Belle Isle Moonshine

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Happy Hour With

Happy Hour With: Hummingbird Gardens

Cocktails, Infusions, Happy Hour WithBrandon DayComment
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One sunny summer afternoon, Amanda Montgomery, owner of Hummingbird Gardens, invited us over to see her amazing garden and, of course, mix up some delicious, refreshing cocktails using fresh herbs. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, Amanda will teach you everything you need to know about using fresh herbs in infusions and cocktails.

Tell us a little about your company.

Hummingbird Gardens is an herb, edible flower, and cut flower-focused market garden (or yard farm) that is in my front and backyard in Southside Richmond. I source mainly to local restaurants and have a small garden share program that provides folks with herbs, a bouquet, and an item from another partner business. In addition, I make herb salts that I sell on my website, some retail sites, and at events like Brunch Market.

We broke ground in October of 2015 and I had my first season in 2016. It feels like yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time!

How long have you been gardening?

I’ve done it in spurts my whole life. I had some marigolds as a kid and spent a lot of time hauling plants around for my grandmas when I would visit them in Savannah and New Jersey. I started gardening in earnest my senior year of college and continued after I graduated. I volunteered with Tricycle Gardens not from from the Belle Isle Moonshine distillery and helped break ground on their farm in Manchester. After that, I went to graduate school in Pittsburgh where I worked at a small farm called Churchview Farm and at my school’s farm, Eden Hall.

What do you love most about gardening?

There's so much to love! I love bringing more life into the world. I love creating a space that other people and creatures can be happy in and can thrive. I love watching things grow and (hopefully) helping them along. Most importantly, I love sharing what I grow with others.

What are you growing currently?

Loaded question! I grow a variety of herbs including 3 kinds of thyme, 7 kinds of basil, 4 kinds of sage, and a bunch of edible flowers including bachelor’s buttons (which I'll be using in a cocktail today), cosmos, anise hyssop, and gem marigolds. 

Who do you work with in the area? How are folks using your products?

I have a Garden Share program that several local restaurants participate in - it’s basically a CSA and they get 5 items from me a week for 20 weeks. My clients all use my products differently, but I’ve seen edible flowers in anything from cocktails to desserts, and recently I saw that Hutch used my pineapple sage in one of their fish dishes. Sometimes we come up with things together!

What are some tips for using fresh herbs in infusions and cocktails?

You can use fresh herbs as a garnish, muddle them when mixing a drink, or make a simple syrup infusion.

Fresh herbs are a lot of fun to experiment with in cocktails and infusions. Unlike dried ingredients such as tea leaves that infuse very quickly, fresh herbs give you a bit more room to play around. You can adjust how powerful you want the flavor of the herbs to be by changing quantity used and time left infusing.

My infusion recipes are typically 1 part herb to 4-6 parts spirit. When you use a spirit with a higher alcohol content like Belle Isle 100 Proof, it pulls flavors from the herbs quicker than a lower proof spirit will. I'll put my infusion in a sealed container for a full day, taste it, and continue to infuse it for another 2-4 days, just tasting it along the way. Once it gets to where I want, I pull the herbs out, fine strain out anything left, and put it back in a bottle.

My favorite herbs to use in cocktails are basil, lemon verbena, or rosemary.

I think of herbs as the knot that ties other ingredients together by complementing their flavors or adding a new element to a cocktail to round it out. So if your other ingredients are all bitter, you might use something citrusy or tea-like. If your cocktail is hearty and heavy, you might use a bright, spicy herb to finish it off. A lot of times I'll use dishes from cuisines around the world to think of flavor pairing ideas and inspiration.
 
What fresh herb-infused cocktails did you make today?

Preparation:

Muddle blueberries and thyme in the bottom of a highball glass. Add ice to the glass, pour in Belle Isle Premium Moonshine, top with seltzer, and stir.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • 6-10 fresh blueberries
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 oz. seltzer water

Preparation:

Add a coffee ice cube to a glass, then top with lavender-infused Belle Isle & tonic and stir.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. lavender-infused Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee Moonshine*
  • 3 oz. tonic water

*Add 1-2 lavender flower heads to 12 oz. Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee Moonshine, let steep for 4 hours, tasting occasionally.

Happy Hour with Awl Snap

Happy Hour WithBrandon Day2 Comments

When Erin McRoberts graduated with her Fine Arts degree in Painting, she asked the question many of us have often echoed, "What the hell am I going to do next?" It wasn't until she found herself sitting with a pile of leather scraps that all of the pieces started coming together. Of course, things don't just happen overnight. However, that hasn't stopped Erin from rapidly expanding from part-time crafter to a leader and collaborator among Richmond's art and entrepreneur scene. 

