Belle Isle Moonshine

Replace your vodka with something better.

Conversation

Behind the Bar: Ed Howard / Beuchert's Saloon

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During the 1920s, Washington, DC found itself at the center of prohibition. While "dry" crusaders pushed for prohibition laws on Capitol Hill, just a few blocks away some of the most popular speakeasies of the decade were setting up shop to keep the booze flowing through our nation's veins. Fast-forward to today, and you will find one place still keeping the tradition alive.

Beuchert's Saloon is named after John Ignatius Beuchert, a German immigrant and prominent Capitol Hill businessman who, as legend has it, operated a speakeasy in the same location where the restaurant still stands today.

We stopped by Beuchert's Saloon to hear from General Manager and Beverage Director Ed Howard on how this speakeasy-turned-modern day mainstay maintains their incredible history on Capitol Hill by offering a dining and drinking experience rich with local and fresh ingredients that offer a creative twist on American fare.

Tell us about yourself…
I’ve been bartending for about 10 years now. I got into it because I had already worked every position in a few restaurants, from serving, hosting, food running, and bussing to managing. I even worked in the kitchen on a few stations when needed.  But as soon as I got behind the bar, I knew it was for me. To me it had a very natural flow.

What do you do when you’re not bartending? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?
I like knocking new restaurants off of my "must try” list, traveling, and experiencing new things. If I had a secret identity, I would be a mix between Victor Krum from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Idris Elba. Oh, and my name would be Lance.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
My brother, Rock Harper, was the Season 3 winner of Hell's Kitchen. 

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
Favorite drink is a shot and a grapefruit raddler. A Painkiller or a Naked N' Famous is the best classic cocktail. When no one’s looking, I’ll sneak a Long Island Iced Tea, but with Fernet instead of Coke.

Tell us about your bar… 
Beuchert's Saloon has a very laid back, speakeasy feel. We’re located in probably the best neighborhood in Washington, DC. We’ve got a very loyal and friendly group of people here on the Hill.

What makes your bar unique?
Consistency and service.  Every bartender here is passionate about their craft and understands that service is key.  We can craft a cocktail based upon your tastes if you don't see anything on the menu. It is truly a gift.  

What’s your favorite part about working there?
My favorite part is the family aspect of the place. Guests become regulars, and regulars become close friends. The same applies to the staff. Usually everyone here starts out as co-workers, but then ends up finding a friend for life. This makes working together easy and fun! Also, when we learn something new, we get very excited and apply it right away - either through educating the guest or applying a new technique to a cocktail.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?
A good night consists of people going off-menu, testing our bartenders' knowledge and skills, and ending up with a mind-blowing product.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?
The Roseda Farms Top Sirloin paired with our Beltway Boy (Rye, Amaro, Aperol, Peychauds Bitters, absinthe spray).

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

The High Moon at Noon was inspired by our 3-year anniversary.  For the 3rd year of an anniversary you are to give leather, so we went with a western-style cocktail list and food menu. High Moon at Noon just came to me and I had to have a cocktail on the menu containing moonshine. The rest is history!

Photos by Alex Kreher

High Moon at Noon

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. blueberry shrub*
  • Blueberry “caviar”

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients into a shaker, shake, and strain over ice.  Garnish with a spoonful of blueberry caviar and lime zest on top.

 

*Recipe for Blueberry shrub

2 quarts sugar

2 quarts water

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 cup champagne vinegar

Preparation:

Simmer and crush 1 quart sugar, 1 quart water, and blueberries. Then add the additional quart of sugar and water, along with champagne vinegar. Boil all ingredients together, then strain and let cool.

Recipe by Ed Howard of Beuchert's Saloon

Behind the Bar: William Seidensticker / L’opossum

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Boasting a menu and cocktail program as unconventional and incongruous as the decor you’ll find around L’opossum, the Oregon Hill restaurant and bar has redefined the Richmond dining experience in a vivacious manner that only renown owner and chef David Shannon can manage. We were lucky enough to sit down with William Seidensticker, bartender at L’opossum, to chat about all things served eclectic and delicious.

