Throughout Belle Isle's three years of taking you Behind the Bar, we've showcased some of the best cocktail crafters, shot slingers, and bar personalities Virginia has to offer. Now that we're expanding our reach, we wanted to offer a glimpse into the bar scenes of our new markets. First up - Atlanta!
Tucked away in Decatur, Georgia, right outside the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, is Wahoo! Grill, a beautiful neighborhood bistro surrounded by its own private garden and outdoor dining space. But beyond the amazing ambience and tasty food, Wahoo! Grill also offers an exquisite cocktail program that has something for every kind of drinker. Last month, we sat down with Caitlin Patterson, a bartender over at Wahoo! to learn more about the magic she mixes up behind the bar and taste her new, extremely refreshing Belle Isle cocktail.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…
I'm Caitlin Patterson, a bartender at Wahoo! Grill.
How long have you been bartending? What first got you behind the bar?
2 ½ years. I have always glamorized bartenders, so when the bar management team at Wahoo! offered to train me for an open position, I was all for it. I thought even if it didn't work out, I would gain drink and wine knowledge. I had been serving at the restaurant for a year, so I had the basics steps of service and food knowledge down.
I love people, drinks, and doing multiple things at once! After a handful of terrible shifts, it all clicked. I took a mental step back, looked at the entire bar and restaurant, as well as everyone's needs as a whole. Then I wanted to educate myself on cocktail history, winemaking, and how to better my bar service. The two bar managers had totally different styles of bartending, which really made me realize my strengths and weaknesses and how to make the shift my own.
What's one pro-tip for someone starting out behind the bar?
Come in with a good attitude, and be mindful of your guests. Learn to read them. Realize not everyone is at the bar for the same purpose, and you need to provide for those needs. Be one step ahead, and set yourself up to succeed confidently. And bring the hustle!
What's your favorite drink made by someone else?
My bar manager, Reggie, made a drink called "Monkey Bite" after she was literally bitten by a monkey on a vacation. It was muddled sage, blueberries, lime, agave and juniper berry-infused mezcal! So delicious.
Favorite drink that you make?
Definitely a tie between a few. Most of my drinks are created from one thought - sometimes not even a drink ingredient, but a name or a theme. This past October I came up with a drink based on edible glitter. "Black Magic" became a Halloween cocktail with black vodka, raspberry liquor, sour, edible glitter and apple syrup. After shaking and straining the glitter whirled around in the glass and was so fun.
My second favorite would be "Ray Kinsella," a drink that made our winter drink list, made with gin, lemon, cardamom, rosemary-infused agave, and aquafaba. Aquafaba is the juice and water from a can of chickpeas. It has the same foam effect as egg whites, but is so much easier to work with.
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
I love bringing layered Jell-O shots to parties, holidays, and friends' houses on that random Tuesday. I don't care how old you are - they are fun and festive!
If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Honey, as is and infused.
Tell us about Wahoo! Grill.
The guests that come to Wahoo! really make the bar. We have so many regulars that the bar team knows on such an elevated level. It's amazing. But Wahoo! is also a wedding venue and large party event space, so we are constantly having people from all over the country gather here for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and business meetings. I have gotten to meet so many different people from all walks of life.
Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
Poor Hendrix is a new neighborhood bar that is beautiful inside and out - and there are so many cute dogs on the patio all the time! My favorite drink they created is called "Cowboy Butts Drive Me Nuts" - it's hazelnut liqueur, Cynar, High West Double Rye, and a few secrets.
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture? What about the Atlanta scene makes it special?
Some people do not think this is a respected professional occupation, which can be frustrating when you have a passion and drive for it. There are also so many types of bars, bartenders, and visions of the same drink, and none of them are right or wrong.
In 2012, I took a break from college and worked in four different National Parks in four years. I got to experience all corners and crevasses of the United States, as well as the bars. From saloon to tavern, pub or club, a sense of community and history is what ATL brings to the bar scene.
Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
Please, please, please have a good attitude! I know we have a hard job, but you are the one setting the mood for yourself, the shift, and the experience your guests have.
What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
Honey Habanero Mule with lime! Any day, any season.
Want to go behind more bars?
Belle Isle Moonshine is a premium, handcrafted spirit proudly hailing from Richmond, Virginia.
We take the name Belle Isle from a small, 540-acre island located smack dab in the middle of the James River where Civil War soldiers used surplus corn rations to make moonshine in copper kettles.
Belle Isle Moonshine is distilled from 100% organic corn, grown by three family farms and responsibly sourced. Once triple-distilled, we charcoal filter Belle Isle four times over. Then, we cut it with purified water right from the James River. Our infusions are made with 100% real ingredients, never artificial flavors or color. We use real grapefruits sourced from Texas and California, local honey from the Shenandoah Valley, organic habaneros grown an hour away, and freshly roasted coffee beans from the most socially conscious roastery in Richmond, Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co.
From there, each bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine is filled, corked, labeled, and packed by hand by our Production team, who check each bottle and batch for quality assurance. Since Belle Isle is made in small batches, you can find the batch number handwritten in the bottom right corner of each bottle.
Distilled from good times and 100% organic corn.