Belle Isle Moonshine Shares Secrets of Making the Perfect Cocktail

by | Apr 25, 2019 | EAT DRINK

As the Richmond weather becomes increasingly palatable, so does the idea of throwing a springtime party. Every good shindig comes with cold, crisp libations, but the thought of creating that ideal celebratory drink can seem impossible.

With the help of Brandon Day, director of marketing at locally-made Belle Isle Moonshine, cocktail creation requires few steps and few ingredients; ratios, ingredients, and presentation are all made simple.

Any solid cocktail starts with quality ingredients. If the everyday vodkas have become boring or the burn has become a turn-off, Day said, craft moonshine makes for an easy transition from the infamous alcohol. Belle Isle Moonshine has a smoother aftertaste, and requires only a small ratio of citrus and either juice or soda to create a complete cocktail.

The key to a great cocktail is the golden ratio, Day said. Eyeballing proportions is a thing of the past. Starting with the goal of a six-ounce drink, the ratios are easy to remember. Start with two ounces of the chosen spirit, add a splash of citrus such as lemon or lime, and top with a mixer, such as soda water or lemonade.

“Some people try to mask it with sugars,” Day said. “That’s where we’ve tried to be really intentional. Our products never have any artificial colors or flavors. It’s fresh and real ingredients.”

These sugary drinks can also lead to the ever-dragging hangover. By using fewer, higher-quality ingredients, though, that problem can be avoided. The rule of the golden ratio can also save you from that afterburn that is often the result of including too much liquor or lower-quality imbibements (i.e. rail drinks). Looking for flavors in the liquor to match the mixer can help to overpower the flavor of the alcohol itself, Day said.

“Don’t always look for burn in a cocktail,” Day said. “It’s supposed to be sessionable, and you should be able to drink it recurrently.”

Much like the alcoholic burn, to ice or not to ice is another common cocktail-making dilemma. When making single drinks or batched cocktails, ice should be added after the drink is created to avoid watering down the drink, according to Day and Robert Dvorak of Belle Isle Moonshine.

With self-serve stations, a bucket of ice with a scoop is an easy, presentable, and convenient way to keep drinks cold, especially when batched cocktails are the centerpiece of the party drinking scene.

Belle Isle Moonshine | Tazza’s Kitchen

Ratios work in the same way in batches as they do for single drinks. A single 750 milliliter bottle of Belle Isle Moonshine includes 25 ounces, or just about 12 cocktails, Day said. If you’re stuck at ABC without a clue of the appropriate amount of alcohol to purchase for a party, that ratio can help with the decision-making process. Per 25-ounce bottle, 50 ounces of a mixer such as lemonade or soda will complete the ratio, topped with any citrus flavor to complete the drink.

When batching the cocktails, flavors are always going to be different, so tasting periodically can help you decide what may need to be added, Day said.

After the cocktail is taste-tested, presentation can take the drink from simple to special. Citrus floaters, edible flowers, and herbs add just enough garnish to batched drinks, and may be sipped through hay straws that also add flair to the drink. Hay straws are made from from recycled wheat stems, the  part of the plant that can’t be used for anything else, Day said. Not only are hay straws eco-friendly, but they’re economical and can be ordered online for low prices.

“When you’ve mastered a really simple cocktail, it’s really easy to add a visual to the cocktail by adding a garnish,” Dvorak said. “It’s so simple but so colorful, and really entertaining.”

While still using these methods, Day emphasized that the continuation of learning and experimenting is key to great cocktail creation.

“We’re lucky as Richmonders to live in city that has an amazing food and beverage scene, and there’s so many brilliant bartenders out there that have a really wide range of knowledge,” Day said. “We’re huge advocates for going out, trying new things, ordering off the cocktail menu, and asking how to incorporate it into your own cocktail-making at home.”

Belle Isle Moonshine produces their popular Honey Habanero infusion, which can seem intimidating to those who may not reach for the spicy drink at a party. However, Dvorak emphasized that a spicy mule can become palatable to anyone with enough citric acid to deteriorate the burn of the pepper. Just like their other infusions, such as Blood Orange and Ruby Red Grapefruit, the Honey Habanero requires the same few ingredients to make a cocktail that anyone could enjoy.

Day considers it a misconception that high-end or fancy mixers are necessary to make a delicious drink.

“Basics can get you just as far,” he said.

For your next event, keep the ingredients simple yet high-quality, adhere to ratios, select a creative garnish, and continue to have fun experimenting with mixtures. Cheers!

Sydney Lake

Sydney Lake

Sydney Lake is a writer at RVA Magazine. Telling stories in a meaningful way is her deepest love, and writing is her trade of choice. She also loves good food, old music and passionate people. Think pimento cheese biscuits with a side of Steve Miller Band.

more in eat drink

Wave That Flag! Richmond’s Pride 2024 Events Are Here to Slay

We are a little late on this but Virginia Pride has unveiled the schedule for its annual "Endless Summer of Pride" campaign, a celebration of the Richmond region's LGBTQ community. The campaign kicked off on May 31 with a pride flag-raising ceremony at City Hall,...

Time For A Richmond Pizza Date!

Over the last decade Richmond has become a proper pizza town. Local pizzerias dish up a variety of styles at every price range. Pizza is the food of the people so naturally it makes a great date. You can learn a lot about a person across a slice. Are they a folder?...

RVA 5×5 | Legend Brewing Co. is Looking to Sell

This Business of the Week story is somewhat bittersweet as Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense reported that Legend Brewing Co. is looking to sell its property and maybe their assets and formula as well. Last month they put their 1.3-acre property on 7th Street in...

Cicadas on the Menu in Richmond!

In late April or in early May, trillions of cicadas will emerge in various U.S. states. These periodical cicadas, from Brood XIX and Brood XIII, surface after 13 and 17 years, respectively, and will appear in unprecedented numbers. Virginia will experience this mostly...

Congrats 821 Cafe! A Favorite Richmond Hang Out Turns Twenty

821 Cafe, the unassuming diner/restaurant/bar on the corner of Cherry and Cary streets - where Oregon Hill and the Fan meet - turns 20 years old in its current incarnation. Andrew Clarke and Chip Cooke bought the place from its previous owners back in 2004, and have...

JewFro restaurant was robbed. Help them bounce back.

We were made aware of this post from the restaurant and wanted to lend our support. If you have any details that could assist, please step forward and notify the authorities. Additionally, there's a GoFundMe campaign established to aid their recovery, which you can...

Behind the Rebirth: Inside Story of Harry’s at the Hofheimer

I was strolling down Broad Street on what was an unseasonably beautiful day in March, and as I rounded the corner at Arthur Ashe Boulevard I was greeted by the familiar yet striking architecture of The Hofheimer Building. I was making my way there that day to meet...

Matt Strickland and the Image of Strength He Must Demonstrate

Strickland Appeared before the Virginia Board of Elections “Buy the ticket, take the ride” is that old proverbial saying coined by Hunter S Thompson. I prefer the saying “take the ride, pay for the ticket. Now is almost the time for Matt Strickland to pay for the...