even my kids come in here and hang out all the time. My 4 year-old thinks scooping ice into a glass is the coolest thing in the world. Fingers crossed she like, goes to college or something, and finds some more interests.

You’ve been at Star-lite for a while now. What’s kept you here?

Consistency. The guy that hired me was really into consistency in every meaning of the word. For better or worse, I’m one of those guys who, once they get the job they want to do, I’ll keep doing it until I can no longer do the job or get fired - or hit the lottery and quit.

You know, I like to say I learned a lot by traveling around or from school, but I really didn’t. I spent my life in bars, it was always that thing you could come back to. This is what I do - it’s what I know. That little piece of consistency is cool, and it’s fun to still get to run circles around 22 year-olds. It keeps you young.

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What’s an average night for you look like?

Every night is sort of different, Mondays are typically have like a laid back, punk vibe. We’ll play like punk rock, metal, and hardcore and whatever all night. Tuesdays are crazy busy with our highball drink special, we’ve got a DJ, people dancing, that stuff. Thursdays, laid back too. And Fridays are Fridays, so you know how that goes. I definitely get to talk more trash to people on busier nights, I get to tell a lot of stories.

Now back to you - with November right around the corner, we’ve got to talk about your infamous mayoral bid. Any updates on your platform?

So here’s the thing - I was doing a lot of this in jest, but a lot of people were like “these are great ideas.” Which is crazy, because who would’ve thought banning Crocs and turning Carytown into a pedestrian-only district would resonate so much with people. Vice picked up on it, which was insane. Some random lady in Maryland from a radio station interviewed me. I don’t think it ever made it to air, because I talked a lot of trash.

Out of all the stuff I said, the funniest thing I think I proposed was doing an official campaign launch outside Star-lite, but it would be hosted by all of my stripper friends. Nothing sets the tone for a mayoral campaign like a bunch of dude and lady strippers blocking off Main Street. Granted, it never came to fruition, but there’s always another election. I thought about starting at the school board level, but I would be the guy who says the wrong thing and gets my kid kicked out of school.

Another one of your popular antics - your pre-shift Facebook posts. They’ve developed this cult following among bartenders and folks in Richmond. Where did all of that come from?

It stemmed from a few things - initially it came from my absolute disdain for people who post things like, “Hey, I’m at the back bar tonight.” or “Come visit me and say my name at the door.” Shit like that. All I could think was that if people don’t already know you’re working there, they aren’t going to come see you. If they do know you work there, that post isn’t going to make anyone want to come. Your job as a bartender is to be able to make drinks, make them quickly, and have banter. That’s where my posts came from, that extension of having banter with people.

So I started posting about who I’m working with and the drink special, but I’ll throw in whatever I want to say on top of it. It’s not something I plan out ahead, I just write something on the walk over and while I’m eating before I get behind the bar. The reason I think they got popular is because there’s always going to be that one person that says whatever they want to, whenever they want. But if they can get it to sound funny and a little insulting, that’s even better.

Not a lot of people can do that, you know, that gift of gab. Starting out here at Star-lite, I was anomaly. Here was this punk guy covered in tattoos, and no one really knew what to expect. They definitely weren’t expecting me to be as outspoken as I am. I think those posts give people a sense of who I am, and I guess they think it’s funny. It’s become a thing now - people come in, they feel like they know Beau, and they want to hang out. That goes back to the whole thing of consistency. I’ve been here forever, and people like to walk in and already know who’s going to hand them a drink.

Is that strange - to be a bartender but have an extended public persona along with it?

Yes and no. People think that they really know me, and to some extent I guess they do. I don’t change who I am when I get behind the bar and serve someone a drink. But I’m not as angry as people think I am! Do I dislike a lot of shit? Yeah… I dislike a lot of things. But am I really that angry about any of it? Not really. I’m a laid-back dude. At the end of the day, I’m just another guy propping my beach chair up with the rest of the moms on the soccer field so I can watch my kids play. I just happen to be covered in tattoos and work at a bar.

Can you share a cocktail or two with us?

I'm a simple guy. I don't mind craft cocktails, but I'm not going to wait around 20 minutes for one. A good drink is a good drink no matter what, but it's even better when you can whip it out quickly. That's the inspiration behind these two Belle Isle drinks.

The Dude Abides

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee
  • 1 oz. Milk (or cream)

Preparation:

Combine ingredients with ice, shake. and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Recipe by Beau Butler

The RVA Bloody

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Fill a pint glass with ice. Pour in Belle Isle Honey Habanero, top with Bloody Mary mix. Stir lightly, and garnish with a lime wedge.

