You know you’ve met a rad babe when the vibe of her bar evokes just as much personality as the woman herself. This wonderfully creative boss babe once was pursuing to be an actress, yet turned her love for the restaurant business into a full-blown career. And we are so glad she did. Natasha David exemplifies how far you can go when you are nice to people and work really hard. With a creative upbringing and previously being employed by Maison Premiere (one of our other favorite spots here at TTS), this head bartender knows how to make a mean drink, both visually and deliciously beautiful.
Not only was Natasha named StarChef’s 2015 Rising Star Mixologist in February and Bartender of the Year by Eater, but she co-owns the bar, Nitecap, and her and her husband, Jeremy Oertel, are owners of You and Me Cocktails, a bar consulting company. Oh yeah, and you probably remember this boss babe from our “Be A Boss” event.
We got to hang out with Natasha at Nitecap, and chatted about her life in Germany, cocktails, and her creative process. Meet the beautifully talented, Natasha David.
Brooklyn, New York
Song on repeat:
Solange ‘Losing You’
Beauty product you can’t live without:
Spectrum organic unrefined virgin coconut oil — I lather my entire body with it on a daily basis, and my Weleda wild rose eye cream.
Who is your style muse?
Marion Cotillard. I would like Dior to dress me everyday.
Describe your perfect drink in 3 words:
Balanced, soothing, unpretentious.
Food you can’t resist:
Pasta. Any kind. I don’t discriminate.
Where’s your go-to place on a night off?
On rare nights off, you can usually find me at home with my husband and cat, cooking. But if I’m feeling extra lazy, you can never go wrong with a burger and glass of wine from Diner in Williamsburg. It’s the perfect date — casual and messy.
How does the nightlife scene in New York differ from Germany? Which do you like better?
Well, I left Germany when I was 10 years old, so the only German nightlife I can tell you about is the glass of champagne I got to drink on New Years Eve. Apparently, I was quite a rowdy drunk back then, or so my older sister tells me. But I’m in Europe a lot and I love European drinking culture– a lovely low ABV spritz in the evening, a bottle of wine with dinner. But something you can’t find anywhere else is a quintessential New York dive bar– you know, the kind where it’s only safe to drink a bottle of Bud Light and don’t you dare sit on the toilet seat or ask the bartender to give you a glass of water, but the music is amazing. I love those.
If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you order?
I’d have a drink with my mother’s father, Kanmo Imamura. He died right after I was born. Although, he did get to meet me. He was an incredibly forward-thinking and opened-minded man. He was a Buddhist priest (we have 17 generations of Buddhist priests in our family). He had quite the life, from going to Japan at 4 years old to becoming a priest to helping all the Japanese rebuild their lives after the internment camps. I’ve heard so many stories. He was a huge scotch lover, so I’d pour us both healthy glasses of scotch and ask him a million questions.
You just made us a delicious drink. Can you tell us the ingredients and how’d you make it?
1 oz Plantation 3 Star White Rum
0.75 oz Manzanilla Sherry
0.75 oz Fresh Watermelon Juice
0.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
0.5 oz Simple Syrup (1 part sugar : 1 part water)
0.25 oz Campari
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a Smoked Salt rimmed cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
I graduated from NYU, had agents, was going on amazing auditions, but there came a day where I looked forward to going to my restaurant job and didn’t look forward to my auditions anymore. The decision to stop acting was not an easy one, but I haven’t had any regrets about it.I hear your parents were musicians. Your inherent artistic prowess seems to have come from growing up in an eclectic household. Would you say mixology is your creative outlet? Absolutely. I grew up surrounded by creativity. I had an unbelievably wonderful childhood, traveling the world’s opera houses with my parents. Art is in my blood. My creative outlet used to be playing my violin or reciting a monologue. Nowadays, I find it in my kitchen, or while I’m gardening and, of course, while creating cocktails.
What is your creative process when crafting a cocktail?
I’m a very visual person, so I think of colors. I associate those colors with flavors and those flavors need to have some sort of emotion attached to them. Cocktails are very luxurious, and if I’m going to pay $14 for a drink, I want it to transport me somewhere.
Well, being an owner changes everything. I never in a million years thought I would be loosing sleep over the cost of a napkin, but here I am, loosing sleep over the cost of a napkin. And while I don’t want to make this all about money, learning how to be creative within certain budgetary constraints has definitely forced me to think outside of the box when creating cocktails. I try to teach my bartenders that cost is an ingredient.
What’s the most challenging part of opening a bar?
Getting the bar actually open! Nitecap was ready, as in the bar was built, the lamp fixtures were hung, the glassware had been purchased and it just sat there for a year and a half because we were waiting on permits.
Your husband is a mixologist as well. What differentiates your style/methods from his?
We work very differently– We have a bar consulting company together and our different styles definitely balance each other out. I could pick Jeremy’s drinks out of a blind taste test. He isn’t shy when it comes to bold flavors and yet, somehow, manages to tame those flavors into beautifully balanced cocktails. I don’t have the guts to do what he does.
If you could open a bar anywhere, where would it be and what would you call it?
My fantasy is a tiny bar on a beach where I bartend barefoot and squeeze limes by hand while my babies run around naked in the sand and my husband is picking coconuts and feeding me fresh coconut water. My reality dream bar is also tiny, but in upstate New York on my future farm where I grow all the fruit and herbs that go into my drinks. Well, maybe, that’s a fantasy, too, but it’s more realistic. I haven’t left dreamland yet to think of a name for it.
Words of advice to future boss babes:
Lead by example and most importantly, be nice.