Tell us about yourself…

I’ve been in the industry for 22 years. As long as I have been in the industry, one of the most common questions I get is if I am a mixologist. I still don’t know the difference between a mixologist and a bartender. At the end of the day, I consider myself a bartender and I’m proud of what I do. I am proud of the product that I produce and the people I work with.

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

I love drinking anything with fresh ginger. I love to make a classic Old Fashioned for folks that come in.

Do you have a pro-tip for new or home bartenders/chefs?

Use jiggers. Balance is key to a great cocktail. If you use jiggers, you can make a cocktail the way you love it every time with precision.

Tell us about your bar. Where did the name “L’opossum” come from?

Simply enough, it is “possum” in French. The menu reflects a blend of David Shannon’s Virginia heritage and French culinary training. It draws on the humor that adding La, Le or L’ to something instantly makes it into something fancy. Our menus are meant to be very playful, too. Everything you see, down to the recipes and the names, has a personal meaning and we have something for everyone.

How do you come up with names for your cocktails?

We have a great staff with many different backgrounds, so I use them as a springboard for ideas and we all taste the final cocktail. More often than not, David Shannon comes up with a great name. He invests into part of every experience you’ll have when you come in.

L’opossum has a very distinct atmosphere. What was the influence behind the interior?

The interior is the sole creation of David Shannon. All the components are things he has been independently collecting for decades. The collection is a throwback to more hedonistic times, a perfect environment for indulging. Think dive bar at the Playboy Mansion or a classical French restaurant in the Cleveland Airport circa 1976.

What is your favorite part about working here?

My favorite part is getting to work with the most amazing chef, David Shannon. Every single day I walk into L’opossum, I feel honored to work here. I have been in this business long enough to see that L’opossum is a special place.

What’s your favorite menu item and cocktail pairing?

La Petite Mort with a Hooty Hoo. I have a hell of a sweet tooth.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation or two with us? 

Honey Badger

Ingredients

  • 1½  oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
  • ¼ oz. St. Germain 
  • ¼ oz. Sake 
  • ⅛ of an orange
  • 1 oz. diced jalapeño    

Preparation

Muddle the orange, jalapeño, and St. Germain. Add sake and Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine, stir all ingredients a mixing glass, and strain into a port glass rimmed with grapefruit sugar.

Recipe by William Seidensticker of L'opossum

The Shiny Blue Ball

Ingredients

  • ½ oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • ½ oz. Vodka
  • ½ oz. Gin
  • ½ oz. White Rum
  • ½ oz. Triple Sec
  • ½ oz. Sour Mix
  • Coke

Preparation

Combine ingredients in a mason jar over ice, stir. Top with Coke. Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Recipe by William Seidensticker of L'opossum

Photos by Kate Magee

Behind the Bar: Lauren Paylor / Eat the Rich

Conversation, CocktailsBICS Admin

As the saying goes, “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” Luckily for DC residents, there’s plenty to both eat and drink at Derek Brown’s oyster bar, Eat the Rich. Featuring both local oysters and a Chesapeake Bay-centric menu, Eat the Rich is a tribute to the great oyster houses of Washington, DC and Mid-atlantic cuisine. We spent the afternoon with Lauren Paylor, Head Bartender at Eat the Rich, to talk cocktails, locals, and a heavy metal band close to our own heart.

Tell us about yourself…

I started bartending a year and a half ago, but I’ve worked in different roles across the industry. I got into bartending by meeting Derek Brown, the owner here at Eat the Rich, through his brother Tom. I was intrigued by how passionate both the Brown brothers were about cocktails and food, but also extremely intimidated by it. I started out as a server in a few years back, then became the AGM and a bartender a year later, and made my transition to Head Bartender this year. DC is a great city for bartending, because there are so many passionate and talented people working here. They've all really inspired me and made it easy to fall in love with this industry.