Recipe by Beau Butler

Photos by Joey Wharton

Happy Hour with Join or Die Knives

Happy Hour With, RichmondBrandon Day

At Belle Isle Craft Spirits, we understand and uphold the value of locally sourced, individually crafted, and handmade goods. While our craft takes the form of premium moonshine, we're lucky enough to cross paths with plenty of other talented folks crafting up their own exceptional pieces and products.

Not too far from us lies Join or Die Knives' workshop, another prime example of handcrafted goods coming out of Richmond, VA. We made the short trek over to hang out with Brent Stubblefield, founder of Join or Die Knives, to learn more about the process behind his one-of-a-kind knives. Quick disclaimer: No moonshine was consumed while operating any heavy machinery.

Tell us a bit about your company…

I founded Join or Die Knives in Richmond last year. We produce a range of different handcrafted knives and similar tools. I handcraft each and every knife, but I get to seasonally employ shop helpers who are great and bring a lot to the workshop.

We take our name from Benjamin Franklin's original woodcut published in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. The message was simple: unite against a common foe or fail. Our goal is to bring back traditional skill, lore, and craft as the foundation for a new economy.

What do you do and why?

Join or Die Knives exists to provide useful, beautiful and meaningful items. We work with clients to produce knives that can be family heirlooms and gifts worthy of life events. We often use materials provided by clients because of their significance, such as wood from a family property, hunting trophies or any meaningful item. We have been able to create some truly one-of-a-kind pieces thanks to the fantastic materials provided to us.

Tell us about your space.

Our space is a shared warehouse in the Shockoe Valley of Richmond. The community environment here fosters an atmosphere of creativity and cooperation. There’s a lot of great creators here doing a wide range of things. We regularly engage with other tenants here by hosting events such as pop up shops and concerts. Although it is a world shop, we have put some personal touches to make it feel like a creative and inviting space. 

If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

 If Join or Die Knives were a cocktail, the ingredients would be equal parts tradition and modern performance with a garnish of subtle embellishment - just to make it a bit fancy.

What does your company do “off the clock?”

We are pretty involved in the Richmond music scene, ride motorcycles and are connected with our local faith community. We’ve met some great people through our community that help fuel our creativity.

The whole point of working as an independent craftsman is to fulfill this need for something more than can be found in a factory or big box store. Community is the difference between life and death for small makers, and I’m grateful to have supportive people around me.

What’s on your bar?

The small shop bar consists of the mini-fridge under the counter, which usually contains beer for after hours work and play. When we can get it, we go for a sipping bourbon and a nice pipe tobacco.

Photos by Alex Kreher

Behind the Bar: Vanna “V” Hem / Balliceaux

Behind the Bar, RichmondBrandon DayComment

While you may have found yourself wandering off the side streets of the Fan into Balliceaux for an electronica dance party, Turkish folk concert, or to check in with their running roster of Richmond DJs, the true gem hidden in this Richmond treasure is their diverse and ever-growing cocktail program.

With a bar staff as diverse and ecclectic as the patrons and décor that surrounds them, Balliceaux boasts an equally colorful bar experience. After a long day at the office, we stopped in to Balliceaux to catch up with bartender Vanna Hem, but you can call him V for short.

Tell us about yourself…

I’m a bartender and a student of the craft at Balliceaux, but you may have also seen me at Vagabond. I like to think of myself as just a panda trying to do his thing behind the bar.

I haven’t thought about this in a while, but I’ve been bartending for 12 years at this point. I started off at kind of a dive joint called the Corner Bar and Grill where I planted my roots. I bartended and managed there and went on to Can Can. I stayed on at Can Can for about 8 years and met some awesome bartenders there that made me appreciate the bar game even more so. I did a lot of cool cocktail dinners there and let my wings spread so to speak. After that, I landed at Curry Craft and Postbellum for a stint. Now being at Balliceaux and Vagabond is great. They both feel like home to me. I'm back to my cocktail roots, creating and crafting again. Feels good to have that freedom to be creative again.

How did you get into bartending?

Well, that’s a loaded question. I didn’t really get into bartending as much as I kind of fell into it. My father was a bartender when I was growing up and I swore never to be in the business. A series of events happened and I landed my first bartending gig and realized I had inherited my father’s skills behind the bar. That was it. I fell in love with being behind the bar and never looked back. 

What do you do when you’re not bartending? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?

It’s no secret that when I’m not bartending I am most certainly either reading comic books or doing something with the comic book world. I am a HUGE comic book geek. Honestly I’m just a big kid. I have taken out whole teams of people at comic book trivia by myself. I like to think that as an accomplishment. I always take off from bartending on the Thursday before a comic book movie release as well. I still do the whole midnight release thing. I love it. Besides that I’m always thinking about the next cocktail. 

