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Belle Isle Moonshine Celebrates International Women's Day: Conversations with a Few of our Favorite Ladies

ConversationStephanie StantonComment
Who run the world?    From top-left: Elisabeth Edelman, Jenna Serafine, Kate Magee, Micah Davenport, Kristin Otto, Lauren Brewer.

Who run the world?

From top-left: Elisabeth Edelman, Jenna Serafine, Kate Magee, Micah Davenport, Kristin Otto, Lauren Brewer.

We’re lucky enough to work closely with some truly inspiring women here at Belle Isle Moonshine. In honor of #internationalwomensday, we want to acknowledge a few of the women that hustle hard to make, sell, and promote our spirit. We recently chatted with a few of the women who run the (‘shine) world–from distribution, to public relations, to photography. Read on to hear these powerful ladies get super real about everything from Imposter Syndrome to self-care to Beyoncé.


Elisabeth Edelman

Richmond, VA

Founder // Golden Word

Who are some of your lady heroes?

I thought a lot about this question–running through different authors, actresses, and political figures. Ultimately for me, it came down to two people: my mom and my sister. They’re the ones who have had the biggest impact on me.

My mom was an entrepreneur as well. She had her own French language school, so she was always working as I was growing up. It was a big opportunity for me to see what running your own business looked like. I think she gave me this entrepreneurial spirit and desire to go out on my own. My sister works and has two children, and she never complains. She makes it look relatively easy, but I know she’s really hustling to get it all done. She’s the one person I know who boldly goes after what she wants and cuts out everything else.

What was it like starting your own business?

Starting my own business was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. When I first started, it was fairly easy to get business–which I think was a result of having established really deep relationships in the market–but there were pieces that were much harder. Trying to sustain and keep up with growth was extremely challenging. It’s a good problem, but it was also one that I needed to deal with. So in some regards so much easier than I thought, and in some so much harder.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Ten years ago I was living in New York City and had started my own company. I was very young, and I was working my butt off. Looking back, if I could give myself one piece of advice, it would have been to go to the gym. At the time, I thought working out would take away from my energy, but in reality it probably would have helped my mood and given me an outlet to take care of myself. If I had done a little more prioritizing of myself, I could have sustained that lifestyle longer and just been healthier.


Elisabeth Edelman was photographed at her home by Kate Magee. She founded golden word, a boutique pr firm, in 2016. Follow Golden Word’s happenings on Instagram @goldenwordco!


Kate Magee

Richmond, Virginia

Photographer // Kate Magee Photography

What do you love most about photography?

I love that I get to interact with so many different people. I know it sounds really cliche, but I love hearing different people’s stories. Whether it’s a product that they’ve created or I’m documenting someone’s story overseas, you have to get really personal and build trust with the subjects you’re photographing.  Someone has to trust you enough to hand their product over to you and know that you’re going to do a good job documenting it just as much as someone whose home was destroyed by a hurricane at a refugee camp has to trust that you’re going to do a good job telling their story to others without exploiting them. Photography makes you ask a lot of questions and dig deep into understanding the person, their passion, and their pain, and then translate that into a photograph.

How did you make the decision to go into business for yourself?

I wish I had a really good answer! This is what I always wanted to do, but it kind of just fell into my lap. I moved overseas first to do graphic design for a mission agency, and they asked me to do photography as well. I said I could take photos, but I really didn’t know what I was doing. They then wrote to me and said I was the new Director of Photography. I had no idea what I was doing, and it just took a lot of patience to start cultivating my eye and start learning the skill of photography. I moved to Richmond in 2010 and worked for a photographer as his intern, which turned into an associate position. About a year after that, I moved out on my own and started doing my own business. It’s nothing I really set out to do, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

Who are some of your lady heroes? Why?

This is a very intimidating question, because there are a lot to look up to. I started thinking about who are the women whose stories have really stuck with me. One is Irena Sendler, who was recognized for saving more than 2,500 children during World War II. She took them out of camps and risked her own safety for them. Also Harriet Tubman and Corrie ten Boom! The women I look up to the most are the ones who put the safety of others in front of their own safety. They risk all for the greater good of other people. Now in our culture we’re kind of all about ourselves, and I just really appreciate hearing these stories of women who weren’t in it for fame. They just knew it was the right thing to do.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Have more courage. I used to think that being courageous was not being afraid of anything.  I’ve learned that it’s actually being fearful of something–whether that’s success or documenting a story in a war zone–it’s okay to be afraid. I think of all the roadblocks I’ve come across–anything from how I’m going to pay my taxes that year, to having a client I’m really nervous about producing work for, to driving through live landmine fields for a job–whatever it is, it’s okay to be afraid, but you have to push past that.

Also, because photography kind of fell into my lap–and I had the eye for it, but not necessarily the mechanics of working my camera–I’ve carried around an Imposter Syndrome for a while. You know, what if someone’s going to find out that I don’t know what I’m doing? Obviously, I do know what I’m doing, and I’d like to tell myself 10 years ago to stop listening to that voice that tells you you don’t know what you’re doing.

What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail?

It’s in the summer on the rooftop at The Graduate: they have a frosé, and I put a shot of Honey Habanero in it.


Kate Magee was photographed at The Broad by Joey Wharton. Check out her photography at, or on Instagram @katemagee and @katemageephotography.


Lauren Brewer

Atlanta, Georgia

Director of On-Premise Spirits // Georgia Crown Distributing

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

Being a strong woman to me means that I am unapologetically myself. It means that I support other women, and that I have the courage to take chances and risks. It means being kind while standing up for my convictions.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

There are so many. My mother is one. She went to college while raising two strong-willed kids. Michelle Obama feels like a given, too–but I’m saying Beyoncé! She stands up for people that don’t have a voice for themselves. She fights for what she believes in, and on top of all of that, her music makes me feel motivated!

What’s it like being a woman in the male dominated liquor industry?

It’s always an adventure! Most of the time it’s not something I think about, but other times it’s glaringly obvious. There have been times I have been told to temper my opinions or not be so forward. I know that would not be the case if I was a man. For a time, I did that, but at some point I realized that is not who I am.

Sometimes my forward personality has led to me being called a bitch, and I’ve decided that I’m comfortable with that.

What was your first job? Do you think it led you to where you are today?

I was an alcohol and drug counselor, and it absolutely did. It gave me a keen understanding of personality and what drives people.

What’s your favorite way to drink Belle Isle Moonshine?

100 Proof Dirty Martini!

Lauren Brewer lives in Atlanta with her family. Learn more about Georgia Crown Distributing Co. here!