The Belle Isle team stopped by Awl Snap's workshop to chat with Erin and her team on their success thus far, where they're headed next, and, most importantly, what they like to drink. Then we did what we do best - we had ourselves a Happy Hour together.

Tell us a bit about your company.

Awl Snap is a leather goods crafter that has been around for about 3 years now. We're based in Richmond, VA and have a wide array of different products, ranging from custom backpacks and bags to wallets and eyeglass cases. We also do a number of custom projects and collaborations for folks both local and abroad.

How did you get started up?

It all sort of began in 2009 as a part-time moonlighting thing I was doing while working at a marketing company. I had very little creative outlet through my full-time job, and I needed to have projects that kept me busy and engaged. One day a friend of mine gave me a bunch of scrap leather, so I decided to make a bag out them. I had never worked with leather before; in fact, I have a Fine Arts degree in Painting, so that was really my forte. It took a lot of trial by error, but I was pretty proud of the bag I ended up making. And a lot of people really liked it, too! I had tons of friends saying they would definitely buy one. 

I started making just a handful of bags with the leather I could get my hands on. After all my friends got theirs, I decided to throw them up on Etsy. All of my bags sold out in a week. It just lighted a fire in me and I kept going and going. I really lucked out in that sense, just by getting such a positive reception and support from the get-go. I kept making leather good part-time for another four or five years, until I came to a point where I had to decide: do I keep doing this part-time or make the big jump and do this full-time? I had just recently got a promotion at my other job and bought a house, so it was a nerve-racking decision to make. But I made it, and that’s what set me on the path to where I am now.

How did you get your name?

I used to be called the Mean Tambourine, which was a reference to a night of karaoke where it was made very apparent that I can’t sing, so instead I played the tambourine and the joke stuck around with my friends.

I decided to change the name to make it less about myself and more about the products; also, no one could spell tambourine! So I spent a while trying to think of a new name, and one day I had all my tools out on my kitchen table. I walked away and when I came back, I realized I had an awl next to a pile of snaps, and that’s where it clicked - Awl Snap! I love a good pun. My roommate thought it was catchy funny, so with at least one approval I settled on it.

What are the products that Awl Snap offers?

Originally, I just started with a couple leather goods I had designed, mostly bags made for women. As I started expanding and adding more designs, especially ones that were considered to be more unisex, I became a little more versatile with what I could offer. I got a few inquiries from local companies and from people internationally saying they liked this one product I had, but wanted to know if I could customize it, brand it, etc. I love taking on new, challenging projects and that’s really where we are at now: a mix of creating our staple designs and tackling custom projects. 

As for the materials we use, most of my leather comes from Northern California and upstate New York. Almost all of the materials we use are byproducts of the food industry, so that makes us and customers happier. I try to be as responsible and ethical as I can, which boils down to doing research into the distributors and companies I work with. A majority of the leather I use is sourced from the United States, which is great to help fuel that local business piece. I also try to keep all of my hardware American-made as well. 

What's something you're working on now?

One of my favorite projects right now is an order of custom glasses cases for an optical shop in Belgium. Getting to also do projects with local companies will always be a passion of mine; being a part of the community here has always been the best piece of what I do. Those personal relationships that I’ve developed are invaluable to me, and that’s not something I could have done from behind a desk.

What is your mission or dream for your company?

It’s so funny, because it changes continuously just through the nature of what I do. Every time we take on a new custom project, it makes me rethink the operation of how I do things. Three years ago, I never thought I would be doing what I am now. So that makes me a little hesitant to make some grand plan for myself or Awl Snap, because I know that things could easily change and probably will. That being said, I’d love to grow and add more people to the team but still keep it a somewhat small and local operation. I’d love to stay grounded in Richmond and in the community that I started with. As far as products go, who knows! I’ll probably keep my staple designs but I love the flexibility of being able to do different pieces, so I don’t know if I’ll ever forgo that part of who we are.

At the end of the day, I want this company to be an extension of who I am. By that, I really just want it to be approachable and not something stuffy or on a pedestal that you can’t relate to. We don’t have a motto per se, but if we did it would center around keeping ourselves and our company fun, down to earth, and genuine. 

Tell us about your space.

