2015 New York Rising Star Bartender Natasha David of Nitecap

2015 New York Rising Star Bartender Natasha David of Nitecap
February 2015

120 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002



If Natasha David seems to bring something a little more cosmopolitan to the bar, it’s for good reason. David was born in Germany and grew up in an eclectic household, with musician parents who had David globetrotting from one opera house to another when she was just a kid.

By the time she was 18, and with a clear creative bent of her own, David was more than equipped to handle fast-paced culture hub New York City. Enrolling at New York University to pursue a theater degree, David supported herself with a job at an Irish pub. What might seem like a fairly unglamorous situation was a mini-revelation for David, who began working behind the bar less as a means to an end than an end in itself.

David didn’t stay pub-side for long. Talented and ambitious, she was assistant general manger and bar manager at The Corner Shop Café in Noho by her senior year, and the gigs haven’t stopped. From the opening staff at Woodson & Ford (where she worked with Lynette Marrero and Jim Kearns and the cocktail bug took serious hold), David went on to mix Italian at Maialino and Pulino’s, Scandinavian at Vandaag, absinthe-happy at Maison Premiere, and just happy at Prime Meats. She also has worked with Brian Miller at Diageo’s New York headquarters, and taught bartending classes at Haven’s Kitchen. Following a successful stint at Demi Monde, David is now head bartender and co-owner of rowdy, unassuming Nitecap on the Lower East Side, part of the powerhouse Proprietors LLC family of bars, for which she is also a consultant.   

Interview with New York Rising Star Bartender Natasha David of Nitecap

Mary Choi: How did you first get into the industry?
Natasha David:
I initially moved to New York to attend NYU for their drama program, to become an actress. I quickly realized how expensive it was to live here (haha!), so I started bartending at an Irish pub. I worked in bars throughout college and in every position, be it bar back, cocktail waitress, or coat check. When I was working at Corner Shop Café, the general manager really went out of her way to groom and train me and eventually I worked my way up to the assistant general manager position. From there I was introduced to Lynnette Marrero and Jim Kearns who were in the process of opening Woodson & Ford. I worked with them to open, and it was a completely different experience for me. I mean, I’ve accrued bartending experience, but never at a cocktail bar of that caliber. I’d never held a jigger before that point, and I was terrible, at first. I was notorious for not being able to crack open my shaker. But I learned to love it. I loved managing and the camaraderie among the employees behind the bar. It was during this time that I realized I’d come to a fork in my career. Throughout this whole time, I was working until 4:00 a.m. and getting up in the morning to go to auditions in full make up wearing 6-inch heels! I found myself looking forward to work and dreading going to auditions. It was a difficult time for me because I thought I was giving up on my dream as opposed to pursuing a new one. I mean, I’d wanted to be an actress since I was 11. But my decision was made—I started taking bartending seriously.

MC: Who has been your most influential mentor?
Katie Stipe for sure and Cadell Tomlinson, whom I met at Woodson & Ford. She was like my bar mama and we still do a lot of events together. When I first started, these women were some of the first in the industry and they taught me to put my head down, work, and not to be discouraged when I didn’t get the job I wanted. I was never a big attention seeker, and I learned how to get recognized through my work.

MC: What have been some of the biggest challenges throughout your career?
I think there’s a perception that I got where I am because I’m just a cute girl and that I have no talent. I’ve also been turned down for jobs just because I’m a woman. I’ve been looked at as an employee that could just get knocked up and leave. But that just made me want to work harder and better.

MC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to start a family. I’d love to have kids, run Nitecap, and maybe even open another bar in NYC.

MC: How did you get involved with Proprietors LLC?
I worked with Alex Day at Woodson & Ford. I mean, he was much more experienced than me, so he worked the better shifts. We never actually worked a night together, but that’s how we were introduced and we kept in touch socially over the years as well. When I was thinking about opening Nitecap, I went to California and started developing the cocktail list and menu with them, and Nitecap has since become a sort of extended wing of the group.