Mind Erasers, Salt Water and Travel: Drinking with Jesse Vida

Many say that youth is wasted on the young, but every now and then you meet a young person who oozes a special kind of confidence. Jesse Vida – Bar Manager as BlackTail, a Prohibition-era Cuban-inspired bar that is truly en fuego – is that person.

Created by the award-winning team behind The Dead Rabbit, BlackTail has a legacy to live up to, and Vida is entrusted with that task. There is good reason that they had faith in him as his resume includes stints at Dutch Kills, Booker & Dax and Momofuku Ssäm Bar. We are truly impressed with the transportive BlackTail experience and equally impressed with its Bar Manager from BedStuy.

Drinking With Jesse Vida

How did you get started in the biz?

My first industry job was as a barback at a bar/restaurant in San Francisco in 2007.

What was the gateway drink that made you take cocktailing seriously?

My eureka cocktail was the Sazerac. It happened almost 10 years ago and I can still remember every minor detail; every single moment from watching the drink be made to the very first sip!

What is your current go-to drink order?

Lately, my go-to cocktail order is a dry gin martini, otherwise, it’s a whiskey and cider.

Guilty pleasure / no f*cks given drink?

Mind eraser, but I don’t feel guilty, though; I love ’em.

First drunk experience?

The first time I got drunk was off of Jack Daniels, I was 13.

What is your favorite spot for a drink or three?

Mona’s Bar, Attaboy, Bar 169, The NoMad Hotel, The Dead Rabbit, Suffolk Arms, Boilermaker, Nitecap, Mother of Pearl and Glorietta Baldy.

Post-Shift cocktail?

Anything bright and refreshing works. A daiquiri or highball of some capacity.

Your “Cheers” local where everybody knows your name spots

Black Crescent.

Super Crafty / Get inspired R&D Spots

The NoMad, Death & Co, Karasu, Pouring Ribbons, The Dead Rabbit, and Maison Premiere.

Do you drink coffee or tea?

I only drink coffee a few times a week at work when I need the pick me up. I’m not the guy to ask for a favorite coffee spot, unfortunately.

Where do you take out-of-towners for that “Only in New York” cocktail experience?

There are a few:

  • Get an Irish Coffee at The Dead Rabbit then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with a nice coffee/whiskey buzz.
  • The Nomad Hotel for a tasty bite, lively atmosphere, and great beverage program.
  • Attaboy for an intimate more classic style NY cocktail bar.
  • Karasu for Japanese bites and drinks.
  • Death & Co for a NY institution visit
  • BlackTail for live Cuban jazz and strawberry daiquiris … Oh man, there aren’t enough days in the week.

What is your favorite spot for a romantic “let’s get it on” date night drink?

Attaboy is sexy and intimate. Oh, and it is open until 4 am every night.

Most under the radar impressive bar in NYC that deserves more attention?

Ba’sik in Brooklyn

BlackTail is one of the most buzzed about bars around town right now. If a guest is visiting for the first time, what do you recommend?

I would say the Nacional, it’s rum based, refreshing, bright, tropical with a slightly bitter finish that keeps you coming back for more.

What is your hangover remedy?

A big glass of water with a pinch of salt and a small splash of lemon juice. Can’t forget some toast or a bagel to soak it all up.

Death row drink – what would be your last sip?

My final drink would have to be a Negroni, it’s been my all time favorite classic forever.

Who is the best drinking buddy for a fun night out?

Jillian Vose, Bar Manager at the Dead Rabbit. All the fun and trouble.

A few favorite cocktails bars around the country that are a MUST to Big Up?

I was just in San Antonio for the cocktail conference and The Esquire Tavern is one of my favorite bars in the country. They recently opened a more refined cocktail, sherry and cider-focused program called The Downstairs. It’s an amazing must-visit bar.

Tell us about some of your recent travel.

I love to travel but I make a point to never be away from BlackTail for more than one week a month. It’s very important to me to feel in tune with the space and staff at all times. I just returned from a crazy travel schedule, over the past three months I’ve been to Norway (Guest Bartending and Seminar), Cuba (Research for BlackTail), Miami (Birthday Boozing), Texas (San Antonio Cocktail Conference), Chicago (Guest Bartending), and Guatemala(Visiting Sugar Cane Plantation and Rum Distillery).

Any advice for aspiring young guns wanting to break into the industry?

The biggest piece of advice is to stay patient, take your time, do not rush into the first opportunity thrown your way. Take your time to learn from those around you and be vocal about your goals and ambitions with your superiors. After all, closed mouths don’t get fed.

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Spill it …. shameless plugs, what are you working on right now?

Some exciting things on the horizon, BlackTail will be having an international pop-up in London at The Bloomsbury Club in early February. There are some other big pop-ups, seminars and general travel to spread the word on BlackTail. Something I’m very excited about is House Spirits is about to launch a new Rum from Guatemala, our whole team was just out there checking it out. Amazing stuff, be on the lookout for Magdalena Rum launching this spring.

Social Call – where can Thirsty readers keep up with you and your adventures on social media?

The best way to do so would be to follow my Instagram @jessejvida

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