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Some people might actually be real surprised that not only was a wrestler and football player but I was also a male cheerleader. Yeah, that happened. Let’s not speak of that again.

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

My favorite will always be a glass of good whiskey on the rocks. A shot of Fernet or Cynar 70. Probably both. Needless to say, my favorite classic is a Manhattan. It’s above the other classics like the Negroni or Corpse Reviver, but I still got mad love for those cocktails too. My thing has always been “to each their own” when it comes to drinks. It’s all about preferences. When no one’s looking, I will always have a piña colada. Love that stuff. I like getting caught in the rain.

Tell us about your bar… 

Balliceaux is sexy. You walk in and it’s dimly lit and the music’s just right. It’s got an almost like Chicago or Seattle feel to it. You could be one-on-one with someone at the bar or with your homies getting it in for the night. It’s great in the fact that it is so versatile.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Let’s be real. The parking around the neighborhood sucks. It’s the Fan. The neighborhood itself is quite eclectic. There are college students bustling from class to class. Then you have your young professionals in their suit and ties just trying to make it, and then you have your families just walking their dogs and hanging with their kids. It’s a great neighborhood in general. It’s beautiful to walk around.

What makes your bar unique?

The variety of the beers we always have rotating and the rotating cocktail menu. If you have trouble finding something to suit your needs our bar staff is very knowledgeable and can usually just whip something up in a whim based off of what you’re feeling at the moment. Just like our menu, we have an eclectic rotating bar staff from all walks of life. I feel it’s exciting to go in and maybe see Scott behind the bar and see what off-the-wall cocktail he’s concocting at the moment, or I can walk in on a Tuesday and turn up because I know Sarah Mullarney is there. Bottom line - we like to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

What’s your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part of the job is the freedom I have to create and freely think about cocktails. Nothing is taboo behind the bar here. The sheer amount of different people that walk through the door is amazing as well. The décor is on point. The atmosphere is totally up my alley.

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

The bar is packed. People are talking and having a good time. It’s the buzz of the room and the feel of bar being somewhere you want to be. Somewhere you belong. You walk in and the bar is where it’s at. The flow of the conversations between people is wafting around the room. People are ordering shots for their friends or just grabbing a cocktail. What ever they’re drinking, they’re enjoying it with their friends. 

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

The combination of the Russian Market cocktail with the Grilled Pork Shoulder and Cabbage Three Ways is killer. It’s the epitome of South East Asian food!

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

Yeah absolutely! This was based on my wanting to create an original tiki flip. What came out was even better than I imagined honestly. The inspiration though was from the classic ways of making old school punches. I infused coconut cream with kaffir lime leaves and then washed the Belle Isle Premium Moonshine with it. Letting it all sit for about 5 hours and then coffee straining, which leaves the moonshine imparted with the flavors without all the cloudiness and mess. It’s quite deceiving because tasting it by itself, it taste like coconut water.

Belle Vie

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. Kaffir/Coconut Cream-washed Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • 1 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao 
  • ½ oz. Lemon Juice
  • ½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur 
  • ¼ oz. Demerara Syrup
  • 1 Egg White

Preparation:

Chill a coupe glass. Combine all the ingredients, excluding the egg white, into a shaker tin. Wet shake for about 20-30 seconds. Strain the contents into a smaller shaker tin. Dump the ice. Add an egg white and dry shake for about 50-60 seconds. Empty out the chilled coupe and strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish. Voila. Water of life.

Recipe by Vanna "V" Hem

Photos by Joey Wharton

Behind the Bar: Pete Konrad / Southbound

Behind the Bar, Richmond, CocktailsBrandon Day1 Comment

If you've been in Richmond long enough, you've probably heard it called "the biggest small town you’ll ever see.” With an abundance of opportunities that exist in this vibrant community, folks have the opportunity to try new things or to become a master at their skill set. Enter Pete Konrad, the Bar Manager at Southbound, who knows a bit about just how close-knit this "big small town" seems to be and what it is like to grow alongside your community.

Pete invited us Behind the Bar for an afternoon to teach us more about his eclectic background that led him to where he is and how he is bringing his craft with cocktails to yet another beloved Richmond neighborhood.

Tell us about yourself...

I've been bartending a little over 10 years now. I started really bartending when I took a job as a bartender at Gallery 5. After about a year, Nick Crider and I built a bigger bar at the Gallery and I began taking over the duties as bar manager there.

