College town bars aren't usually well-known for their craft cocktails and inspired cuisine. Though located less than a mile from University of Georgia's campus, The Pine Food & Drink and its downstairs tavern The Root Basement Bar serve up more than your standard college fare. The Pine & The Root provide Athens residents (and students) with some of the most traditional, elevated Southern food in town. With Sarah Prestridge in charge of the bar, the cocktail menu is just as impressive. After nearly a decade tending bar, Sarah knows how to make an innovative, balanced cocktail that will impress anyone from 21 to 81. We chatted with Sarah to learn her secrets to creating the perfect cocktail, her #1 tip for bar guests, and the recipe for her bright, peppery Spiced Rose Coupe.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…
My name is Sarah Prestridge, and I’m the bar manager at The Pine Food & Drink and The Root Basement Bar in Athens, Georgia. I’ve been bartending for nine years, three of which have been at my current position.
What first got you behind the bar?
I actually stumbled into the service industry. I spontaneously moved to the beach one summer without a plan or a job. When I got there, I applied to work at an oyster bar and I started working the very next day. I learned how to wait tables, bartend, and shuck oysters in the same summer!
Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?
Connect with your customers, and remember your regulars.
Favorite drink made by someone else?
Jim Joy at Café Thirty-A in Seagrove Beach, Fl. makes the best Manhattan I have ever had.
Favorite drink that you make?
If I’m not creating my own recipes, I love making classic cocktails. They’re classic for a reason!
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
I’m a sucker for a fresh, made-from-scratch Piña Colada, but it wouldn’t be complete without a tiny umbrella.
If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?
I love the atmosphere and the close-knit neighborhood feel. New customers almost always turn into regulars.
Where do you like to stop in for a drink?
What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture?
I like that today’s culture is craft-focused. Cocktails are centered around fresh and fun ingredients that give you a sense of the bartender who made it.
Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.
For guests: Learn your bartender’s name and use it when trying to get their attention. Otherwise, choose a polite alternative. Never snap, whistle, or bang your glass on the bar.
What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?
I like to drink Belle Isle neat or on the rocks. The natural flavors and subtle complexities really come through when you enjoy a spirit by itself. The subtle warmth and vegetal notes of Belle Isle Honey Habanero inspired me to bring in bright citrus and pink peppercorns to my cocktail.
● 2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
● ¾ oz. lemon juice
● 1 oz. pink peppercorn simple syrup
● 2 dashes of lemon bitters
Put all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, strain, and garnish with ground pink peppercorns, a rose petal, and rose water spritz.
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.