When we found this space, we fell in love with it for a couple of reasons. All of the tables in the main workroom were built in already, because it used to be an elevator repair workshop. Because they were making and repairing elevator parts, there are tons of electrical outlets installed throughout the whole place. That made this place a gold mine for anyone working with electrical equipment. On top of that, the space had all of these smaller pocket rooms running off of the front entrance.

Initially, it was just me and another jewelry artist who occupied the space and we knew we wanted to bring in other artists. These other rooms were the perfect opportunity to bring others in and expand our network of creators and crafters, and that really made it feel like home. Another cool feature about this space is that everyone here is a woman artist, so there’s this sort of inclusivity and support that’s fostered by being around people with the same experiences and interests as you. It was awesome to be able to buy this space, and kind of turn it into something more than just a workshop. Sometimes I think about having my own space, but the support and inspiration that these other artists give me is invaluable and I don’t know if I could ever leave that.

What does your company do “off the clock?”

Even when we’re not “off the clock”, we double as a doggy daycare. Well not officially, of course. We always have at least one dog running around here, which is awesome. We occasionally hold community events here, just some laid-back opportunities to hang out with our friends. Outside of this space, we all love to spend time outdoors and go down to the river.

We’re big fans of a good happy hour, and that can be a downfall when working with six other artists who all run their own schedules. We’re so easily tempted to just wrap up early and all head out for a drink, especially during the summer when we can relax and unwind somewhere around town! Richmond has an amazing food and bar scene, and we have a bunch of friends that work at or own places all around. We can easily stay busy just trying out whatever new places are popping up next.

You’ve been in Richmond for about a decade now. What are your favorite ways of connecting to this community?

As much as this is a cliché or buzz phrase, I love just networking with people around Richmond, not so much so I can push a product on them but just to ignite those little flames of collaboration, which sometimes grow into really awesome projects. I’m part of Boss Babes, which is a local collective of other women who are all entrepreneurs or creatives in Richmond, so that has been an awesome way of connecting with people doing cool things in the community.

What’s on your bar or what do you typically drink as a team?

To be honest, I’m a such a wino. But our friend Pete Konrad at Southbound, who you guys featured not too long ago, makes some damn good cocktails. So anything he puts in front of me, I’ll drink. We like spicy and boozy drinks, flavors that excite and energize you! That’s actually pretty descriptive of us as a whole.

That leads us into our final question! If your company was a cocktail, what would its ingredients be?

With a few years under our belts working together, we've figured out the just how to keep things rolling smooth. We take our work serious, but at the same time know it's vital to stir things up once in a while. We're equal parts straightshooters and go-getters, but like to keep things fun and fresh. We're full of bad jokes over here - I told you I like puns! I think that means our signature drink would be something bold, just slightly sweet, and maybe with a surprise kick of heat at the end!

How about something like this?

Hot and Heavy

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
  • 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • 1/2 oz. Aperol
  • Lime wedge
  • Club soda

Preparation:

Combine first three ingredients into a glass. Add ice, and top with club soda. Squeeze the fresh lime wedge over top, then optionally add to the glass for more citrus flavor.

Recipe by Gregg Brooks, created for and named by Awl Snap

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Happy Hour with Join or Die Knives

Happy Hour With, RichmondBrandon Day

At Belle Isle Craft Spirits, we understand and uphold the value of locally sourced, individually crafted, and handmade goods. While our craft takes the form of premium moonshine, we're lucky enough to cross paths with plenty of other talented folks crafting up their own exceptional pieces and products.

Not too far from us lies Join or Die Knives' workshop, another prime example of handcrafted goods coming out of Richmond, VA. We made the short trek over to hang out with Brent Stubblefield, founder of Join or Die Knives, to learn more about the process behind his one-of-a-kind knives. Quick disclaimer: No moonshine was consumed while operating any heavy machinery.

Tell us a bit about your company…

I founded Join or Die Knives in Richmond last year. We produce a range of different handcrafted knives and similar tools. I handcraft each and every knife, but I get to seasonally employ shop helpers who are great and bring a lot to the workshop.

We take our name from Benjamin Franklin's original woodcut published in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. The message was simple: unite against a common foe or fail. Our goal is to bring back traditional skill, lore, and craft as the foundation for a new economy.

What do you do and why?

Join or Die Knives exists to provide useful, beautiful and meaningful items. We work with clients to produce knives that can be family heirlooms and gifts worthy of life events. We often use materials provided by clients because of their significance, such as wood from a family property, hunting trophies or any meaningful item. We have been able to create some truly one-of-a-kind pieces thanks to the fantastic materials provided to us.

Tell us about your space.

