Interview with New York City Rising Star Jesse Vida of BlackTail

by D. J. Costantino
February 2017

D. J. Costantino: How did you get your start?
Jesse Vida:
I’m from San Francisco, and I’ve been behind the bar 10 years. My first job in New York was at Booker and Dax, where I met Dave Arnold. Then I went to work at Dutch Kills,  then Dead Rabbit. I worked with Jillian [Vose] there, which was right before they gave me the opportunity to run the program over here.

DC: Do you have any mentors?
JV: It's not so much that they're my mentors, but there are definitely people who have influenced me and my career. Jack McGarry is one of those people for sure, and Jillian Vose at Dead Rabbit, as well as Richie Boccato from my time at Dutch Kills.

DC: What’s your favorite cocktail to drink?

DC: And to make?
JV: Martinis

DC: How are you involved in the local bartending community?
JV: I consider myself pretty involved. I mean, I don’t hold a seat in the USBG or anything. But it's also important to have a national and international presence. I did an apprentice program at Tales [of the Cocktail], and I flew out to San Antonio for the San Antonio Cocktail Conference in January.

DC: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
It’s been five months since we came over here to BlackTail and opened our doors, and we fashioned the style of service and cocktails to Dead Rabbit. But this is a totally different place, and we've had to make a lot of adjustments. For the first three and a half months we did only seated service, but we opened up the bar, and people like that, and now we have live music a few nights a week. You’ve got to protect the ethos of your bar program, and I finally feel like we’re in a place where people are getting what they want from it.

DC: What's your five year plan?
It’s interesting, for a long time, it was always my dream to open a bar, but as I moved into a position where it became a possibility, it sort of slowed me down. Five years ago, I would’ve done it no matter what. Owning a bar is an idea that I’ll always entertain, but I want to continue to learn more as a manger, and learn more operational tactics. I turned down a few head bartender positions because I wasn't ready to do it as well as I thought I should be able to, so it's all been very methodical, and I've been very patient with my career.