If you’ve done any serious drinking in the NYC craft cocktail scene, chances are you’ve heard of Natasha David. After moving to New York City to study theater at NYU, Natasha bartended at an Irish pub and a hospitality star was born. After stints at Noho’s Corner Shop Café, Maialino, Pulino’s and Maison Premiere, among others, the talented mixologist opened up the Lower East Side favorite Nitecap last year, along with Alex Day and David Kaplan of Death & Co. acclaim. Now, she can be found concocting delicious drinks at the year-old subterranean hangout, and consulting for other venues around the city. We caught up with Natasha about – what else – drinking.
Favorite NYC place to hang out over a drink when you’re not working?
I love drinking sherry at Donostia. If I’m feeling celebratory, you can find me at Maison Premiere drinking rosé champagne. I always love Otb– the room is elegant but completely unpretentious.
What is your go-to drink when you are out?
I pretty much drink wine all the time, but my go to drink is a margarita, up, with salt. Extra salt. The more salt the better. I get into a lot of trouble when I’m in a margarita mood.
What was your first job in the industry?
I was a bartender in an East Village Irish pub my freshman year of college. St. Dymphna’s. I still get drinks there. It’s a fantastic bar.
What was your A-H-A moment, like when was there a moment when you realized that this was absolutely for you?
When I had my first properly made Manhattan. I didn’t realize a cocktail could taste so good.
Do you have a mentor, or someone that you look up to in the industry?
I’ve been incredibly lucky and have had many people take me under their wing. but I’d say Katie Stipe has influenced me the most. I love the way she thinks about cocktails, the way she puts them together. It’s wonderful having a strong female mentor and friend.
Do you drink coffee or Tea? Where do you go and how many times a week?
I used to be a PG tips with almond milk and one sugar girl, but my lovely husband, who nerds out about most things in life, recently bought all the tools to make pour over coffee at home. I’m officially a convert. I’ll have a cup of that with my morning emails at home and if I’m feeling extravagant, I’ll go to Cafe Vita right down the street from Nitecap and get a latte. I went to high school in Seattle, so Vita coffee is very nostalgic for me. I pretty much spent my senior year at the Cafe Vita on capitol hill sneaking cigarettes and drinking coffee.
What’s your hangover remedy?
I’ll be honest. I’ve maybe only had about 5 hangovers in my life, the most recent being from Nitecap’s one year anniversary party which took me a good week to recover from. since I lack in experience I don’t have any go-to cures. I just try to drown my body in water. and wear leggings and a sweatshirt. I have found that to be essential.
So what are you into right now when it comes to cocktails?
I would say that low ABV style cocktails are sort of my thing so I’ve been trying to work on the polar opposite family– martinis. Stiff, ice cold, slow sippers.
When you are creating cocktails, do you think of the liquor you want to use first or the taste that you are going for? What is your process?
This may sounds crazy but I think in colors. I associate flavors with colors so once I have my color I try to find complimentary colors that go with it.
What is your favorite spot when you want to be low-key or date?
I love a good bowl of ramen from Minca in the east village or some hummus and labne from Cafe Mogador. I’m a good Japanese-Israeli! I’m always happy with a heaping plate of rigatoni bolognese from Lil’ Frankies. And a smoked trout salad with a glass of white wine at Cafe Gitane is always a perfect date. oh, and who can forget the good old burger at Diner with a glass of red wine go-to low-key date night with my husband. Perfect every time.
Hidden NYC gems or dive bars
My absolute favorite bar in my neighborhood is Dynaco. It’s comfy, friendly, a real neighborhood bar. You can find me there at least once a week (which is a lot for me– I never go out)
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
This past year has been overwhelmingly wonderful in every way. I never expected Nitecap to be received the way it has been. But i think my proudest accomplishment has been creating a platform for my enormously talented staff and for ensuring that Nitecap is a place filled with creativity, passion and most importantly humor.
Anything else that you would like to tell us, what is next for you project, like what are you working on these days?
My husband, Jeremy Oertel and I, run our own consulting business and are about to unveil new menus at both the SoHo Grand and TriBeCa Grand hotels. And of course little old Nitecap keeps me very busy. But my next big project will be drinking rosé on my roof top as I garden.