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

My favorite thing to drink are Goses, a sour-style German beer. My favorite classic cocktail is an Old Fashioned, especially when it's made with PX Sherry in place of simple syrup. My favorite thing to drink when no one is looking is a nice, cold Coors Light and a shot of whiskey. 

Tell us about your bar… 

Eat the Rich is a heavy metal oyster bar located in Shaw, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Washington, DC. When you first walk in you'll more than likely hear Motörhead, Richmond’s own Gwar, or Guns N’ Roses playing on the speakers. We have a solid clientele, they always make it fun being behind the bar. Our customers mainly consist of people that live in the neighborhood, young adults, and heavy metal fans. 

What’s the neighborhood like?

Shaw is lively, as there are a lot of restaurants located up and down 7th Street, Howard Theatre and the 9:30 Club are located fairly close, and U Street is just up the block. It is a residential and family-oriented neighborhood, but there is a huge population of young adults. You’ll see plenty of foot traffic up and down 7th Street on a typical Friday night.

What makes your bar unique?

Our locals-only Happy Hour is what makes us unique, as well as our focus on locally produced spirits, wine and food. We sell $1 oysters, food and drink specials. You really can’t find anything else like it in the city.

What’s your favorite part about working there?

My favorite part about working at Eat the Rich is the staff. I've worked at Eat the Rich in almost every position, and in each one I've always felt supported. The people I work with are some of my closest friends. They really push me to be the best that I am capable of being.

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

A good night for me at Eat the Rich is a busy locals-only Happy Hour, where customers are enjoying each other's company and having a good time. You will see most of our customers ordering oysters, caviar, draft cocktails and pitcher cocktails at the bar. 

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

My cocktail, the RIC (Richmond International Airport), was inspired by the classic Aviation cocktail. I wanted to create something floral, yet simple, that would showcase Belle Isle Moonshine.

The RIC (Richmond International Airport)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. Belle Isle Premium Moonshine
  • ½ oz. Dolin Blanc 
  • ½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
  • ½ oz. Lemon
  • ¼ oz. Rich simple syrup
  • 1 barspoon Creme de Violette

Preparation

Shake all ingredients, fine strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Recipe by Lauren Paylor of Eat the Rich

Photos by Alex Kreher

Behind the Bar: Jon Wasilewski / East Coast Provisions

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Tell us about yourself…
I’ve been bartending for about seven years but have been in the restaurant industry since I was 14. I guess you could say I got my start by making jungle juice at the Kappa Sig Fraternity house while at VCU. Seriously though, I waited tables all through college and always had a strong interest in cocktails. After finishing school and working an office job for a few years, I started working at Can Can Brasserie as a waiter. After being at Can Can a few months they offered me the bartending gig, and the rest is history.

What do you do when you’re not bartending? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?
I'm a big music nerd, so I'm always listening to and collecting tunes. I try to see as much live music as possible. I enjoy going to the gym and lifting heavy things. Cycling is a lot of fun. I spend a lot of my time with my two cats. I'm constantly watching sports. As a part-time job I help produce a very delicious spirit, you may actually know a little bit about it. As far as any secret identities go, I can't really tell you, that would strongly jeopardize my other hobby, crime fighting.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a degree in Economics, I was a Financial Advisor for 3 years, I think Beyonce is overrated, I laugh way too hard at the television show Frasier, I prefer winter to summer, I didn't know I could grow a beard until a few years ago, I like Coldplay.

What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail? Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking?
My favorite thing to drink depends on my mood. I'm a big craft beer and whiskey fan, Saisons and Islay Scotches are my favorite styles of both. My favorite cocktails are the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and the Sazerac. I've been known to drink Gin Martinis and Vespers as well. My favorite forgotten classic cocktail is The Blinker, which is Rye, fresh grapefruit and house-made grenadine, trust me!

What do I drink when no one is looking? 
Cosmos and Mojitos, there, I said it.