Micah Davenport

Richmond, Virginia

Belle Isle Brand Ambassador & graduate student at VCU’s Brandcenter

As a woman just starting out in your career, why did you want to pursue advertising?

I think advertising has an incredible opportunity to set the tone and start the conversation of important topics. I want to be a catalyst for making things people want to see and helping move along important conversations.

Do you see your intended industry changing for women? Why or why not?

I hope so! Advertising was kind of known as a boys’ club, and I think that’s changed a lot from the past 10 or 20 years to now. I think it’s going to continue to change with more diversity and more women of color hopefully taking larger roles in advertising.  It’s important to have people with different opinions and experiences at the table to push that messaging forward.

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

I think being a strong woman is being at a table with a lot of different people and realizing that your opinion matters just as much as everybody else’s. That’s hard to do a lot of times, because it’s easy to believe that you’re small–and you’re not.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

Caroline Robinson Jones was one of the first black women in advertising who was able to take a VP role at an agency. She started a lot of agencies that marketed, not only to minorities, but created messaging that made sense for everybody. She was one of the trailblazers for marketing and advertising being more about emotions. I think you always have to be grateful for the people who go before you and pave the way for, like, me to even want to be in this industry and have the opportunity to be.

What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail?

I got this one! The Spicy Gentleman. I think [Belle Isle Community Manager] Robert called it this because we were serving them at a Derby Day event. It has Honey Habanero, which is my favorite, honey simple syrup, and a little bit of lemon juice. It’s simple, but it’s the perfect drink.


photos of micah by kate magee.

Check for Micah serving cocktails at various Belle Isle events around Richmond or modeling our t-shirts on social media. When she’s not slinging ‘shine, Micah is busy pursuing a degree in Brand Strategy at VCU’s prestigious Brandcenter.

Jenna Serafine head shot.jpg

Jenna Serafine

Rochester, New York

Wine & Spirits Brand Manager // Lake Beverage

What does being a strong woman mean to you?

Being a strong woman to me means you are not afraid to show your emotions and use those feelings to connect with peers on a more personal level. Strong women are independent and organized, and they use those skills to set and achieve goals. I also think that strong women do not need to be surrounded by large amounts of people. They shine best when surrounded with a handful of friends or peers that support and guide them to success. We stay true to ourselves and do not try and transform to fit who we think we are supposed to be.

Who are some of your lady heroes?

Both Taylor Swift and Tory Burch. Taylor Swift has always provided positive messages and inspiration through her songs and lyrics. She uses her platform to lift up her fans and give positive reinforcement that it’s all going to be okay. Even in my late 20s, I still use her words as encouragement and inspiration to wave at the haters and focus on my own self.

Tory Burch is not only one of my favorite fashion icons, but she’s also an amazing representative for female entrepreneurs. Tory saw firsthand the challenges and difficulties of becoming a female entrepreneur and started a foundation to help provide resources for future female entrepreneurs to utilize. The Foundation Fellows Program gives women an outlet to pitch their ideas to a panel (including Tory) with one winner receiving a grant investment. She also offers seminars to her Fellows that offer guidance and advice on growing a social media presence, finance, and their companies. She is more than just pretty shoes and beautiful handbags!

What’s it like being a woman in the male-dominated liquor business? 

We can also throw young in there! I was only 24 when I started at Lake Beverage in the current role I am still in today. Although it has grown drastically, six years ago this was still a brand new division with new items no one had sold before. Within my own company, I had to quickly show independence and learn an entire side of business I have never worked in before so I could gain the trust of my fellow co-workers and employees. That meant some self-educating and a little trial and error.

I think that our industry still thinks of females in the liquor business as “shot girls” at promotions. They forget that we can also grow share, manage brands, make deliveries, carry our own sample bottles into accounts, and give valid advice to help others grow their business. It all comes down to trust and making my employees, co-workers, bosses, and accounts trust me.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be? 

It’s okay to have a plan, but let it also be okay if the plan strays slightly off path. You can only control so much.

What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?

Lake Beverage started selling wine and liquor [in addition to beer] seven years ago, and I started with Lake Beverage six years ago. In that short period of time, I helped to grow my portion of the business to represent 3% of our total company. That’s pretty dang cool!

When Jenna isn’t dominating the Upstate NY beverage scene, she likes to relax at home with her husband and dog. Check out the great work she does with Lake Beverage!


Kristin Otto

Baltimore, Maryland

Area Sales Manager // Belle Isle Moonshine

You’re the only Belle Isle employee we’re interviewing–and you were one of the first women at the company! Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for Belle Isle. 

Wow, I feel so honored! I'm from Baltimore. I have a Cavapoo named Bixby–who is the cutest dog in the world–and I love to travel. I've worked in the liquor industry since I was 22–so, 16 years now. I started as a promotional model and am now working for Belle Isle as the Area Sales Manager for Maryland, D.C., and soon-to-be Delaware. 

What’s a typical day like for you? 
There is no such thing as a typical day in the liquor industry! You plan your day, then a call comes in that completely changes everything. You have to be able to adjust and go with it. Since we are a new product, there are a lot of account visits–both to new accounts to taste them on our products and existing accounts to show them some love and keep them happy. Really, all day, everyday, I'm educating people on what moonshine is, to not be scared of it, and why they should be drinking us over their typical vodka. 

The liquor business can be pretty crazy. What’s your favorite thing about working in the industry?
First and foremost, the relationships that I get to build with my accounts, my distributor, and my coworkers. Secondly, the creativity it allows me to have in figuring out how to get the brand out there and pulled off shelves. Plus, it's fun! It really is a fun industry. Does it have its moments like all jobs? Of course. But what other job can you go to accounts, hang out with people, and taste them on cocktails! 

What does being a strong woman mean to you?
A strong woman has her shit together, is independent, doesn't rely on anyone but herself, goes after what she wants, is not afraid to fail, is confident, and is kind. A strong woman knows she's fabulous and doesn't need to put anyone down to feel better about herself. 

Who are some women who inspire you? Why?
Well, my cousin for sure. She is a very strong, independent woman who has taught me everything I need to know about the sales industry, relationships, and life in general. I am so blessed to have her in my life giving me advice. Secondly, all the women out there who have been dealt a hard hand in life–whether it be sickness, an accident, bad relationships, a loss–and are overcoming it and come out stronger in the end because of it. I admire people who have a great outlook on life, even after life's been tough on them. 

What’s the hardest thing about being a woman in such a typically male-dominated field?

