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Mixology Spirit: Brandi Cullagh

Mixology Spirit is back! We’ve been chomping at the bit to get back to work on the blog. Now that restrictions have eased, we can get back to sharing the stories of the most talented bartenders in our region. Our first post since March 2020 features Brandi Cullagh from The Tavern at The Heritage Hotel in Southbury. Turns out that Brandi’s favorite Litchfield Distillery spirit is our Strawberry Vodka, which coincides perfectly with this week’s release of our 2020 Strawberry Vodka. If you love our flavored vodkas, you’ll want to check out Brandi’s Strawberry Breeze that’s highlighted in this interview. It’s wonderfully refreshing and the addition of basil adds subtle complexity and peppery notes, which nicely balances the cocktail’s fruit and sweetness. You can count on us to order a few of these over the summer!

Batchers: Welcome to Mixology Spirit, Brandi! Can you let everyone know where you work and what your role is?

Brandi: Thanks for inviting me! I am a bartender at The Tavern at the Heritage Hotel in Southbury, CT.

Batchers: How long have you been bartending? What do you enjoy the most about it?

Brandi: I have been bartending for over 20 years. I love the interactions with different people. Working in a bar that is located inside a hotel allows for the opportunity to meet a variety of different people from across the world. I love it!

Batchers: We understand you are also a Special Education Teacher. How does doing that important work influence how you operate behind the bar?

Brandi: Bartending and teaching special education both require two main traits: patience and a sense of humor. I want my students to enjoy coming into the classroom each day to learn something new. I want my customers to come to the bar and be able to relax and enjoy a drink. As a bartender you need to know who your customers are and when they want to talk and when they just want to be left alone.

Batchers: Got a story about a particularly challenging night behind the bar?

Brandi: A couple of years ago we experienced a tornado that touched down in Southbury. The bar was packed as the hotel was full and everyone congregated in the bar. We lost power and I served over 100 people in the dark by candlelight. We were unable to use the computer or cash register, so we had to rely upon the “0ld-fashioned way” with a pen and paper. Some folks were very upset that we could not take credit cards because of the power outage, but we got by. After we were able to close up we helped all the guests walk up to their rooms as the elevators were not working. It was an exhausting day, but one I’ll never forget!

Batchers: What is your favorite Litchfield Distillery Spirit to mix in cocktails and why?

Brandi: I love using your Strawberry Vodka. You can really tell that it is made with fresh strawberries. It’s not too sweet and is easy to mix to make light, summer cocktails. EVERYONE I serve it to loves it and the fact that it’s local makes it even better. I use it in a lot of cocktails. Sometimes, I’ll add a shot of Strawberry Vodka in a Litchfield Bourbon Lemonade to add an extra special twist.

Batchers: For folks at home trying to mix better cocktails, what’s one common mistake people should learn to avoid?

Brandi: Less is better! Too much alcohol makes for a very strong drink you will not enjoy. Too much sugar and mixers will make it too sweet. Take a “less is better” approach and try to achieve a great balance between all ingredients. Fresh ingredients such as mint, basil, strawberries also helps make your drink taste even better, fresher.

Batchers: What traits or skills do you think separate the good bartenders from the great?

Brandi: I think most people can make a very good drink but it’s the bartender’s consistency and personality that make guests want to stay and return in the future. Having the ability to relate to people and read people is a huge part of bartending. Everyone who walks into a bar is different and has different expectations for their experience. A great bartender is able to adjust and adapt to any situation.

Batchers: What does The Spirit of Hard Work® mean to you?

Brandi: I think it represents someone who is honest, has integrity and is dependable. I have worked two jobs for 20 years with the past 13 working two jobs while raising a family. The Spirit of Hard Work embodies someone who believes in what they do and puts in the work necessary to make the best product or experience they can.

Brandi’s Featured Cocktail: The Strawberry Breeze

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Litchfield Distillery Strawberry Vodka
4 Strawberry Slices
6-10 Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh Juice of 1 Lemon
Splash of Lemonade
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Garnish: Strawberry Slices, Lemon Slice, Basil Leaves
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Method: Chop basil, slice strawberries. Add to glass with fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar and muddle. Add Vodka and top with Lemonade. Shake until nice and frothy. Strain over ice and garnish with strawberries, lemon slice and basil leaves. Optional garnish: This drink is also nice with a dollop of fresh whipped cream!
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To learn more about The Heritage Hotel, Golf, Spa & Conference Center, please visit their website or follow them on Instagram and Facebook. They are located at 522 Heritage Road in Southbury. Call 203-264-8200 for questions and reservations.

About Mixology Spirit:

Mixology Spirit is a Litchfield Distillery blog series dedicated to sharing the stories of creative and passionate mixologists who embody The Spirit Of Hard Work®. Think you got what it takes to be featured? Drop us a line at info@litchfielddist.com.

© 2020 Litchfield Distillery. Photography & Editing Credits: Tony Vengrove

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