After several years of doing that, I passed the torch on and picked up a bartending gig at Portrait House. Those couple years at Portrait House were probably some of the best times in my life and made lifelong friends while working there. From there I moved to Metzger Bar and Butchery, where my drink game went from shooters to craft cocktails. Big shout out to Kjell Anderson for teaching me the ways. Now I’m the Bar Manager of Southbound.

What do you do when you’re not bartending? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?

I enjoy home brewing, which set into motion the interest to earn my degree in Chemistry at VCU. I recently graduated this past Spring. Starting this Fall semester, I will be a teaching assistant for one of VCU’s newest courses on brewing, yeast, and fermentation. The science behind the drinks we serve is very intriguing to me. 

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I served 6 years in the Coast Guard. I also was a tower crane installer/tester for a few years. There are several other jobs I have done, but way too much to list them all. Through most of them though, I’ve always been a bartender at night.

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

My favorite thing to drink is probably a Rittenhouse rye with one big cube or an All Day IPA.  As far as classics go, I would say a Boulevardier is my favorite. Something I drink when no one's looking would be a nice Beaujolais.

Tell us about your bar… 

I would describe the atmosphere at Southbound as casual fine dining. I want people to be able to sit at the bar have a fantastic meal and try some new drinks. As a bartender, I want to know my neighborhood and I feel that this is very much the neighborhood bar of Bon Air. Our neighborhood is a pretty neat part of town. I’ve had a lot of friends move out here in recent years. I like the rural suburbia feel of it.

What makes your bar unique?

I think we have the perfect amount of variety of selections of different beverages without that feeling of being overwhelmed by choices. It's nice have a large inventory of different spirits not only for guests, but for me as a bar manager. It allows me to be creative and come up with new things all the time. I was lucky when I picked up this position to have such a wonderful staff as well.

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

A great night for me is a full bar, but not super fast-paced. I like to be able to have a conversation with someone who sits down at the bar. I also love to be able to introduce people to new things, so that takes time getting to know them and their interests.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

I personally think we have some of the best wings in town. If I were to pair it with one of my cocktails, I would pair it with the “Long Drag”.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us?

Sure thing. I've actually got two that we're serving up at Southbound.

Bobcat’s Yoohoo

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Belle isle 100 Proof
  • 1/2 oz. Champion Megalodon vinegar
  • 1 oz. Coconut milk
  • 1/4 oz. Demerara syrup

Preparation:

Shake and strain into a rocks glass with a big cube, garnish with shaved bitter chocolate bar.

Recipe by Pete Konrad


MI9

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • 3/4 oz. Cocchi Americano
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc
  • Laphroaig 10 yr. rinse

Preparation:

Rinse chilled coupe with Laphroaig 10yr. Stir and strain into rinsed coupe garnish with lemon peel.

Recipe by Pete Konrad

Photos by Joey Wharton

Happy Hour With Mother Shrub

Happy Hour With, RichmondBrandon Day4 Comments

While Belle Isle Craft Spirits traces its premium moonshine legacy back to the Civil War era, moonshine itself has a much deeper history. Dating all the way back to the early Colonial period, moonshine has always been an integral part of Virginia and American culture.

Much like moonshine, shrub (or drinking vinegars) trace their history back just as far. After running into Meredyth Archer at our local farmers' market, we learned a little more about shrub and just how closely connected the history of moonshine and shrub seem to be. We were able to spend a gorgeous afternoon outdoors for a Happy Hour with Meredyth, the founder of Mother Shrub, and learn more about the revival of some of America's earliest delicacies.

Tell us a bit about your company…

Mother Shrub was established in September of 2015, when I threw away all of my excuses. Encouraged by friends and family who were telling me to start a business, I finally listened. After a lifetime of living and working among artists – husband Fielding is a painter, furniture designer and woodworker who designed the Mother shrub label, sons Julien, Eli and Henry design, photograph, and play music – I took the skills I acquired working as a consultant to creative entrepreneurs to create and build her own business.

What is shrub?

Derived from the Arabic word sharab meaning beverage, the name shrub has evolved over the years from the very similar Turkish beverage, sherbet, to what we know today as shrub - a non-alcoholic combination of fruit, vinegar and sugar; a drinking vinegar. It was popular as a soft drink and cocktail in colonial times. Mother Shrub is a modern take on this colonial classic.

How did you first start making shrub?

While looking through a stack of old cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother, I came across a recipe for raspberry fruit vinegar. Curious, I made the vinegar and started experimenting and researching, remembering that she always drank a sweetened vinegar mixture and encouraged us to drink it too. Years and many experimental batches of shrub later, Mother Shrub was born.

We do more than make shrub. We provide the medium for people to easily become creative with what they drink. Mother Shrub is about opening someoneʼs eyes to possibility, to trying something new. Itʼs so much fun having someone try our shrubs for the first time and seeing their reaction to the unconventional taste. Lots of “wow!”