Really, I've been blessed with the jobs and co-workers I've had. Most have treated me with respect and as an equal. Unfortunately, not all women in this field have been so lucky; however, it is really starting to not be so male-dominated. I actually think Belle Isle now has more female employees than male. 

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would it be?

Don't underestimate your talent and creativity, and be more confident in getting what you want in life and career. And, for goodness sake, who cares what people think of you? I'm still working on listening to this advice, but I would give it to younger me. 

What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
Well, I just won a Team Leadership award at Belle Isle! I've never won a work award, so I'm pretty proud of that. Outside of work, buying my house was a very proud moment for me.

What’s your favorite Belle Isle cocktail? 
Where to start? Okay, so I'm on a diet and so right now, and I've been drinking Belle Isle Black Label with water and a squeeze of lemon and lime. I like it better than vodka, because when you mix it with water it literally tastes like water–no vodka after-bite. When I'm not on a diet, I love a skinny Grapefruit Crush, or a sweet and spicy Bloody Mary with Honey Habanero. Also, Circa in DC makes an awesome Purple Rain cocktail with the Honey Hab and a blueberry jalapeño shrub. And Wayward Smokehouse's Spiked Chocolate Milk with our Cold Brew Coffee!


Kristin Otto lives in Baltimore with her Cavapoo, Bixby. You can usually find her slinging ‘shine in one of our awesome accounts in Maryland or D.C.

we want to say a huge “thank you” to all the women who participated in this story!

happy international women’s day!

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.

Curated Wedding cocktails with Roberts and Co. Events // Part 1

Conversation, Belle Isle Explore Series, CocktailsBICS AdminComment

Want the bar at your wedding to offer something more interesting than light beer and watered-down rum and cokes? Your cocktail menu should make you feel as special as everything else on your wedding day, and Bryce Carson from Roberts and Co. Events is here to show you how to make that happen! With some help from the Good Times Experts here at Belle Isle Moonshine, you and your significant other can choose personalized cocktails that really say something about yourselves and your love. 

Cocktails make the heart grow fonder.  All photos by     Alyse Michelle Images   .

Cocktails make the heart grow fonder. All photos by Alyse Michelle Images.

In the seven years since I started planning weddings, they have become more lavish, more expensive, and more competitive. As couples jump into the planning process, they look to Pinterest, magazines, and past weddings they have been to for inspiration. This is where, as a wedding planner and designer, I step in and say, "stop"! I love these sources for inspiration, but if my couples cannot tell me how we can relate this to their personal story, then maybe we shouldn't do it.

Belle Isle's cocktail curators, Erica and Von.

Belle Isle's cocktail curators, Erica and Von.

I believe in creating and designing a personalized experience for my clients. Your groom is from Western Pennsylvania? Awesome! Have a cookie table. Your bride spent her childhood in Scotland? Work some thistle into her bouquet. Weddings are about telling the story of your past and giving a hint to your future.

I am so happy I have been able to partner with Belle Isle Moonshine on creating one of a kind experiences for my clients. So often the bar menu at a wedding is overlooked. In the final months of planning, clients will run to the liquor store to buy a mix of spirits and hope they have enough. Well, now Belle Isle Moonshine is offering a program that lets clients personalize their bar menu with the same level of detail that went into designing their wedding cake and floral arrangements. 

Belle Isle Moonshine partners with wedding planners to bring in their clients for a private cocktail tasting. I brought in Adrian and Brian for a tasting for their upcoming Spring 2018 wedding. Erica and Von created six craft cocktails based on a survey of my clients' preferences, wedding theme, and unique requests (beer cocktails). The results were nothing short of perfection, and luckily the talented Alyse Michelle Images was there to capture the experience. 


One of the big winners, the Pipeline Painkiller.

One of the big winners, the Pipeline Painkiller.

Adrian and Brian are fun, quirky, and looking to throw a wedding to be remembered. With funky centerpieces containing citrus fruits and a family-style BBQ and taco bar, they are looking to seamlessly blend their signature style across their entire wedding day. Adrian fell in love with the Pipeline Painkiller, a mix of Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee, pineapple, and citrus. This drink packs enough punch to liven up the dance floor, but also look stunning on her tables. Brian's choice, the Belle's Eye, will be the perfect compliment to the tacos and BBQ, mixing Belle Isle Black Label, Coors Light and ginger beer. 


The tasting process is so fun and easy. Adrian and Brian were able to start off by tasting each moonshine on its own and then moved to their six signature cocktail choices. Von showed us exactly how to present each cocktail, from the proper glassware to the perfect garnish. Erica provided us with a cocktail calculator to make the trip to grocery and liquor stores a breeze after getting final guest counts. 


With their signature cocktails selected, Adrian and Brian were able to check one more task off their wedding to-do list. Not only did they leave feeling accomplished, but they know they are going to have something their guests have never experienced before.

Stay tuned for Part ii in May to see it all come together, with another cocktail surprise for the couple's guests!  



Bryce Carson is a Washington D.C. and Richmond-based wedding planner with Roberts & Co. Events.  He specializes in creating unique and personalized events tailored to each couple. Follow him on Instagram @brycetcarson, and follow Roberts and Co. @robertsandco

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?

Party Prepped: Valentine's Day

Cocktails, ConversationBICS Admin3 Comments

Tired of crowded restaurants and expensive prix fixe menus? Celebrate Valentine's Day in style this year from the comfort of home! We called on our good friend and party maven Erica Key, of the award-winning blog Eating with Erica, to show us how to plan an amazing Valentine's Day dinner that your significant other (or BFF) will never forget!


Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays!  Who doesn’t love a reason to celebrate love? 

*raises hand*  

See more of Erica's recipes and party plans on her amazing blog,    Eating with Erica   !

See more of Erica's recipes and party plans on her amazing blog, Eating with Erica!

I do!  It’s the one day out of the year that your significant other has to be chivalrous and is obligated to put forth an effort to be romantic.  Over the years, I have preferred to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home, for a number of reasons. 

1) It’s less of a headache than dealing with large crowds in restaurants.

2) It’s cost-effective. 

3) It's more intimate.  And last, but not least...

4) It’s a chance to blow your significant other's socks off by creating a new recipe.  


When creating a menu for a special holiday, simplicity is best!  I suggest creating a meal that you're comfortable preparing; that way, you don’t have to stress, especially if you aren’t the best cook.  We don’t need any Pinterest fails. 

This year for Valentine's Day, I was feeling fancy.  I created a three-course meal for my fiancé and paired each course with delectable Belle Isle cocktails using Ruby Red Grapefruit and Cold Brew Coffee.