Tell us about your bar… 
East Coast Provisions keeps a very laid back vibe. People can come in as they are, feel comfortable and enjoy a delicious cocktail, we literally have something for everyone. All of our patrons feel very relaxed when they visit us, and they always leave happy.

What’s the neighborhood like?
Carytown is very diverse. We have people of all ages living and visiting the area. During the nicer months it is definitely a tourist destination. It contains young hipsters, middle-aged business types, and old hippies. Literally anything and everything.

What makes your bar unique?
The visible raw bar you see right when you walk in is gorgeous. Also, the food here at East Coast is really what separates our bar. While all of us bartenders take pride in our drinks and service, the food that the chef puts together on a nightly basis for our guests is phenomenal. We are one of the few places where you can have a great drink with an incredible meal.

What’s your favorite part about working there?
All of the staff here at Coast is outstanding. It's also nice working for a place where the owners/management care about the staff, I've worked at other places where this wasn't the case, I won't mention any names.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?
A good night for me is when people are ordering classic cocktails. I really enjoy giving people a small history on certain drinks. I also love being very busy. Busy equals higher sales and higher sales equal more tips.

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?

Well, the Bell-a-Colada I whipped up goes great with our crunch eel rolls. The spiciness of the roll is a great counter to the sweetness of the cocktail. 

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
My cocktail is the Belle-a Colada. The tiki-takeover, as I like to call it, is what inspired it.

The Bell-a-Colada

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle 100 Proof Moonshine
  • 1 oz. Orgeat
  • 2 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1 oz. Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 oz. Myer's Dark Rum
  • 2 hefty dashes of Peychaud's bitters

Preparation
Combine the first five ingredients into a shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain into a tall collins glass filled with crushed ice. Float the rum on top, garnish with a maraschino cherry (optional).

Recipe by Jon Wasilewski of East Coast Provisions

Photos by Alex Kreher

Behind the Bar: Aaron Irwin / Courthaus Social

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If you live and drink in Arlington, you probably already know Courthaus Social, its spacious  (dog friendly!) patio, and killer beer selection. You may have spent an evening learning about and enjoying the many craft beers on their menu. But did you know they also have a great cocktail program thanks to industry veteran and mixology heavy hitter Aaron Irwin?

Tell us about yourself…
My name is Aaron Irwin, and I’m the Beverage Director/Bar Manager at Courthaus Social. I’ve been bartending for over 20 years, but sort of fell into it. Once upon a time I was waiting tables and our restaurant’s bartender was a no show. I was put behind the bar for a shift and I’ve been there ever since. 

What do you like to drink?
I am a big fan of Bourbons and whiskeys. My favorite classic cocktail would have to be a Manhattan. I tend to stay away from the less than tasty spirits. 

Tell us about your bar...
We call Courthaus Social an “American Beer Garden.” The concept for the restaurant was borrowed from the traditional German Beer Garden. Lots of space, lots of beers, and a relaxed vibe. Being in Arlington, we see a lot of young working professionals, singles, and families, and Courthaus is set up so they can all have a good time here. 

This really is a great place to work and to make drinks. We have a fantastic staff and the variety of beer, wine, and spirits we carry, along with our menu that includes the Reuben Rolls, which won Best App for Taste of Arlington and our fan favorite, the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Not to be too cliché, but every night is a good night here thanks to the great guests who come in. Interacting with them, getting to know them, and exposing them to new beers and cocktails is a really fun part of the job.

The Courthaus Mule

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Honey Habanero
  • ½ oz. Laird’s Applejack Brandy
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. honey syrup
  • 2 oz. Gosling’s Ginger Beer

Preparation:

Combine Honey Habanero, brandy, juice, and syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Mule Mug and top with ginger beer. Add lime wheel for garnish.

Behind the Bar: Phil Boyle / Greenleaf's Pool Room

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It’s impossible to pass the corner of East Franklin and 5th and not see the vast expanses of green felt beckoning from inside Greenleaf’s Pool Room. Owner and real life pool shark “Carpet” Jim Gottier has created a space that both harkens back to the golden days of the pool hall while elevating the game to its proper place in the 21st century by incorporating a sophisticated yet accessible lunch and dinner menu with a top-notch craft cocktail program.