Where did the name Mother Shrub come from?

Mother has so many meanings. Vinegar is created by an organism called “the mother". I am the mother of three boys, inspired by my grandmother and always encouraged by my own mother. The name Mother just seemed fitting.

If your company were a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

Mix equal parts curiosity and approachability with a shot of irreverence. Serve over ice.

What does your company do off the clock?

We are always creating something! But we do love to take advantage of the outdoors - cycling, paddle boarding and floating down the James. Oh, and we also love sharing shrub cocktails with friends!

Whatʼs on your bar?

We have a well-stocked bar – Ruby Red, Honey Habanero and Premium Belle Isle Moonshine, vodka, gin and shrub of course! – Grapefruit, Cranberry and Black Cherry along with other flavors weʼre experimenting with.

What is your favorite Belle Isle and Mother Shrub combination right now?

Well, we have more than one!

Tart and Shiny

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • 1 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub grapefruit shrub
  • 4 oz. seltzer water

Preparation

Serve over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. For added oomph, add a splash of prosecco or cranberry shrub.

Recipe by Meredyth Archer

Moonstruck Mule

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
  • 4 oz. Ginger beer
  • 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub lime or grapefruit shrub
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Preparation:

Serve over ice in a copper mug or highball glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Recipe by Meredyth Archer

Photos by Kate Magee

Behind the Bar: Melissa McGoniagle / Can Can Brasserie

Behind the Bar, Cocktails, RichmondBrandon Day2 Comments

The famous painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec once said of the Can-can, "La vie est belle, voila le quadrille!", translating to "Life is beautiful, here comes the Can-can!" Much like the dance craze that swept France off its feet, Can Can Brasserie in the heart of Carytown has quite the following of its own.

We were lucky enough to sit down with the Melissa McGoniagle, lead bartender at Can Can Brasserie, to talk more about this Richmond classic with an Old World charm that continues to garner the love and attention of neighbors and visitors alike.

Tell us about yourself…

I'm a lead bartender at Can Can Brasserie in Carytown. I've been bartending for six super fun, interesting, enlightening years! They promote from within at Can Can, so I worked my way up from the bottom and eventually was lucky enough to have a bar spot open up. The slot I filled was actually that of Beth Dixon, who has been the bar manager over at Pasture for a while now, and has made quite a name for herself on the national cocktail scene. She was so gracious and encouraging to me when I started, its been really cool seeing how much press and recognition she has earned in the time since. 

I had some fantastic mentors here when I started, who opened my eyes to the world of classic cocktails and creative flavor combinations, and who encouraged me to experiment and really let my personality come through in my drinks and the way I relate to my guests. The Richmond bar scene is pretty insular in that a lot of people know each other from having worked together at one point or another, so it's a very supportive community. Can Can is a big restaurant with a large staff, so I have the privilege of knowing a ton of cool people around town who are now either working in other restaurants or in other facets of the food and beverage industry.

Bartending, particularly at a restaurant that draws in such a broad clientele, has also allowed me to get to know the community in a way that I might never have had the chance otherwise... people really open up to their bartender in a way they might not with coworkers or acquaintances. It has been a wonderful experience!

What do you do when you’re not bartending? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?

I teach yoga as a side gig, it is really rewarding to share something that has been so beneficial in my life with others. I'm very interested in wellness in general, and would love to eventually transition into a career helping others optimize their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Bartending might seem contrary to that, but I think providing good drinks, good company and good vibes is right in line with those ideals. It's all about balance, right? 

Beyond work, I love to be outside, being active. I love the mountains, both for hiking in the warmer months and snowboarding in the winter, and any activity on the water...one of the things I love about Richmond is the James River Park System, there are so many things to do at our fingertips! I really enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, and have recently taken up trail running, and also can frequently be found down by the river or at one of the city's many awesome parks slung up in my Eno hammock with a good book. I also started rock climbing this summer, which is super fun and challenging. I love going out with friends for a good meal... there are so many amazing options around town, I wish I had more nights free to get to them all!

Probably my favorite thing to do with friends or family is to see live music. My tastes are all over the place... I lean toward jam bands, funk, jazz, and dance music, but I truly like anything and everything if it's good. I also love to cook, mostly healthy stuff, but I have a bangin' chocolate chip/coconut/butterscotch cookie recipe that I'm happy to share, come visit! I have been known to make my own granola. Am I painting too much of a hippie dippy picture here? Haha, oh well.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

People frequently comment on me being sweet, which I wouldn't say is false. It takes a lot for me to not like someone. Basically, don't be a dick, and we'll be friends. That being said, people are surprised to find out, as they get to know me, that I have a really raunchy sense of humor. It is pretty much impossible to offend me. I will laugh at the darkest joke you've got. Unless you're a dick, of course. Then you'll get a stern look of disapproval. Probably followed by a laugh. 