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Tomato, basil, and goat cheese bruschetta

Cocktail pairing:  Lovers' lane


Bruschetta is one of the simplest appetizers to create. And one of the most delicious, in my opinion!  I added goat cheese for some pizzazz and created a tasty cocktail called Lovers' Lane: Ruby Red Grapefruit, neat, with a splash of Sprite.  The flavors worked well together and was the perfect start to the meal.   


*Fun Fact:  Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit is a splendid shot.



Grilled shrimp and lobster claws with kale caesar salad 

Cocktail pairing:  Cupid's Kiss


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Seriously, Bae and I are seafood people. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to show my stuff with the main entree and the Cupid's Kiss cocktail was fancy enough to be the main header.  Visually, it's a really attractive drink, and it's not too sweet. 



*Fun Fact:  Use various berries to step up your cocktail presentatioN! I suggest strawberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries. 


When you prepare your dinner, make sure you pick up some great decor to set the table for the perfect mood!

When you prepare your dinner, make sure you pick up some great decor to set the table for the perfect mood!


Chocolate toast topped with mixed berries 

Cocktail Pairing: Shiny coffee 


Coffee is my everything, so it's a must that I get my coffee fix after dinner.  It's so relaxing and a great way to unwind. The Shiny Coffee cocktail is so smooth, and it compliments the toast. When creating the toast, you can use chocolate or mascarpone cheese for the spread.  The best part of this recipe is that it can be served as a dessert or as breakfast!  I mean, who wouldn't want to wake up to this decadence for a cozy breakfast in bed?  This is the ideal way to say good morning or good night.

*Fun Fact:  Cinnamon sticks are a delicious bonus to a cocktail. 



In addition to this year's love-fest, I am hosting a light Valentine's Day soirée for my friends who are single.  It's going to be a fun time with cute decor and tasty treats.  I'll feature the Cupid's Kiss cocktail again, since It's a refreshing cocktail that will send your single well-wishes right into the love department.  You can create a punch or make the drink individually.  I created a chocolate fondue and provided multiple options for dipping.  You can use fruits, graham crackers, pretzels, and/or marshmallows. 

No matter what your plans are for Valentine's Day, spread lots of love, eat well, drink well, and include Belle Isle Moonshine!

cocktail recipes



  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit

  • ½ oz. Sprite


Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass. 













Cupid's kiss


  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit

  • 2 oz. Ruby red grapefruit juice

  • Fresh Berries (Raspberry, Strawberries, and/or Blackberries)


Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a champagne flute, and garnish with berries.  

Shiny coffee


  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee

  • ½ oz. simple syrup

  • 3 oz. fresh coffee

  • 1 ½ oz. dairy


Build all ingredients in glass or mug to taste!




Happy Valentine's Day! 



Recipes & post by Erica Key, editor-in-chief and founder of Eating with Erica.


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?

Behind the Bar: Tyler Hoppel / HK on the Bay

Cocktails, Behind the Bar, ConversationBrandon Day1 Comment

Getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary in December, HK on the Bay is nothing new to Hampton Roads and Chic's Beach residents. Popular among Virginia Beach locals and garnering the attention of the thousands of tourists that flock down annually, HK on the Bay is one of the few great places in the area where you can stroll in off the beach in your bathing suit and sit down to enjoy a high-quality meal and cocktail using local, fresh ingredients.

We took a trip down to Chic's Beach off Shore Drive to find out more about why HK on the Bay has become such a popular stalwart among locals. When we arrived, Tyler Hoppel, General Manager at HK on the Bay, treated us to an abundance of knowledge and one extremely refreshing cocktail.

Tell us about yourself…

I am the General Manager at HK on the Bay, located on Chic's Beach in Virginia Beach. This will come as a shock to most people, but I actually don’t have any bartending experience! I began my restaurant career as a server right here over 8 years ago. Over the years, I just learned by doing. I worked my tail off to learn my new craft.

What do you do when you’re not managing? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?

Side job while being a restaurant manager? That’s just crazy! But hobbies, definitely anything outdoors. Camping with my fiancé and step-daughter is something I love. I also homebrew and am a huge Baltimore Orioles Fan.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I used to own a clothing company called Redemption Brand and tour with a band from Richmond called Conditions. I lived in Church Hill for a year while touring.

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail?

Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking? My go-to is a Session IPA. My favorite classic cocktail is a Manhattan. And no shame here, I’ll never turn down a Mojito or a jumbo Margarita. 

Tell us about your bar… 

The vibe at HK on the Bay is casual, but refined. Our bar guests consist of mainly regulars. HK on the Bay is cozy, timeless, and almost cottage-like. When you walk in you’ll see old school pictures on the wall of a time in 1977 of when the Chesapeake Bay froze over, or the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on April 15, 1964. We want to show the history of our storied neighborhood and building.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Our neighborhood is filled with a large mix of people. This place is our home. We like to say that we are just stewards of this building, as it was built in the 1930s. Our guests expect a casual setting but know they can get a $28 hand-cut all natural ribeye while they sit at the bar in their bathing suit. 

What makes your bar unique?

We want you to drink better and, if possible, drink local. I wrote an article last September called “Rethink Your Drink”. The studies show that when you drink liquors with fewer impurities, you are more likely to not feel as bad the next day; compared with drinking the same amount of “bottom shelf” liquor. We recommend you have one or two nicely prepared cocktails and enjoy the depth of flavors we create. We know you’ll pay a little more for the “higher end” spirits but you’ll thank me when you’re not as hungover the next day. We carry the same concept through to our menu as well by serving all natural, steroid free, humanely treated beef, poultry, and pork. We know when you eat and drink better, you will feel better. 

What’s your favorite part about working there?

Our guests and our employees. Our guests are truly the best. I know it’s cliché, but our staff and our guests are our family. Our Service Manager Matthew Pere and our Chef Danny Hughes work really hard to provide a truly unique experience every day, not only to our guests, but to our team as well. I love walking in the door and knowing that it is going to be different than yesterday. There are thousands of restaurants in Virginia Beach and our guests chose HK on the Bay? They pass easily 20 to 30 others on their way here. Literally, I’m humbled every single day.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?

We sell a lot of craft beer. I wouldn’t call us a craft beer destination, but we do have over 30 craft beers and over half of them are local. On the spirit side, we sell a good amount of whiskey and vodka. I personally love visiting with tables and learning about who are guests are! Guests could have had a crappy day at work and when they come into our restaurant, we want to turn their day around before heading home. 

