Belle Isle Moonshine

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Behind the Bar: Kali Strain of Amuse

Conversation, Richmond, CocktailsElizabeth Fuqua2 Comments

Amuse Restaurant is one of many gems tucked back in the third floor of Richmond's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, overlooking the sculpture garden. This week, Amuse bar supervisor and longtime bartender, Kali Strain, shows us what happens when craft cocktails and world-class art collide. 


Interview: Kali Strain

How long have you been bartending, and where? 

Since I turned 21 - so 12 years. I started at a country club in Lynchburg where I'm from. I learned the classics there - manhattans and old fashioned - the patrons there essentially taught me. 


What makes the bar at Amuse unique?

I mean, just look at it. It's a hidden sweet spot among world class art. It's not your bar on the corner, but it's here for everyone and it's open every single day. 

Our cocktails are inspired by the exhibitions. We've been doing that for 6 years since we opened. We have this awesome inspiration to draw from and for everyone. Oh, and happy hour starts at 2:30.


What is your favorite part about being a part of the Amuse staff? 

The people I work with. We have an awesome family - a lot of people have been here since day one. People don't usually leave by choice.

The view isn't bad either - it feels very Parisian. The architectural design of the Pauley Center is actually based on 18th-century plans for the White House.


Do you have one most memorable moment?

Closing day of Picasso was slammed. Opening and closing day is always busy but that day was especially nuts. 


What is your favorite exhibit?

Lewis Galleries - Art Nouveau and Art Deco. They all have their own special qualities, own history. 


What is your guilty pleasure cocktail? 

I just went on a cruise and drank a lot of Miami Vice (half Pina Colada / half Strawberry Daiquiri) but it's probably just Jim Beam... you know, just what you started with. 


How do you come up with names for your cocktails?

We have an awesome bar team and it's always a collaboration. We come up with a bunch of cocktails, then we all throw in our two cents. We tweak them, we come up with names together - it really is a team effort. Something for everyone to feel proud of. 


Do you have a pro-tip for new or home bartenders?

Don't be afraid to ask your bartender what it is or how to do it. A good one will share.

Go in with a positive attitude and smile - you will get through the night. Once it's over, you get to sit with your comrades and enjoy one yourself. 


What’s the best food + cocktail pairing at Amuse?

Any of our champagne cocktails with our oysters or mussels. We always have a champagne cocktail on the menu since we're a day drinking spot.


What’s the question you get most often while bartending?

Why aren't you open on Saturdays? (Because we're open 365 days a year, and this year 366.)


Cocktail: Salty Belle


  • 2 1/2 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Belle Isle Moonshine
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 egg white


Shaken and sprinkled with sea salt. 

Recipe courtesy of Kali Strain


Photography by Alexander Kreher.