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What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

Tequila is my favorite spirit, it's the easiest booze for your metabolism to work with, as long as it's 100% agave, and has as much variance and terroir as scotch. I'm really feelin' mescal right now. Los Amantes Reposado, on the rocks, with a tiny squirt of fresh lime... simple, clean, smoky, perfect. For a classic cocktail I'd say a Manhattan, up, rye, with orange bitters, skip the cherry unless someone made them with love, and not corn syrup. When no one's looking? Hmm. I don't really do many shame beverages these days, but I'd be lying if I said I'd never enjoyed a beer-mosa with PBR and OJ over ice. It's not as bad as it sounds!

Tell us about your bar… 

Can Can is one of the most beautiful bars in the city, no doubt. There's the bar itself, which is 80 feet of solid zinc, made in France, backed by a massive wall of wine and spirits. The restaurant is huge - there's three private dining rooms in the back, in addition to a full bakery, pastry kitchen, and enormous downstairs prep kitchen - but still full of character and Old World European charm. The owners took a lot of care to build out the space to look as if it had been there forever, from the molded tin ceilings, hand tiled mosaic floors, retro light fixtures and speaker boxes, all the way to subway tile bathrooms and chain-pull toilets. People have a hard time believing it was a bridal salon less than 15 years ago.

We are a full service brasserie, meaning we open early in the morning for coffee and pastry service, and stay open all day long, through lunch and dinner, to bar-only service at the end of the night. Can Can has become a destination for a very broad clientele based on this model, from business meetings over incredible pastries in the morning, to lunch with Mom, to celebratory dinners after graduations or while entertaining out of town guests, to late night drinks or again, incredible dessert after a show or on the way to or from the more raucous night spots in town.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Carytown has really blossomed over the last decade, there is something for everyone. High end clothing and gift shops, skate shops, yoga studios, a historic landmark movie theater, dozens of restaurants of all price points, including some of the best ethnic food in town, ice cream, cupcakes, vegetarian/vegan friendly, you name it. 

A lot of businesses have come and gone over the years, but there are some anchors that have kept it feeling very homey. Can Can of course, Galaxy Diner and Weezie's Kitchen across the street (you'll hardly ever go into Weezie's without seeing at least one or two Can Can employees, it's pretty much our living room), New York Deli, and Bev's Ice Cream are all standards that locals feel fondly toward while in town, and nostalgic for if they move away.

What makes your bar unique?

Can Can attracts so many different types of people, from all walks of life. It is a gorgeous space that might feel intimidating, until you realize that many "regulars" are people from the neighborhood who come to read the paper or shoot off emails in their flip flops. The point of a brasserie is to provide a high quality atmosphere and product, all day, without pretension, and I think we nail that. We can wine and dine you with the best of 'em, but we'll also remember how you like your latte and ask you about your kids.

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What’s your favorite part about working there?

The people I've met, for sure. My coworkers over the years have been some of the most interesting, talented, dynamic people I've ever come in contact with. We have a lot of fun together, which I think comes across to guests, and they appreciate that. Many of my dearest friends are from this job, and I feel super lucky to have a broad network, literally across the globe, of people I've worked with here. I also have had incredible, life-changing interactions and relationships with people on the other side of the bar, people who have provided love, humor, knowledge, friendship and opportunity, among other things. I'm super grateful for the positions I've been placed in through this job, my life is definitely richer for it. I will definitely look back on this job fondly, which is a blessing, as I spent a lot of time here!

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

A good night is one where guests are interacting with each other, soaking up the atmosphere, talking and laughing and making merry. I love when I look down the bar and don't see anyone staring at their cell phone. I am happy when people are drinking what makes them happy, but it's fun when people are adventurous and trusting enough to give me some creative liberty. I think a mark of a good bartender is being able to read a guest and make them something they'll like, off the cuff.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

There's a drink of mine from a previous cocktail list that still gets ordered often, it's called the Absinthe Presse, made with, you guessed it, absinthe, limoncello, lemon and champagne, over crushed ice. The anise and citrus components make it a really nice accompaniment for raw oysters, or, even better, the moules frites with white wine, garlic and parsley.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

My current contribution to the cocktail menu at Can Can is The Ruby Moon. It's a take on a Negroni, with a fresh, zesty twist to help beat the Virginia heat.