On a recent visit to Greenleaf’s we got a chance to chat with Jim who gave us a few much needed tips on our game and talked to us more about the history and culture of the game he’s dedicated his life - and his establishment too. Meanwhile, Phil Boyle, Greenleaf’s Head Bartender, mixed up a few rounds of cocktails inspired by one of the great pool players.

How did you get into bartending?
My first bar gig was at Wonderland(!) in 2005, so just over 11years. I had been working in restaurants and Hotels for about 5 years, when Chad who was a friend and favorite bartender, called up one day asking if I would want to work for him at Wonderland, which had opened in December of the prior year. I jumped at the opportunity because I had always had a great respect for those behind the bar and was lucky to learn from one of Richmond’s greats. 

What’s your favorite thing to drink?
I went through lots of ‘phases’ as a drinker. Dirty Martinis back in the day. I used to be a sucker for a proper Manhattan before dinner. A Hoppy IPA paired with a single malt scotch after work. Just about anything Mattias Haglund put in front of me. Likewise with the amazing bar staff at Saison! Back in the day, Van Gogh double espresso Vodka-that was my guiltiest pleasure. 

These days if I’m sipping on anything at work, it’s usually a Mexican Coke with a jigger of Orgeat added—cuz Restaurant people can’t just drink normal things!

What’s the vibe/atmosphere at your bar?
Greenleaf’s is like many Richmond places in that each night has its own vibe. During the week it’s pretty chill with a lot of neighborhood regulars. Weekends the cool kids come out either pre-gaming it or to shoot some pool after dinner or with a group of friends, so it’s busy, loud and hyper. Lots of turnover between the bar and the pool tables, so we do our best to make an impression and educate everyone on the cocktails as much as possible in a brief amount of time. 

What’s the neighborhood like?
We’re located at the bottom of the Hotel John Marshall-which is now full of Graduate and Medical students as well as young professionals, much like the other converted buildings in the neighborhood. Pasture, Julep’s and Rappahannock are only a few blocks away, as well as stalwarts like Capital Ale House and Penny Lane Pub and some new additions like Belle and James and the Kabana rooftop bar which just opened. It’s quickly becoming a new destination area to have a great meal, drinks and enjoy some activities all within a 5block radius. 

What makes your bar unique?
The slate bar! Our owner(s?) Jim and Andrea put a great deal of thought and design into this space and my favorite is the repatriated slate from old pool tables to a bar top

What’s your favorite part about working there?
Everyone says the people, right? Well, I have to agree, and we have great customers, but will add that the Motley Crue of a staff that we have is what makes my nights enjoyable. We have people from all over the states, with all sorts of backgrounds, From Jim and Andrea on down. When you truly love the people you work with and trust them wholeheartedly, there’s nothing that can happen during the course of a service that you can’t handle.

What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?
Good nights come often. The customers are curious and easily engaged and in the mood for something different. Since the bar crowd is usually one round and done or to a pool table, it’s our job at the bar to make a first great impression for the Pool Room. I’ll make everyone something they want-assuming we have the ingredients-and do my best to put forth our vibe of an Upscale Pool Room. 

Fridays and Saturday nights our the big nights here and I’ll probably make 50 Old Fashioneds if I’m working the service side of the bar. Lots of classic cocktails on those nights as well as some of our original creations. I really enjoy the variety of those nights where I can make anything from a Negroni with Cynar to a Fernetaboutit to a House Paloma. 

What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?
I find myself often recommending our House Made Deviled Eggs paired with a Rye Old Fashioned. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s a fantastic combination!

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
We have a lot of fun at Greenleaf's naming our drinks in tribute to pool's lore. Famous historic players, obscure, all but lost to history hustlers, and (of course) long gone Richmond pool halls all find their way onto our menu. Our Belle Isle cocktail is called the "Jersey Red" after Jack Breit, a legendary pool hustler, big money player, and all around cool guy whom I got to see toward the end of his best years in the early 70's.

