Belle Isle Moonshine

Replace your vodka with something better.

atlanta bars and restaurants

Behind the Bar: Mika Takahashi // High Note

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment
All photos by   Andrew Thomas Lee   .

All photos by Andrew Thomas Lee.

Atlanta’s bustling bar scene is jam-packed with every type of watering hole one can imagine. From tiki bars to speakeasies to ritzy steakhouses, there’s no shortage of talented bartenders shaking up amazing cocktails in the ATL. This amount of stiff competition can make standing out in the crowd a tough task.

High Note Rooftop Bar, along with its bubbly bartender Mika Takahashi, stands above its peers–both literally and metaphorically. Located atop the trendy Moxy Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, High Note’s quirky interior and complex-yet-accessible cocktails make the cozy rooftop bar the perfect spot to enjoy Happy Hour high above the busy city streets.

We recently chatted with Mika about getting her foot in the industry’s door, the beauty of a stiff whisky cocktail, and the importance of service with a smile. Mika also shared the recipe for her mind-blowing Blood Orange cocktail, Revenge of Fortunato.


First thing’s first, who are you?

My name is Mika, and I’m a bartender at High Note Rooftop Bar. 


How long have you been bartending?

I’ve been bartending for about eight years now.


What first got you behind the bar?

I got a bartending school brochure, like, 10 years ago. I went for a week, and it was kind of fun. I’d always been in the industry, but I never thought of myself as being a bartender, so that class kind of changed everything. 


Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

Be comfortable with jiggers. Oftentimes people think that using jiggers is kind of old school, but precise measurements to bartenders are really important. 

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Favorite drink made by someone else?

There’s a cocktail called Mudcrutch that was made by Jacob, the beverage manager here. It has a rye whiskey base, absinthe, banana liqueur, and Carpano vermouth. It was a very complex, tasty cocktail.


Favorite drink that you make?

I enjoy everything, but I like making Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Vieux Carres–the classics. 

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Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

I have a guilty pleasure for–do you remember Tequila Rose? Yeah, I love it. It tastes like a strawberry Yoo-hoo. 


If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

It would be absinthe, for sure. I like that anise smell of it, and I like the history of it. If you add one or two drops to a cocktail, it changes completely. 


What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?

Since it’s on a rooftop, it feels like you’re in the fresh air. I like the open feeling of it. Plus, I’m surrounded by great coworkers. It’s an awesome group.

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Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

Right now, we go across the street to Foxtrot after work. It’s a great bar. The bartenders are amazing, and they do a lot of classic cocktails. And Tiki Tango next door is amazing, too. 

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in your city?

I think now it’s evolving. More and more restaurants are opening every month or so. Prohibition used to be the style, then Tiki was back, and now it’s kind of more versatile. It’s not just one style. Hopefully it will just get better and better. 

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

I want to treat guests as I’d like to be treated. A warm welcome will melt the ice. 

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

I like the Blood Orange, but I love the Cold Brew!


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Ingredients:

Preparation:

Muddle one mint sprig in a shaker tin, then add all other ingredients except bitters to the tin with ice. Shake and strain into rocks glass. Pack with crushed ice, then top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Recipe courtesy of Mika Takahashi at High Note in Atlanta.

Photos by Andrew Thomas Lee.

Want more Behind the Bar?


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.

Behind the Bar: Vinnie Dugan // Seven Lamps

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment
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In the stylish Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, it can be difficult for a restaurant to stand out from the pack. Seven Lamps manages to do just that, with outstanding food, a killer atmosphere, and a cocktail menu to match.  We chatted with Vinnie Dugan, the restaurant's Beverage Director, about his inadvertent start in the industry, his hospitality widsom, and cereal-inspired cocktails (don't knock it 'til you try it). He'll also share the recipe for his spicy Honey Habanero cocktail - The Irrational


TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…

My name is Vinnie Dugan, and I’m the Beverage Director at Seven Lamps in Buckhead. I’ve been bartending for 13 years now, with the last two of them at Seven Lamps.

What first got you behind the bar?

I got pulled into the restaurant industry by my brother when I was 18. He always talked about how great the money was and how high-paced it was. Once I started in the industry, I kind of fell into bartending by accident. I was working at the Woodruff Arts Center doing event bartending, and the bartender quit at the restaurant (Twelve Eighty) so they asked me to come work.

Any pro-tips for someone starting out behind the bar?

I would suggest finding someone to study under and learn everything you can from them.  Try not to forget who you are making drinks for, and don’t be scared of making something that tastes bad. I still make things that I don’t like all the time.

Favorite drink made by someone else?

I don’t have a specific drink so much as a specific person.  Brent Hesse from Deep End is someone who I respect, and I think we have similar tastes. I always love tasting his stuff and seeing what he is doing.

Favorite drink that you make?

I’m a huge garbage person, so I love cocktails that remind me of my childhood and growing up poor in the south.  We currently have a cocktail made with Cocoa Puffs, milk, bourbon, cognac and chicory liquor called the Breakfast of Champions.  I love the way it tastes, and it immediately transports me to my childhood. It’s clever and light-hearted. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I like to think my cocktails reflect that attitude.

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

Diet Mountain Dew is the single greatest soda ever made. I love the stuff.

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If you had to pick one cocktail ingredient to use for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Sugar would probably be the one ingredient that I’d use for the rest of my life.  Sugar is such a vital part of what I do behind the bar. There’s so many different types, so many different uses, so many different flavors.  Sugar is a flavor enhancer in that when used correctly, it enhances the flavor of the other ingredients in the cocktail.

What’s your favorite part about working at your bar?

I really am blessed that I work where I do.  I have the creative freedom to pursue whatever I see fit for our beverage program.  I work under chefs Conor O’Reilly and Drew Van Leuvan, two of the most talented and creative minds in the city who are always willing to help me with ideas and techniques.  I have a truly amazing group of guests who come in just to see what I’m up to with new drinks and ideas. To pinpoint one thing that is my favorite about where I work would really be impossible.

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Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

Deep End in Atlanta is probably my favorite spot. The tacos are great and he always has cool drinks on the menu.

What’s your take on today’s cocktail culture in your city?

Atlanta’s cocktail culture has come so far in the past five years, and so many places have great cocktail programs.  Tons of new bars are popping up all over the place with really great ideas and cocktails.

Give us your golden rule when it comes to bar etiquette.

My golden rule for bar etiquette is don’t be an asshole - and that rule applies to bartenders and guests.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

My favorite way to drink Belle Isle is in a slushie - they work so well in our machine.


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**Spicy Syrup

Take two quarts of simple syrup and place in a saucepan over low heat, gently simmer 6 habanero peppers and 4 serrano peppers until wilted.  Strain the mixture and add 5 grams of habanero powder.

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero

  • ½ oz. lime juice

  • 1 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice

  • ½ oz. simple syrup

  • ½ oz. spicy syrup **

  • 1 mint sprig torn

  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Preparation:

Shake and double strain into a coupe and garnish with a slapped mint leaf.

Recipe by Vinnie Dugan.

All photos by Kate Magee


Need more cocktail inspo?


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.

Wanna Learn More About Us?

Behind the Bar: Caitlin Patterson // Wahoo! Grill

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment

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!

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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!

 

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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!

Caitlin's creation: Tropic Thunder.

Caitlin's creation: Tropic Thunder.

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?

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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.

 


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Tropic Thunder

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Combine and shake all ingredients over shaved ice in stemless goblet.

 

All Photos by Kate Magee.

 

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.

Wanna learn more about us?