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

My personal favorite foods include pizza and burgers. Our sister restaurant, The Butcher’s Son cooks a mean rare Prime Rib and pair that with a Manhattan, I am in heaven! On our menu I can’t get enough of our new Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. Our chef really knocked it out of the park with this one! We grind all of our beef in-house, so it’s homemade in the truest form. We make a chipotle ketchup that tops off the meatloaf that just enhances the total experience. 

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

We wanted to use a locally made spirit on our last cocktail list. We chose Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine because of the bright flavor of the grapefruit. We wanted to enhance that experience by pairing it with pomegranate to create the ultimate cocktail to beat the summer heat.

Ruby Red Shine


  • 1 1/4 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz. Pama Liquor
  • 1/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • Splash of Soda Water


Combine all ingredients except for soda into a shaker tin with light ice. Shake and strain into a coupe glass and top with a splash of soda water.

Recipe by Katie Frank

Photos by Joey Wharton

Happy Hour With MOSAIC Catering + Events

Richmond, Conversation, Happy Hour WithBrandon Day

There's very little chance that you've been to a wedding, party, or major event on the East Coast without witnessing MOSAIC Catering + Events' magnificent work. The best part is you probably had no idea that they were the masterminds behind it all. An accumulation of over 20 years of experience combined with young creative talent, MOSAIC Catering + Events is a powerhouse in the dining and hospitality industry, and they have no problem pulling out all the stops every single time.

We spent the afternoon at MOSAIC's headquarters for a cocktail creation takeover, where their team turned into mad scientists before our eyes. Not only did we get to create some truly beautiful drinks, we also learned more about how MOSIAC Catering + Events pulls of their magnificent feats.

Tell us a bit about your company…

We’re a full-service, one-stop shop for all events, catering, design, rentals and lighting needs. The MOSIAC team team is an eclectic mix of individuals from every area of the hospitality industry. We have over 100 employees company-wide and we’re a mix of designers, thinkers, makers, creators, artists, marketers, illumineers, engineers and techies.

We were founded by Mike Holland, Laurette Garlitz, and Steven Niketas in a small café in Carytown, and since then we have been able to plant our roots into many different markets all over the East Coast.

What do you do and why?

We pride ourselves on creating truly memorable events for people, ranging anywhere from intimate luncheons to stunning weddings, from inspired theme parties to formal corporate occasions. We work at whatever end we're asked to, whether it's offering the inspiration, putting in the attention to detail, or implementing our culinary creativity to make someone's moment shine. We work hand-in-hand with people to plan their event and we see it through on time, on budget and to their complete satisfaction.

Nourishing the mind, body, and soul has always been the mission for the owners since the beginning and that focus on hospitality has never wavered. We are celebrating 20 years in business this year and even as we have been able to grow in many ways, our mission is still the same: “delivering everything out of the ordinary”!

Tell us about your space.

Our building was built in 1926 and has rich history of businesses like Pet Ice Cream and CP Dean that have operated here. We are proud to be a part of that history so it was important for us to update it as we need, but really focus on restoring everything that we could from the floors to the brick façade.

The transformation was not an easy one, but we have is an integrated facility that represents every facet of our business: food, beverage, décor, lighting, production, rentals and administration. A simple walk through the offices upstairs is one of our favorite things. Every step across the original maple & oak floors makes a beautiful creaking noise that reminds you of everyone else that has walked the halls. 

If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

We view ourselves as a layered shot of:

  • 2 parts Creativity (it drives everything that we do)
  • 1 part Tradition  (we rely on it to rein that creativity in)
  • 1 part Vision (we need the foresight to plan an event in advance and execute as if we planned it yesterday)
  • A dash of Insanity  (in the event world, something’s always going to go awry)

What does your company do “off the clock?”

Being food and beverage industry folks, our focus is always knowing what is new on the F&B scene, which means outside of our office walls we are constantly checking out the best new restaurants, bars, galleries and festivals in Richmond.  We believe emersion into anything is the best way to learn!

What’s on your bar?

We only set up bars, but there is always a good supply of Belle Isle Moonshine in our office drawers!

What's the difference in bartending and cocktail creation for events and catering versus a restaurant or bar environment?

Most of our cocktail creation is based on feedback or requests from our clients who book their events with us, so there is always a direction in which to start.  That direction may be headed up by a theme for an event, a personality of an individual or based around a company’s brand. There are very few times we do the same drink twice, so there is constant creation.

Out of all your cocktail creations from our Happy Hour together, were any voted favorites by the MOSAIC team?

Most of them were actually quite good. Some of the favorites were the Spicy Beet Margarita, the Sparking Lavender Coupe, and the Blueberry-Ginger 100 Proof Moonshine Mojito!


Photos by Alex Kreher

Behind the Bar: Aaron James / Burger Bach Short Pump

Conversation, Cocktails, Richmond, Behind the BarBrandon Day

If you've ever been through Carytown, Short Pump, Midlothian, Durham, and most recently Charlottesville, you have probably heard folks gushing over the brilliant burgers and booze coming out of New Zealand-inspired gastropub, Burger Bach. The creation of acclaimed restaurateur Michael Ripp, Burger Bach takes the “gastronomical” part of gastropub seriously, focusing on quality food and drinks through better ingredients and preparation. 

We stopped in to see Aaron James, Assistant Manager at Burger Bach's Short Pump location, to hear more about himself and what makes Burger Bach the insanely successful and beloved restaurant it is today.

Tell us about yourself…

I'm the Assistant Manager of Burger Bach in Short Pump, and I first started bartending about a year and half ago after serving for a while. I took on managing the bar at the beginning of this year. After starting as a server, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge a bit and test myself with something that intimidated me. I felt that bartending was the natural next step and wanted to push myself further. Not to mention that being behind the bar is flat out a fun job, and the tips don’t hurt either.

I am originally from California but have been in Richmond for over 10 years now and Richmond is definitely home. I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time, spending most of my adult life as an event DJ working weddings and proms, etc. I also helped my family run a successful wedding venue here in Richmond. I have interned in different kitchens to learn more about food. I’ve always had a love and appreciation for food and a good drink, which is what drove me to enter into the restaurant industry.

What do you do when you’re not bartending?

I spend a good deal of time cooking at home with my girlfriend and spending most of our money on our favorite food around town. If possible I try to spend a lot of time outside, jogging with my dogs, rock hopping at Belle Isle, or hiking out towards Charlottesville and visiting breweries on the way back. I have been attending a lot more concerts lately as many of my favorite bands from high school are doing reunion tours now. Pure nostalgia!