The staff had a run a couple months ago on Aperol cocktails, so when we first got wind of the Ruby Red Grapefruit Belle Isle, that was one of the first pairings that popped into my head. It being springtime right now and with the resurgence of interest in those types of refreshing Italian cordial drinks, we decided to play around with a variation on the Intro to Aperol. 

The Jersey Red

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • ½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Preparation
Build in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass, add ice, garnish with a grapefruit twist

Recipe by Phil Boyle of Greenleaf's Pool Room

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Happy Hour With Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Company

Richmond, ConversationBICS Admin

Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. was founded by David Blanchard in January of 2005. Passionate about great coffee, David saw a need for more of it in Richmond. He started the business by selling his wife’s graduation present - a Toyota 4Runner - to buy a small Ambex coffee roaster and set up in his dad’s garage. His coffee soon got some good press and was picked up by Ukrop's, and the company has been growing ever since. We recently visited Blanchard's ten-person team at the company's Westwood Ave roasting lab where Director of Marketing Stephen Robertson treated us to a tour and some seriously tasty coffee.

What do you do and why?
Blanchard’s is a wholesale craft coffee roaster. We roast thoughtfully sourced coffees from around the world for brewers, retailers, and coffee enthusiasts throughout the U.S. Our goal is to create a vibrant and resilient connection from farm to cup that honors the best qualities of each coffee we roast - and then give each of our customers, from coffee shops to individual brewers, the education and tools they need to brew a great cup of coffee every single time.

Tell us about your space.
We moved into 1903 Westwood Avenue in November of 2015 - our third production space since the company began. For the first time, we were able to plan, design, and build a space that is perfectly suited for our daily production, our client training, and our thriving event schedule.

An open warehouse area houses our two production roasters and sample roaster, as well as our green coffee storage and packaging line. At the head of our production space, we have built a welcoming retail space for walk-in bean customers and visitor welcome. Attached to the open warehouse space is our 1000 sq/ft Training Lab and event space where we have two full coffee shop equipment packages set up in a classroom space to host our existing and potential clients for training, as well as hosting events, both related to coffee and not.

The best part about our space is the abundance of large windows to let in great sunlight and keep the space feeling large and open, even when there are a lot of people inside.
Outside of normal production, we host regular events and guests in our space. Even if only loosely connected to coffee. We strive to create community in everything we do - community that is built on a foundation of good people and good coffee.

If your company was a cocktail, what would the ingredients be?
Tough question. My first inclination would be to say that we are a well aged whiskey, served neat, in a familiar glass and a comfortable chair. We always try to take the pretense out of great coffee. There is a lot of science and artistry in what we do, and we put a lot of passion and experience into roasting the coffee you drink, but most people don’t want to have all that forced down their throat - they just want a great cup of coffee. A warming, soft, smoky whiskey feels to me the way I want people to feel when they open a bag of our coffee.

What does your company do “off the clock?”
We all have our own personal vibe outside of work - but we share a lot of loves as well. Music is a big part of our company culture, both on and off the clock. We always end up seeing each other at shows, or sometimes going together. We all appreciate great food, and most of us are animal lovers of some sort. 

As a company, we try to have some good outings as often as possible - whether it is a baseball game, company trip, dinner out - we all share a great deal of respect for each other.

What’s on your bar?
We don’t keep a full bar, but we often have gifted bar components. So right now, we have a few Belle Isle bottles hiding out. We have lots of friends in the beer world - so there is always a case or two of various beer in our cooler, hiding out with kegs of Hair of the Dog Cold Brew. We also have a strong appreciation for cheap American lager - so you’ll rarely find a time when there isn’t a case of Miller Lite or Coors Lite laying around - that really is the perfect end to a long production day around a hot coffee roaster.

