Interview with New York Rising Star Bartender Natasha David of Nitecap

by Mary Choi
February 2015

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?
ND:
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?
ND:
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?
ND:
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?
ND:
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.