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m Mexican. It’s always really funny when I tell people because they never believe me and just see a white guy standing in front of them. Never becoming fluent in Spanish probably hurts my case.


What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?

A proper Old Fashioned will always be my go-to, but if there is gin involved, I will probably be drinking that as well. When no one is looking I would say any Mexican beer or a mojito.

Tell us about your bar… 

Burger Bach is a New Zealand-inspired gastropub. Everything starts with our hand-made burgers, which we grind in-house and are made from premium New Zealand beef and lamb. We serve Southern Hemisphere wines, craft beer, and over the last year or so have gradually improved our cocktail program. It’s a very casual restaurant because we always want our guests to feel like they are on vacation.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Short Pump gets a bad rap for being nothing but retail, but our neighborhood, West Broad Village, changes that by supporting Richmond-based restaurants like Burger Bach. There are apartments above the shops and town homes surrounding the center of the neighborhood. This makes it easy for the locals to walk over and become our regulars.

IMG_1005-1 copy.jpg

What makes your bar unique?

Definitely the simplicity of our menu; we do a few things and we do them really well. A good example is our liquor selection. We have just one of each spirit to build our cocktail menu from and this creates an interesting side of creativity when we are coming up with new drinks.

What’s your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part is the people. Everyone treats each other like family and genuinely cares about the person working next to them.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?

I always enjoy seeing a variety of things hitting the table. I try to start guests with seafood and wine, then move on to burgers and finish with a cocktail.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

Our spicy shrimp is a house favorite and I think some good cocktail pairings are our West End Wizard or The Belle Dove. They both are citrus-forward and work well with the smoky chilies in the dish.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

My cocktail is called The Belle Dove. I wanted to pull from the flavors of a Paloma and keep to a somewhat margarita build. The Ruby Red Grapefruit moonshine allowed me to get that grapefruit flavor while keeping it boozy and refreshing. To round it out there is a touch of smoke from some Mezcal.

The Belle Dove


  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • ½ oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • ½ oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ oz. Agave

Shake all ingredients lightly with ice, pour into a rocks glass and garnish with an expressed grapefruit peel.

Recipe by Aaron James of Burger Bach Short Pump

Photos by Joey Wharton

Behind the Bar: Paul Taylor / Southern Efficiency

Conversation, CocktailsBrandon Day

The phrase "Southern efficiency" may having a mocking connotation, but this particular Southern food and whiskey bar in the heart of Washington, D.C. is anything but a joke.  One of a few D.C. fixtures created by renowned bar owner Derek Brown and award-winning oysterman Travis Croxton, Southern Efficiency specializes in a wide range of Southern whiskey and recipes. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Senior Bar Manager Paul Taylor, who curates Southern Efficiency's eclectic collection of whiskies ranging the gamut from traditional Bourbons to whiskey from craft distillers.

Tell us about yourself…

I'm the Senior Bar Manager at Drink Company, which created a few locations in the area, including here and Eat the Rich. I've been bartending for 9 years, but it feels like yesterday. Carpool in Arlington, Virginia gave me my first shot at slinging drinks behind the bar, but if you are being technical I started at a much earlier age pouring drinks for my cousins in my grandmother's basement during the holidays. There was no looking back after that. I instantly fell in love.

What do you do when you’re not bartending?

I enjoy getting lost in a good cookbook. Right now I’m on a 1987 Southern Living classic. My girlfriend and I look for cookbook finds at flea markets and estate sales. Cooking is a super-cathartic happy place for me. The entire meal is a production from the planning process of our menu, to sourcing the products and heading over to Union Market and figuring out what drinks will pair well.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I am an Arlington Native and spent most of my youth skating up and down the streets of DC. I went to school for graphic design but left before graduating to follow my true passion, which so far has worked out nicely. I still have a pair of skates and box of spray paint in a closet somewhere.


What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking? 

Picking just one classic cocktail is tough, because there are so many and it changes based off my mood that day or where I am, but I will always enjoy a sazerac. I would say that nine times out of ten though, people could catch me across the street from my house at Rhodeside Grill with a shot and a beer.

Tell us about your bar… 

According to JFK, Washington, D.C. is a place of “Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” And while he was using it to describe the politics of the Capitol, we rather liked the idea of Southern efficiency: lazy Sunday afternoons with bourbon in hand, Country Captain on the stove while listening to bluegrass. Turns out that Washington, D.C. has many identities, but has always held on to a little bit of the South.

What makes your bar unique?

We are a whiskey bar with so much attention to detail involving whiskey cocktails. Our whiskey menu is well-curated, and the entire staff has a say here. It's easy to engage guests about something we love so much. This is as much an educational experience as it is a bar, although at the end of the day we are here to have a good time. 

What’s your favorite part about working there?

At Southern Efficiency I am surrounded by people that truly care about the craft of bartending and the appreciation of whiskey. I enjoy working alongside people that share so many common interests and goals. I have made some life-long friends in this bar. 

What’s a good night look like for you?

A good night for me would be busy one, filled with lots of faces. I enjoy introducing new things to people and test-driving cocktails that are on the drawing board for me at the moment.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

For Southern Efficiency, it would be the "Wet Hot American Sazerac" (Rittenhouse Rye, Pineau des Charentes, Lyon Dark Rum, Pineapple Gomme, Peychauds and Absinthe) with our pickle-brined fried chicken sandwich. Sazerac and fried Chicken scream summer to me. 

If we are talking Belle Isle Moonshine, it has to be the "Summer On the James" with pork belly and grits. The smoky spicy flavor profile of that cocktail works perfectly with the savory characteristics of that dish.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?

This cocktail was inspired by the Champs Elysee cocktail. We wanted to make something spicy and quaffable.

Summer On the James


  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
  • ½ oz. Del Mageuy Vida Mezcal
  • ¼ oz. Yellow Chartreuse
  • ¼ oz. Allspice Dram
  • ¼ oz. Grapefruit Ginger Cordial
  • ¾ oz. Lemon


Shake all ingredients, fine strain into a chilled coupe.

Recipe by Paul Taylor of Southern Efficiency

Photos by Alex Kreher

Belle Isle Explore: Daniel Torraca / Studio Two Three

Conversation, Richmond, Belle Isle Explore SeriesBICS Admin1 Comment

In a new collaborative series, Belle Isle Craft Spirits is teaming up with local artists, designers, and creators to delve into the true meaning of "The Spirit of Exploration", an idea and energy that we hold near and dear to our hearts.

