Contrary to popular opinion, we believe that one of the best times to party on a rooftop is at the end of summer, just as the weather starts to cool down. It looks like that season has finally arrived, and just in time to celebrate Virginia Spirits Month too!
That's why we decided to stop by one of our favorite rooftop bars, Supper Southern Morsels in Norfolk, VA to visit our friend and Bar Manager Brandice Courtney. Not only did she give us some great insight to her bar beliefs and background, she also hooked us up with their new Belle Isle cocktail on tap. And in case you were wondering, yes - it was perfect!
First thing’s first, who are you?
I'm Brandice Courtney and I'm the Bar Manager, Wine Coordinator, and FOH Manager at Supper Southern Morsels.
That's quite the lineup! How long have you been bartending?
Just over a year now here at Supper. I have been bartending for 3 years total, but this is definitely the first "craft" - and non-speed-bar - restaurant I've ever been a part of. The first few months were overwhelming, as my bar trainers pushed me hard and we are slammed in the summertime, especially with our rooftop bar.
So what first got you behind the bar?
Sometimes my ability to catch on quickly and perseverance for taking on any challenge in my sight takes me unexpected places, and that's basically how I ended up behind the bar. And that same trait is what took me from bartending to managing. I'm proud of the skillset that has gotten me this far. As a lot of people can attest, the flow of a restaurant is not exactly for everyone.
Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Don't be afraid to get rough with the utensils. In training new bartenders, I just want them to get down and dirty with slinging bottles and not be afraid to bruise mint with a hard hand-clap and vigorously dash some bitters. Also, I'm always telling bartenders: TASTE EVERYTHING. You should always know what you're handing someone.
Beyond that, it's all about your mentality. I try to instill in my peers the general rule that the guest is your number one priority. In this business, I think it's easy to get caught up in making sure you are fast and forget the body in the bar stool is a person and not just a tip. You can go a whole shift just getting by, or you can walk away knowing you made someone smile, you gave someone the most unique Manhattan they've ever had, etc. Just be a good person.
Favorite drink made by someone else?
My old colleague Patrick introduced me to a Manhattan with Carpano Antica and black walnut bitters. It's my go-to in the chilly months.
Favorite drink that you make?
Honestly, tequila needs more love and attention y"all! Here's my go-to: 2 oz. blanco tequila, 1.5 oz. lime juice, 0.5 oz. agave, and a muddled fresno pepper slice, shaken hard and strained. So refreshing.
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
A nice Grenache-based rosé.
If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Bulleit Bourbon 10-year.
What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
The immense freedom in what we can bring into our bar - fruit, bitters, spirits, herbs (we grow our own mint, rosemary, basil, dill) and the tools we have - CO2 infusing siphons, immersion blenders, cocktail smoker, etc. As if a bartender and a scientist collaborated, we have our own laboratory.
Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
My couch? Just kidding... I really love our sister restaurant, Public House! Dark-lit, smoking and pool room, arcade machines (GALAGA!) and a couple of the most impressively knowledgeable bartenders I have the privilege to be acquainted with.
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better. Again, tequila! It's making a comeback in the craft cocktail scene, as it is more versatile than most perceive it to be. I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request.
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
I'm happy to see food culture's farm-to-table prevalence seeping into cocktail culture. The more ingredients at hand, the better.
I will say, canned and bottled cocktails always have and always will irk me. I'm old-school and love the building of a cocktail upon request.
Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
For bartenders: Practice, taste, practice, taste, SLEEP!
For guests: "I want something fun," is not a cocktail. I'm just sayin'...
What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
My forte is floral and herbal. The Belle Isle Black Label seems to especially open up floral flavors and balances well with the spice of Fentiman's ginger beer. I also really love the combination or rosemary and citrus in our Belle Isle cocktail on tap.
Combine ingredients in a tin with ice, shake, then strain into a glass over fresh ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.
- 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
- ¾ oz. spiced orange syrup
- splash of pomegranate juice
- sprig of rosemary
Photos by Joey Wharton Photography