I’m pretty sure if we kept a bottle of bourbon around the office, we’d never get anything done.

Photos by Alexander Kreher

Behind the Bar: Kelsey Ibarrientos / Bellytimber

Richmond, Conversation, CocktailsBICS Admin

Since 2010 Bellytimber has held down the corner of Main and Plum serving up brick-oven pizzas, amazing, virtually irresistible wings, and a wide range of other tasty menu items that emphasize local ingredients and big flavors. Famous for its Mug Club and long-running trivia nights, Bellytimber is also a place you can catch a DJ set most Friday and Saturday nights to dance off some of that pizza. And we haven’t even gotten to their regularly rotating roster of craft beers and, under the guidance of Kelsey Ibarrientos and her team, a newly revamped cocktail program. 

How long have you been bartending?
I've been bartending for a little over four years, so I’m still a relative newbie, but you have to learn quickly in this business.

How did you get into it?
I've worked in the hospitality industry since my first job and have also always been into cooking and creating. I started as a barista at a small coffee shop when I was 15, which I absolutely loved. I picked up my first restaurant job at 17 as a hostess, then started serving the second I turned 18.

I worked through college as a server, then bar back, and as soon as I turned 21, I convinced one of my employers to give me a chance behind the bar. It was a really natural progression to bartending from my past experiences.

What’s your favorite classic cocktail?
I’m a sucker for champagne, so French 75s are right up my alley.

What’s your favorite part about working at Bellytimber?
I’ve worked at Bellytimber for a little over 4 years and it’s really become a second home for me. I love the warmth of the decor and love the people here even more. It’s a blessing to be able to walk in and have regulars that are genuinely interested in how you’re doing and a staff that equally cares about each other. It’s approachable and malleable, being both the background for a nice candlelit dinner with family and friends or a fun-fueled night on the town.

What makes the bar unique?
I think Bellytimber is a great big mixing bowl. We serve everyone from families and young professionals to starving artists and college students. 

The building itself has a lot of history, previously being The Border Chophouse and the Texas Wisconsin, so it’s always fun to have guests come in and reminisce about the times they'd spent here.

Cocktail you hope people ask for?
Any of our featured cocktails of the week. We try to do something fun and new each week and for a lot of our clientele, it means stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new. I like to think that we make the world of craft cocktails extremely approachable for those who have no idea where to start.

Favorite cocktail to sip on when no one is looking?
I love frozen Pina Coladas. Nothing’s better to me than coconut and cream.

Favorite bartender in town?
Marithe Milburn. Not only does she make great drinks, but she’s extremely personable and friendly. I was lucky enough to meet her and she’s been a mentor of sorts for me. Really, though, anyone who can make me laugh and can make an enjoyable cocktail gets an A+ in my book. A smile goes a long way with me.

Favorite menu item and cocktail pairing?
Any of our pizzas or wings with a draft beer. Or our Ahi Cucumber Sandwich with a Moscow Mule. Yum.

Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
We’ve had a lot of fun using Belle Isle in our featured cocktails. One of the favorites among them was The Basil on Belle Isle, a light and refreshing drink that reminds me of spring and summer days at the river.

The Basil on Belle Isle

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • .25 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 Basil Leaves

Preparation
Muddle basil and simple syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add Belle Isle Ruby Red, Ice, Top with fresh grapefruit juice. Garnish with a lemon.

Recipe by Kelsey Ibarrientos

Bar Rules with Beth Dixon

Cocktails, ConversationBICS Admin

I’ve you’ve been drinking cocktails in Richmond long enough, chances are Beth Dixon has poured one for you. She’s been behind the bar at some of the best spots in town, and is currently wowing diners at Pasture.

Today, Beth shares some tips for all the aspiring home mixologists our there or anyone who enjoys a well-made drink.

Rule 1: Keep it Simple

Aside from your basic spirit-and-mixer-over-ice cocktail, which I love, a “craft cocktail” follows a basic formula: 1.5 oz of base spirit, 1/2 oz of flavoring agent (such as Vermouth or Amaro), and 1/2 ounce of acid, usually in the form of citrus juice.

