Belle Isle Moonshine

Replace your vodka with something better.

pittsburgh craft cocktails

Behind the Bar: Shane Morrison // Acacia

Behind the BarStephanie StantonComment
All photos by  Alyssa Allworth .

All photos by Alyssa Allworth.

You might miss Acacia if you weren’t paying attention. Located on Pittsburgh’s busy East Carson street, the cozy cocktail bar keeps a low profile with boarded-up windows and a small, nearly imperceptible sign. This hidden storefront may bring to mind an air of exclusivity or snobbery, much like the craze of fancy speakeasies that rose in popularity a few years back. Instead, Acacia manages to be welcoming and unpretentious while still serving some of the most best cocktails in the city.

Bar Manager Shane Morrison helps cultivate that approachable, “neighborhood haunt” atmosphere while creating cocktails that would impress any craft aficionado. With an expansive spirits selection (especially that mezcal shelf!), a variety of housemade potions and tinctures, warm welcomes, and a super intimate interior, Acacia takes all pretense out of the craft cocktail bar.

We recently spoke with Shane about his beginnings in the industry, his guilty pleasure drinks (hello, PBR Hard Coffee), and the burgeoning cocktail scene in Pittsburgh. He also shared two fantastic cocktail recipes using our Honey Habanero and 100 Proof moonshines.


First thing’s first, who are you?

My name is Shane Morrison, and I’m the bar manager at Acacia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

How long have you been bartending?

I’ve been bartending for about 15 years.


What first got you behind the bar?

I liked the creativity aspect of it. I was serving at a place, and they offered me a job behind the bar. I had the opportunity to make more money–and money’s good–so I took the opportunity to get behind the bar and start making drinks.

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

Absolutely. Be a sponge, and learn as much as you can. Get in with someone good who really knows what they’re doing. Walk before you run, and before you walk, crawl. Don’t overextend yourself by trying to get too fancy with things. Understand the fundamentals, the basics, the classics, and why they’re done a certain way, and why they’ve been done that way for 150, 200 years.

Favorite drink made by someone else?

My buddy Sean Enright has a tiki-style drink on the menu at Spork . It’s called Galeophobia–it’s Maggie’s Farm 50/50 dark rum, which is a local distillery, a little orgeat, citrus blend, and a toasted macadamia liqueur. It’s just absolutely fantastic. He serves it in a big shark glass. It’s a lot of fun to drink, and it’s really well put together.

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Favorite drink that you make?

That’s a loaded question. I think bartenders, in general, hate that question. People say all the time, “Make me what you drink.” Well, why would you want what I drink? My favorite drink is going to be the one that keeps you coming back. Whether it’s something rum-based, mezcal-based, moonshine-based, bourbon-based–I want you to have the experience. It’s not about me, behind the bar, what I drink. It’s more about what the guest wants at that particular time.


Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

I didn’t want to love it, but the PBR Hard Coffee is so delicious.

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

It would have to be mezcal. I love mezcal. I love the diversity of it. The single village stuff and the boutique stuff–it’s all really unique, and it’s all really different. Every time I taste something new it gives me a new perspective on the spirit.

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

Honestly, the people who work here. I know that sounds cliché, but we have some really good people. We have a lot of fun here. The guests, definitely, as well. We have really great support from our regulars, as well as the local community.


What makes your bar unique?

I think it it’s approachable. We serve a high-end product in a comfortable atmosphere. We don’t compromise our standards, but we do it in a way that’s not pretentious.

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

It depends on the night. Wednesdays I’ll definitely go to Tiki Lounge and have a guilty pleasure piña colada. Hidden Harbor in Squirrel Hill–Max is doing some really amazing tiki stuff up there. That guy is super talented. I love going to Spork to see Sean. Lorelei is doing some really great work here. Cecil is absolutely fantastic there as well.

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

It’s definitely exploded over the last decade. It’s hard because Pittsburgh is a small market. I think some people are getting a little ahead of themselves. There’s only so many people to work. Again, it’s the “walk before you run” thing. But all in all, Pittsburgh is really doing some great work. There are some really talented people here. We have a tight-knit community, and everybody is really supportive of each other. I think that’s the best aspect of it.

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

One thing I tell everyone here on staff is to greet the guest as soon as they come in the door. Say hi, and give them a warm greeting, because A) it makes them feel welcome and B) when you’re in the weeds and making eight or nine cocktails at the time, the fact that you’ve acknowledged the guest’s presence can buy you some time. They’ll be a little bit more patient with you that way.