We had the good fortune of partnering first with Daniel Torraca of Studio Two Three, a Richmond-based illustrator and designer whose work ranges across a spectrum as harlequin and vibrant as his illustrations themselves. Belle Isle Explore brought Daniel the prompt of "The Spirit of Exploration", and he turned it into a small batch of locally screenprinted shirts, featuring his own fantastic design.

We went into the studio to talk to Daniel about his inspiration and see first-hand the process behind producing and screenprinting his design. You can grab a limited edition shirt featuring Daniel's design on our store here.

How did you become interested in art?

I’ve always drawn and been interested in art but it really wasn’t until I realized I needed to go to school for something I wouldn’t hate in 10 years that I decided on a career in the arts. I figured the most consistent thing that I had enjoyed for the longest was a safe bet to put my future on. Also, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand and art has become the best way I can figure them out.


What inspires you?

I’m most inspired by subcultures and sects of society. I’m very inspired in both my work and life by cult films, obscure Onion articles, and punk music.

Tell us about your process.

I usually work from word lists, to thumbnails, to pencil drawings, and then to inking with a brush and inkwell. Beyond that, I sometimes scan my work into Photoshop and add in textures and fabrics to help colorize them and further establish mood.

Tell us about your studio or where you work.

I do a lot of my work at my home studio on a little prop-up drafting table that fits my paper perfectly but when I’m not there I work quite a bit at Studio Two Three in the digital lab or in the washout booth prepping screens.

Who are some of your favorite folks to collaborate with?

I’ve really enjoyed working with Sink/Swim Press (Dialogue Magazine and Little Red Fish), as well as with Studio Two Three and I really enjoy poster work when I can get it.

As far as collaborators and people to work with, I really enjoy working with close friends or artists who have similar themes to me as far as content choices go. I would love to name names but honestly there are too many incredible artists making work right now that I’m worried I’d forget someone!

What does “The Spirit of Exploration” mean to you?

Exploration means childhood to me. It’s one of the best ways that I can think of to describe how a child sees the world. Everything is new and an adventure and that’s how I’d like to be in my creative process and my life: perpetually excited and a little scared.

Tell us about your design.

I interpreted exploration as mystery and intrigue, and that’s where I tried to take the viewer with my design. I wanted more questions than answers, along with excitement and an energy. I was heavily inspired by camp-y ‘90’s movies about adventure. I tried to emulate, essentially, what a 12 year-old boy would think was cool and scary.

If you had to pick someone from your personal life, pop culture, or history to embody “the spirit of exploration”, who would it be and why?

I don’t think I can pick just one person. I think, in my head, it’s an amalgamation of people that create one mega human. That person’s sort of a combination of Mikey (The Goonies), Henry Rollins, Mohammad Ali, Sigourney Weaver (think Alien), and Daenerys Targaryen (Mother of Dragons).

So, yeah, all of those, plus probably 8 or 25 more to make up the “spirit of exploration”. It’s a little frightening to think about.

Where can we see your work?

I’m one of the few Daniel Torraca’s on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr, but you can also see my work at

Do you have a favorite drink?

I drink the Champs of Beer: Miller Highlife, but that’s more a budget choice than a preference.

You can purchase your own limited edition shirt below, or on our Belle Isle Craft Spirits store. Again, there's only a small batch of shirts available, so grab yours now before they're gone!

Behind the Bar: Owen Lane & Adam Stull / Vagabond

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Open as of November 2015, Vagabond is the latest Richmond dining spot to showcase the talents of Head Chef Owen Lane, who is also a partner in the venture. We stopped in one afternoon to chat with Owen and Adam Stull, Vagabond’s Beverage Director, to talk about inspiration and post-shift cocktails, as well as get a sneak peek at the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner coming up on July 26th. (Tickets are still available, by the way.)

Tell us about yourselves...

Owen Lane, Partner and Head Chef: I’ve been cooking for 20 years from Boulder, CO to Richmond and in-between. Inspiration for my cooking comes from all sorts of different things, from something my mother used to make and how I can twist her recipes to a BBQ at someone’s house. Inspiration never comes when you might think - it just happens. It can’t be forced.

Adam Stull, Beverage Director: I have been bartending for about 15 years. I am originally from Philadelphia. I moved to Richmond a little over three years ago. Other than Vagabond, I have worked as part of the opening staff of Postbellum.


Tell us about Vagabond...

OL: The name says it all! I’ve had to privilege of working with many cuisines, as most chefs do. The Vagabond concept opens the door to explore so many of those cuisines. In the space we have three distinct areas that can provide a different experience each time you visit. These spaces set the stage for our menu. 

AS: I try to write a cocktail menu that is diverse enough to keep up with the wide array of food Owen creates. The huge space and high volume of people we serve has to allow for cocktails that, while still created with care, can be served efficiently.

Are there particular styles of food/cocktail or ingredients that you like working with?

OL: I like to work with lesser-known cuts - offal, game, local produce. It’s fun to have a direct link to the farmers, to take their hard work and prepare it for folks. 

AS: I love to make a weekly trip to Grand Mart and try to find ingredients that others aren't using.

How do you approach a smaller, private event like the Vagabond & Belle Isle Cocktail Dinner?

OL: It gives me the chance to be more refined. I put even more focus from pan to plate. 

AS: There are so many fun things I can do that I wouldn’t dare try during a busy night. At a smaller event it gives me a bit more room to explore techniques that are too time consuming to use in the setting of a high volume dinner service.

How do you put the menu together?

OL: Food often comes first. I use what’s available seasonally through our local farms. I take those ingredients and put them together in a way that complements the whole menu.

AS: I tried to pair off of what I think will go best with his dishes. We sit down and talk it out and make a few tweaks to each other's offerings.

What’s different about pairing food with cocktails, versus wine or beer?
OL: Walking is key. We like to see everyone walk out. But really, we have the control of these flavor profiles and we can pair the cocktail with the food. With wine and beer, we’re pairing the food with what someone outside of our organization has created. 

AS: That’s right - cocktails are more versatile, as I have a bit more control over the contents and I can really create something that pairs perfectly with a dish.

What can you tell us about the Vagabond/Belle Isle event on the 26th?

AS: We are excited to have everyone here. This is something Owen and I have been talking about for a while. I’m so happy we've finally had time to put this together with the great staff at Belle Isle Craft Spirits. Tickets are available here.

What do you like to drink to unwind after a big event? 

OL: It changes with the seasons. Most of the time, something cold. Right now, I wouldn’t turn down a Rosé.

AS: After work I'm pretty traditional. A shot of good whiskey to sip on and a cold beer helps me wind down after a busy night.