The Ruby Moon

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapfruit Moonshine
  • 1 oz. Aperol
  • 1 oz. Lillet Rose
  • 1 oz. white grapefruit juice

Preparation:
Stir ingredients with ice in shaker tin, strain into a rocks glass over ice, preferably a single large cube. Garnish with a large twist of grapefruit. Voila!

Recipe by Melissa McGoniagle

Photos by Joey Wharton

Behind the Bar: Lindsey Scheer / Liberty Public House

Behind the Bar, RichmondBrandon Day

Despite being a newer addition to Richmond's historic Church Hill neighborhood, Liberty Public House seems already a steadfast part of the community. The kind of place where you can enjoy a round of drinks on a Friday night, bring your whole family for dinner, or brunch with your friends, Liberty Public House is just that: public.

We stopped by and spent the afternoon with Bar Manager Lindsey Scheer to find more about her and the brilliant cocktail program she developed for this up-and-coming Church Hill watering hole.

Tell us about yourself…

I’m currently the bar manager at Liberty Public House in Church Hill. The first thing I can tell you about myself is that I hate talking about myself. Glad that’s out of the way! 

I’ve been bartending since 2007. It’s funny because I never saw myself becoming a bartender. I was 22 and working at Tower Records and spent a lot of time at Sticky Rice, and eventually, I was asked if I wanted to be their hostess. It sounded like fun, and after hosting, the natural progression is usually serving, then bartending, then managing, and that is pretty much how it all went down. My first serious bartending shifts were at The National when they first opened. I’m happy I started out in a high volume establishment where it’s, “Go, go, go!" and you learn how to multitask, move, and hustle. 

What do you do when you’re not bartending?

I have one day off a week and that’s Monday, so I spend most of that day driving around Richmond trying to find restaurants that are open.

I also run a Richmond job and housing forum called Lindsey’s List on Facebook that is about to hit 6,000 members. At some point, I became the girl who knew about all of the local industry jobs, so I started this group with hopes that I wouldn’t have to be Richmond’s unofficial career counselor anymore, but it’s actually become very time consuming! Based on the success stories and positive feedback, Lindsey’s List has grown into a super helpful resource for the city. 

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

When I was younger, I used to tour manage bands. Getting paid to see the country with your friends, eat and drink for free, and listen to music is a pretty killer job. That’s also how I met my boyfriend, so that was a cool perk too.

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking.

My desert island cocktail would definitely be a negroni, or any variation on the drink. There’s a negroni for all seasons, all moods. My favorite thing to drink when no one is looking is a piña colada. Actually, I’ll drink piña coladas while everyone is looking because I have no shame. They taste like vacationing as a kid.

Tell us about your bar…

We are a neighborhood restaurant and bar, family friendly, with a little something for every one. We have many vegan and gluten-free options. I think there was definitely room in Church Hill for a more accessible and affordable place to dine, especially with so many younger families living in the area. Even with our cocktail and beer programs, I wanted to provide drinks that were in tune with that idea. Most of our cocktails are plays on classic drinks and flavor profiles people were familiar with.

I like to work with tea in a lot in cocktails. Mistie from Carytown Teas is a dream and is always giving me new stuff to try out. I’ve made some pretty fun drinks out of her tea blends including a smokey black tea called lapsang souchong, jasmine, sassafras, and my recent favorite, coconut oolong.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Church Hill has some of the best restaurants in the city. I’m in Metzger and Union Hill possibly too much. There are so many awesome dining options up here for such a smaller neighborhood: Roosevelt, Dog & Pig Show, Alamo, Proper Pie, Dutch & Co, Stroops, and (soon to be) Nile. It’s a pretty hip neighborhood and a little older and less college/party vibe than the Fan. There are a lot of first time home owners and young families. It’s a great place for thirty-somethings. 

What’s your favorite part about working there?

For the most part I have a fairly young staff, and I’ve really enjoyed educating my front of house staff about the bar. I want everyone to be ready with answers and know what Aperol or a Berliner Weisse is.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

I make a wasabi-infused vodka that is my current obsession. Our East End Bloody Mary with wasabi vodka and Texas Beach Bloody mix paired with anything off our brunch menu is a win.

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

A good night for me is when everyone is happy. I love helping guide someone to the perfect beer, cocktail or spirit. I enjoy learning about my craft and having anecdotes about the products, ingredients, and producers to relate to my staff and guests. Everyone loves a little story and I love sharing them.

What's your process for coming up with cocktail names?