Our space is a shared warehouse in the Shockoe Valley of Richmond. The community environment here fosters an atmosphere of creativity and cooperation. There’s a lot of great creators here doing a wide range of things. We regularly engage with other tenants here by hosting events such as pop up shops and concerts. Although it is a world shop, we have put some personal touches to make it feel like a creative and inviting space. 

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

 If Join or Die Knives were a cocktail, the ingredients would be equal parts tradition and modern performance with a garnish of subtle embellishment - just to make it a bit fancy.

What does your company do “off the clock?”

We are pretty involved in the Richmond music scene, ride motorcycles and are connected with our local faith community. We’ve met some great people through our community that help fuel our creativity.

The whole point of working as an independent craftsman is to fulfill this need for something more than can be found in a factory or big box store. Community is the difference between life and death for small makers, and I’m grateful to have supportive people around me.

What’s on your bar?

The small shop bar consists of the mini-fridge under the counter, which usually contains beer for after hours work and play. When we can get it, we go for a sipping bourbon and a nice pipe tobacco.

Photos by Alex Kreher

Happy Hour With Mother Shrub

Happy Hour With, RichmondBrandon Day4 Comments

While Belle Isle Craft Spirits traces its premium moonshine legacy back to the Civil War era, moonshine itself has a much deeper history. Dating all the way back to the early Colonial period, moonshine has always been an integral part of Virginia and American culture.

Much like moonshine, shrub (or drinking vinegars) trace their history back just as far. After running into Meredyth Archer at our local farmers' market, we learned a little more about shrub and just how closely connected the history of moonshine and shrub seem to be. We were able to spend a gorgeous afternoon outdoors for a Happy Hour with Meredyth, the founder of Mother Shrub, and learn more about the revival of some of America's earliest delicacies.

Tell us a bit about your company…

Mother Shrub was established in September of 2015, when I threw away all of my excuses. Encouraged by friends and family who were telling me to start a business, I finally listened. After a lifetime of living and working among artists – husband Fielding is a painter, furniture designer and woodworker who designed the Mother shrub label, sons Julien, Eli and Henry design, photograph, and play music – I took the skills I acquired working as a consultant to creative entrepreneurs to create and build her own business.

What is shrub?

Derived from the Arabic word sharab meaning beverage, the name shrub has evolved over the years from the very similar Turkish beverage, sherbet, to what we know today as shrub - a non-alcoholic combination of fruit, vinegar and sugar; a drinking vinegar. It was popular as a soft drink and cocktail in colonial times. Mother Shrub is a modern take on this colonial classic.

How did you first start making shrub?

While looking through a stack of old cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother, I came across a recipe for raspberry fruit vinegar. Curious, I made the vinegar and started experimenting and researching, remembering that she always drank a sweetened vinegar mixture and encouraged us to drink it too. Years and many experimental batches of shrub later, Mother Shrub was born.

We do more than make shrub. We provide the medium for people to easily become creative with what they drink. Mother Shrub is about opening someoneʼs eyes to possibility, to trying something new. Itʼs so much fun having someone try our shrubs for the first time and seeing their reaction to the unconventional taste. Lots of “wow!”

Where did the name Mother Shrub come from?

Mother has so many meanings. Vinegar is created by an organism called “the mother". I am the mother of three boys, inspired by my grandmother and always encouraged by my own mother. The name Mother just seemed fitting.

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

Mix equal parts curiosity and approachability with a shot of irreverence. Serve over ice.

What does your company do off the clock?

We are always creating something! But we do love to take advantage of the outdoors - cycling, paddle boarding and floating down the James. Oh, and we also love sharing shrub cocktails with friends!

Whatʼs on your bar?

We have a well-stocked bar – Ruby Red, Honey Habanero and Premium Belle Isle Moonshine, vodka, gin and shrub of course! – Grapefruit, Cranberry and Black Cherry along with other flavors weʼre experimenting with.

What is your favorite Belle Isle and Mother Shrub combination right now?

Well, we have more than one!

Tart and Shiny

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • 1 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub grapefruit shrub
  • 4 oz. seltzer water

Preparation

Serve over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. For added oomph, add a splash of prosecco or cranberry shrub.

Recipe by Meredyth Archer

Moonstruck Mule

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
  • 4 oz. Ginger beer
  • 1/2 oz. MOTHER shrub lime or grapefruit shrub
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Preparation:

Serve over ice in a copper mug or highball glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Recipe by Meredyth Archer

Photos by Kate Magee

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!

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Photos by Alex Kreher