Rule 2: Seek Balance

Drinks can be sweet, sour, bitter, boozy, spicy… the important thing is to make sure your cocktail doesn’t tip too far into one of these flavors when you’re adding ingredients. A drink that’s too anything isn’t one you’re likely to enjoy.

Rule 3: Practice Makes Perfect

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Most recipes need to be refined until you get them right. Take notes of each version you make so you can continue to tweak your mix until you get it exactly how you want it.

Rule 4: Avoid The Bottom Shelf

Your cocktail is only as good as what it’s built on. Going right for the cheapest stuff will almost guarantee you won’t get the results you want (unless what you want is a headache). Stick to brands in the $15-30 range per 750 mL.

Beth’s Home Bar Essentials

  • 1 liter each
    • Neutral Grain Spirit
    • Gin
    • Rum
    • Tequila
    • Rye (for classic cocktails).
    • A nice bottle of bourbon on hand for sipping.
  • Campari
  • St. Germain (aka bartender’s ketchup)
  • Vermouth Sweet and Dry (either Carpano Antica or Ransome)
  • Bitters (Angostura, Peychaud's, Orange)

Behind the Bar: Albee Pedone at Oakhart Social

Conversation, CocktailsBICS Admin

Albee Pedone of Charlottesville’s Oakhart Social has  been tending bar in some form or fashion since he was 11 years old in Brooklyn, NY. His migration south has brought him to a bar that focuses on having fun as much as it does on creating fresh, locally sourced drinks and dinners. Today we talk to Albee about his favorite cocktails, what makes Oakhart unique and life behind the bar. 

What’s the inspiration behind the name Oakhart?

We burn oak in our wood fired oven, the heart (hart) of our restaurant. The social part comes from our desire to be accessible to everyone. We want people to come and enjoy the fun with us, whether they just want to have a beer and pizza in a casual, unpretentious atmosphere without breaking the bank or whether they want to throw down and have it all. Either way, they’ll have a great time.

How is the bar and its cocktails unique?

The combination of a slushie machine, draft wine, beer engine, leg lamp, and bartenders rockin' a pretty tight sock game makes for unique conditions. Our continually changing cocktail menu is classically inspired, yet modernly crafted. We try to think of it like BASF – we didn't make the cocktail, we make the cocktail better.

How does the bar influence the food, and vice versa?

I am fortunate to be working alongside a brilliant and talented Chef, Tristan Wraight, so I generally take cues from the incredible dishes he creates and make drinks that hopefully match their caliber. That being said, we are one restaurant and ultimately influence and inspire each other in order to consistently delight and surprise our guests whether they come in for food, drinks, or both.

What has the evolution of the Charlottesville bar and restaurant scene been like recently and what has your role been?

As with most cities, Charlottesville has seen tremendous growth in farm-to-table restaurants and craft-cocktail driven bar programs, with a focus on local and sustainable products. While it's happening here, the pinnacle hasn't yet been reached, which makes it an exciting and fun ride to be a part of.

What do you drink when no one is looking?

Being a simple man, I usually tend to drink my spirits neat, however my guiltiest pleasure would have to be a White Russian, which, when in the mood for, I will drink whether anyone is looking or not!

What is your go-to cocktail?

This is very mood-determinate. When I want strong, I go Manhattan, when I want something a bit sweeter it's the Old Fashioned, and when I want a refreshing, crisp sipper, it's The Last Word.

What’s your favorite food & cocktail pairing at Oakhart Social?

No question – Hanger Steak and Smokey Rose all day! Other notable mentions, are Shaved Salad and Bramble On, and Pickled Shrimp and The Clever Comeback.

Images by Alex Kreher

The Clever Comeback

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • 1 oz. Linie Aquavit
  • 1 oz. Drambuie
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preparation

Combine ingredients in a mixer with ice, shake, and strain into a martini glass.