My brain is a sponge for random trivia, especially music and pop culture references, so it was natural for me to pull from these sources. All of the drinks on my current menu have music related names, whether they’re song titles or taken from lyrics. I also think it’s fun when someone realizes there’s a theme and tries to figure them all out. Our current menu includes nods to The Breeders, The Clash, New Order, Magnetic Fields, The Afghan Whigs, The Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie and even Metallica and Harry Belafonte.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

As soon as I saw the Belle Isle Ruby Red, I knew I wanted to do a play on a Hemingway Daiquiri, so I started there. Then when the name "For Whom the Belle Tolls" popped into my head, it was too perfect, too easy. So perfect, the amazing Beth Dixon from Pasture ran a special with the same idea and name!

For Whom the Belle Tolls

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • 1/2 oz. Luxardo
  • 1/2 oz. Aperol
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Preparation:

Build all ingredients in a shaker tin. Shake, then serve on the rocks with a lime wheel garnish.

Recipe by Lindsey Scheer

Photos by Kate Magee

Happy Hour With MOSAIC Catering + Events

Richmond, Conversation, Happy Hour WithBrandon Day

There's very little chance that you've been to a wedding, party, or major event on the East Coast without witnessing MOSAIC Catering + Events' magnificent work. The best part is you probably had no idea that they were the masterminds behind it all. An accumulation of over 20 years of experience combined with young creative talent, MOSAIC Catering + Events is a powerhouse in the dining and hospitality industry, and they have no problem pulling out all the stops every single time.

We spent the afternoon at MOSAIC's headquarters for a cocktail creation takeover, where their team turned into mad scientists before our eyes. Not only did we get to create some truly beautiful drinks, we also learned more about how MOSIAC Catering + Events pulls of their magnificent feats.

Tell us a bit about your company…

We’re a full-service, one-stop shop for all events, catering, design, rentals and lighting needs. The MOSIAC team team is an eclectic mix of individuals from every area of the hospitality industry. We have over 100 employees company-wide and we’re a mix of designers, thinkers, makers, creators, artists, marketers, illumineers, engineers and techies.

We were founded by Mike Holland, Laurette Garlitz, and Steven Niketas in a small café in Carytown, and since then we have been able to plant our roots into many different markets all over the East Coast.

What do you do and why?

We pride ourselves on creating truly memorable events for people, ranging anywhere from intimate luncheons to stunning weddings, from inspired theme parties to formal corporate occasions. We work at whatever end we're asked to, whether it's offering the inspiration, putting in the attention to detail, or implementing our culinary creativity to make someone's moment shine. We work hand-in-hand with people to plan their event and we see it through on time, on budget and to their complete satisfaction.

Nourishing the mind, body, and soul has always been the mission for the owners since the beginning and that focus on hospitality has never wavered. We are celebrating 20 years in business this year and even as we have been able to grow in many ways, our mission is still the same: “delivering everything out of the ordinary”!

Tell us about your space.

Our building was built in 1926 and has rich history of businesses like Pet Ice Cream and CP Dean that have operated here. We are proud to be a part of that history so it was important for us to update it as we need, but really focus on restoring everything that we could from the floors to the brick façade.

The transformation was not an easy one, but we have is an integrated facility that represents every facet of our business: food, beverage, décor, lighting, production, rentals and administration. A simple walk through the offices upstairs is one of our favorite things. Every step across the original maple & oak floors makes a beautiful creaking noise that reminds you of everyone else that has walked the halls. 

If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

We view ourselves as a layered shot of:

  • 2 parts Creativity (it drives everything that we do)
  • 1 part Tradition  (we rely on it to rein that creativity in)
  • 1 part Vision (we need the foresight to plan an event in advance and execute as if we planned it yesterday)
  • A dash of Insanity  (in the event world, something’s always going to go awry)

What does your company do “off the clock?”

Being food and beverage industry folks, our focus is always knowing what is new on the F&B scene, which means outside of our office walls we are constantly checking out the best new restaurants, bars, galleries and festivals in Richmond.  We believe emersion into anything is the best way to learn!

What’s on your bar?

We only set up bars, but there is always a good supply of Belle Isle Moonshine in our office drawers!

What's the difference in bartending and cocktail creation for events and catering versus a restaurant or bar environment?

Most of our cocktail creation is based on feedback or requests from our clients who book their events with us, so there is always a direction in which to start.  That direction may be headed up by a theme for an event, a personality of an individual or based around a company’s brand. There are very few times we do the same drink twice, so there is constant creation.

Out of all your cocktail creations from our Happy Hour together, were any voted favorites by the MOSAIC team?

Most of them were actually quite good. Some of the favorites were the Spicy Beet Margarita, the Sparking Lavender Coupe, and the Blueberry-Ginger 100 Proof Moonshine Mojito!

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Photos by Alex Kreher