If it's one thing New Yorkers are serious about, it's their alcohol. So we sat down with Jesse Vida, the head mixologist at BlackTail to get the inside scoop on one of the best cocktail bars in NYC.
We’re not shy about wanting to be the best. We know there’s no such thing as perfection, but there is always room for improvement. So that’s how we push our staff, and every day is a new challenge. Plus, it’s just a fun space to be in.
Oh man, I have so many long stories. But nothing beats the time I had a guy vomit into one of my mixing glasses…
Hands down, the martini. It's an amazing conversation starter. Very rarely does somebody just say, “I want a martini” and that’s the end of it. It’s usually, “Ok, well, do you like gin or vodka? Olives or lemon twist? Dry or bitter?” And at Blacktail, I love making the highballs on our menu. The vodka celery is a pretty bangin’ cocktail.
A more off-the-beat use of a popular cocktail ingredient: aquavit. It’s a caraway and dill-based Scandinavian/Nordic spirit. There’s a lot of good cocktail bars that have been using it, including Dead Rabbit and BlackTail, and it’s cool to see a spirit making a bigger splash.
It's all about the history. The bar design takes classic pieces of 1920s Havana and implements them into our story. It's very transporting—when you walk into BlackTail, you don’t feel like you’re in New York anymore. It’s like a tunnel into another time.
We have 300 photos of Havana, Cuba shot by Vern Evans, and they’re exclusive to BlackTail. We took those pictures, printed them into postcards and we’ll send them anywhere in the world for you. It’s a cool way to bring back something from the past that’s very much a lost form of communication today.
There are 56 cocktails on our menu, so we have something for everybody. The Nacional (banana, rum, fresh pineapple, lime, yuzu, gentian) is out of this world. It’s an adaptation on a classic cocktail that was named after the legendary Hotel Nacional in Havana. It’s super refreshing, tropical and slightly bitter on the finish. And because I can't pick just one, I'd also say the rum and cola (fernet, homemade cola syrup, white rum, bitters, champagne). It's nostalgic yet has a modern palette.
Call me biased, but I think New York pushes the envelope more than anywhere else. I’ve been lucky enough to travel for work so I’ve seen a lot of amazing bars, but New York still takes the cake.