What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

Coffee in my coffee. I also like the Honey Habanero, equal parts with some grapefruit and a pinch of salt. It’s like a spicy Salty Dog.


Zig-A-Zig Ah

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Roll (don’t strain) into a rocks glass and garnish with a mint sprig.




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Steal My Moonshine

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Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle 100 Proof

  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice

  • ½ oz. rosemary syrup

  • 3 drops homemade black pepper tincture**

  • 6 drops homemade charred rosemary tincture

Preparation:

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake and double-strain into a coupe glass and garnish with 2 drops of charred rosemary tincture.


**Click here for tips on creating your own tinctures!

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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: Kimber Weissert // Butcher and the Rye

Behind the BarBICS AdminComment
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Smack dab in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, Butcher and the Rye is serving up some of the best food Steel City has to offer.  Its two-time James Beard Semifinalist bar program (and its mind-boggling wall of nearly 700 whiskeys) is just as outstanding. We chatted with Kimber Weissert, the restaurant's Beverage Director, about her bartending philosophy, her drinking habits, and Pittsburgh's burgeoning cocktail scene. She'll also share her recipe for the dangerously delicious Pomelo en Fuego

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF…

I'm Kimber Weissert, Beverage Director for Butcher and the Rye, täkō, and Pork & Beans in Pittsburgh. 

How long have you been bartending?

I have been at Butcher and the Rye for a bit over a year and a half, and I have been bartending a little over 10 years.

What first got you Behind the Bar?

I was working in Cleveland, Ohio, as a talent buyer for a concert venue called Peabody’s. I’d always been interested in learning to bartend and told them I would love to help out sometime. My first night behind the bar happened quickly. About an hour before a sold out show, they taught me to make a Long Island, a Lake Erie (house shot), and a Washington Apple…and told me good luck. It was an insane night that somehow made me fall in love with the bar business.  I’ve come a long way since then.

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

Keep your eyes and ears open.  Learn from your fellow bartenders, and read! If you want to be a career bartender, continued learning is key. I learned so much on the job from other bartenders I worked with over the years, and some of them truly helped make me the bartender I am today.

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What's your favorite drink made by someone else?

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This is such a hard one! I’ll have to say a well-made Manhattan is one of my favorite drinks to get from a fellow bartender. It shows me their chops!

Favorite drink that you make?

I don’t have a favorite drink to make. I like making any drink that is going to make someone smile and enjoy.

 

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

No guilty pleasures…I drink what I drink with no shame. Give me a PBR and a shot of Old Grand-Dad and I am a happy woman.

 

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

Whiskey – because there are so many options!

 

What’s your favorite part about working at Butcher and the Rye?

My favorite thing about working at Butcher and the Rye is my coworkers – they kick ass, plain and simple. We work hard, we have fun, we get mad at each other, but at the end of the night these are the people I see more than my family…and really are my second family. I love them!

Where do you like to stop in for a drink?

One of my favorite places to go to is Hidden Harbor. I am a sucker for an awesome Tiki drink, and they do it so well!

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

I think Pittsburgh has an amazing cocktail culture. There are many great mainstay bars and many more opening. We have great talent and an awesome, supportive community. We have a lot of creative bartenders that are starting to get some recognition in the cocktail world and I think you’re going to hear a lot more about the cocktail scene here in Pittsburgh over the next few years.

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

The golden rule for bartenders is to treat every guest like they are a guest in your home.

My philosophy behind the bar is simple. Make it fun! Guests should always feel welcome and never intimidated at the bar. When you work in front of a wall of almost 700 whiskies, which I do, the choices in front of someone new can be overwhelming. My goal is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable to order what they enjoy, whether it be an awesome whiskey, a cosmo, or maybe even a Pomelo En Fuego. A night out for drinks should be fun!

 

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle?

A shot of the Cold Brew Coffee moonshine all by itself…it’s so good!


 

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Pomelo En Fuego

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit

  • ½ oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero

  • ½ oz. Agave

  • ¾ oz. Lime Juice

  • 4 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Shrub

  • 1 inch piece of cucumber cut into smaller pieces to muddle

Preparation:

Add agave, lime, and cucumber to shaker.  Muddle Cucumber. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and double strain into prepared rocks glass with a ribbon of cucumber spiraled along inside of glass and ice.  Garnish with pickled habanero.

 

Recipe by Kimber Weissert.

All photos by Joey Wharton


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.

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