Happy Hour With Fern & Roby

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Fern & Roby was founded by Christopher Hildebrand and his wife Sara Moriarty in 2013, serving as a pressure relief valve from the day-to-day operations of their industrial design and manufacturing firm, Tektonics Design Group. As Tektonics grew over the years, Chris's role had begun to move away from his training in fine art and craft and into design, general management, and business development.

By getting back to their roots and building furniture for Fern & Roby, Chris and Sara created an avenue to start implementing their own ideas and reconnect with the pleasure of making something from scratch. The name of the company also reflects a personal narrative, since it’s named after both of Chris's grandmothers. We stopped by Fern & Roby's design shop to see first-hand the process behind creating their brilliant work.

What do you do and why?

Fern & Roby designs and builds things as tools for living. Audio components, tables, desks, small wares. They all have a place in our lives. 

We currently have a cast iron turntable, an amp, and two speaker designs. These have been developed over the course of the past three years. We’re also in the middle of producing three new audio components—a second and slimmer turntable design, a phono preamp, and dipole subwoofers. We work with sustainably-sourced material as much as possible. Our wood is salvaged, and our cast metal table bases and audio pieces have a very high recycled content, which is important to us.

All of our work is produced with the conviction that products shouldn’t be throw-away items.  I think daily life is enhanced by the inclusion of heirloom quality objects that enhance your experience. Mostly we are just people who get excited about ideas and have fun pursuing the creation of the final product. The best thing besides enjoying that process and our own final products is seeing someone else get the same pleasure from our work. Each table, whether it’s an 18 foot-long conference table with hollow cast bronze bases that allow for integrated IT or a domestic-scaled coffee table, can be a work surface or a place to commune, socialize and eat food with friends.

Tell us about your work.

Our pieces are both traditional and modern, with intersections of raw and refined materials. Materials are the foundational part of our process in design. The Beam Speakers are a great example—they’re a real departure from the slick plastic aesthetic seen in the audio market—the rusticity of the material is distinctly modern. We would never use a veneer to suggest another material than that used. Likewise with the cast iron turntable—it has a simplicity of form and an authenticity that people really respond to.

Revealing the origin of material and narrative of the process is central to our life and our pieces. Wood and cast metal—these materials naturally have flaws and imperfections. They are the result of processes that leave traces behind. We like to leave them exposed, as in the Beam speakers. The pine beams that were reclaimed have holes where there were once nails, and cracks where the wood has settled and split. Those aren’t things to hide, they are telltales of the material’s origin. 

Tell us about your space.

Fern & Roby operates from within the Tektonics space - our 20,000 square foot shop houses our design studio, metal fabrication shop, CNC machine shop and woodworking shop. Sara and I bought the building 4 years ago when Tektonics was nearing the end of its lease in its old building on Stockton, and we knew we wanted to stay in Manchester.

We’re over next to the Williams Bridge Building, in an industrial pocket just south of Maury Street. The building was built in 1930s by the Army Corps of Engineers and has 8000 square feet of skylights—not a lot of shops have natural light at such a scale, and I think it impacts the general mood in a positive way. We love the history of the building and the classic wood trusses throughout the space. The openness of the facility means that people continually interact with one another on projects, and move easily between design and fabrication.

Our studio overall is all about the intersection of traditional tradecraft with advanced manufacturing and design--you would be as likely to see blacksmithing or sculpting happening as CNC machining of parts for our own products or for our clients.  We make the Fern & Roby jigger and salt well on our CNC equipment from solid stainless steel bar stock, and it’s laser-engraved in-house. Someone could be welding something or sanding a table just a few feet away. Process and materials are what inspire our work and we learn something every day that informs our design. We’ve also been able to host events in the space, something our former space didn’t allow for. When you open up those bay doors and the train rolls by just feet from the shop, it’s amazing. 

If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

Hmm. Our business and our ethos is uniquely collaborative at a large scale, meshing the interaction between other design firms, manufacturers, contractors, and our clientele. So we like to think of ourselves as a full bar, not a single cocktail. No matter what we are mixing up, we are always a layered and complex blend. And we always stock Maker’s Mark.   

What does your company do “off the clock?”

In terms of unwinding, we’re lucky to live in a state with great parks. Virginia has an amazing variety of things to do outdoors, so my weekends are usually spent with my wife, cycling or kayaking within a day’s drive of Richmond. In terms of shop life - we’re driven by process here, so we constantly challenge ourselves when we are exposed to new equipment, new materials, and new processes. Our staff is pretty diverse in what they bring to the table: our senior designer went to Virginia Tech for industrial design, but our shop manager has an MFA in painting. Our team also includes a former chef, a VCU sculpture grad, a professional cake maker/artist, a skilled motorcycle mechanic, and an art historian.

All of us pursue other interests outside the shop, which make the work we do here together even more focused and dynamic. In terms of our community—our local footprint gives us a great deal of pleasure, because it comes from having built successful longstanding relationships. It’s also incredibly important to us that we contribute to our own immediate economy—we like to give our business to the people who give us their business. 

We are strong backers of Manchester, and recently participated in the tree-planting organized by Dogtown Dish and Laura and Michael Hild, who are doing great work to bring attention and energy to the revitalization of the Hull Street corridor. 

What’s on your bar?

Ha! It would be great to have a bar here. But we have some fairly dangerous machinery, so all cocktails are off the clock! 

We provide access to our staff to all of our equipment for their own creative projects, and we also try to make sure we take the time to enjoy the final results of our work as a team. That could mean going out to a dinner with everyone and their significant others, or having a long lunch during the work week as a group, to catch up with one another and just pause and connect. We recently went as a group to take a hardhat tour of the Main Street Station renovation—it was fun and fascinating to see behind-the-scenes of such a massive project, I highly recommend checking it out!


We know you just got back from Capital Audiofest - how was that experience?

We had a great time! We were able to talk with folks about our process and our materials. We wanted to convey the authenticity of our work — we really, truly make things from raw materials. People were truly captivated by the fact that we made all these things in Richmond, VA. Like, minds were blown.

So many audio products appear as if they emerged fully-formed from a 21st-century automated facility. Our presentation stressed the handcraft and the uniqueness, and the relationships we have here in Richmond that help us deliver such cool stuff. Our staff that joined us were amazing. They have worked their tails off in the lead-up to the show, and they were so proud to talk with people about what they do. This was not a sales demo or that kind of weekend for them — it was showing and telling what it is that makes their work special. So fun!

What are you listening to this week?

This week? Radiohead’s album “Kid A”!


Photos by Alexander Kreher