Besties: New York’s Favorite Drink-Slinging Couple

Welcome to the 2015 "Besties Guest Bartending Series," a monthly event and column in collaboration with Momofuku featuring two bartenders who've inspired each other's work. Up next week: real-life bartending couple Natasha David and Jeremy Oertel on cats, Madonna and shift drinks.

Welcome to the third installment of the 2015 “Besties Guest Bartender Series” a monthly collaboration with our friends at Momofuku that brings together two bartenders with a history, and puts them behind the bar at Má Pêche for a night.

Besties started out with Momofuku as an excuse for former bartending buddies to work together again, if even for just a night. Since then it has evolved into an event that celebrates quality drinks and friendship. To make it all the better, part of the proceeds go to charity. With the help of a Proust(ish) questionnaire, before each event we’ll test the bartending pair on their knowledge about each other, while also learning a little something about how they met and common influences behind the bar. Join us for this month’s event on Wednesday, May 20th from 5p.m. to 10p.m. (open to the public).

Up this month: New York’s favorite drink-slinging couple, Natasha David and Jeremy Oertel.

Natasha David (Nitecap, formerly Maison Premiere, among others) and Jeremy Oertel (Donna, formerly Dram and Mayahuel, plus many more) are no doubt impressive in their own rights, but put them next to each other and it’s like Christmas behind the bar.

The two met over ten years ago when 19-year-old David became the new bartender at Corner Shop Café, where the then 25-year-old Oertel was working as the manager. David used the excuse of not knowing how to use the POS system to approach the “old bartender” Oertel who she thought was the “very cute.” Despite a somewhat rocky start to their relationship—“We broke up a few times; I made him work to get me back…”—the two pushed through, fell in love, started their own cocktail consulting company (You & Me Cocktails) and are now, “basically the same person.”

When it comes to drinks, however, David and Oertel developed distinctly different points of view—Oertel works at developing a honed set of technical skills which he adds artistic flairs to, while David takes a more creative approach, finding inspiration in specific colors or flavors and going from there. When collaborating, these divergent styles help lend themselves to a more diverse menu that still builds on a common platform, which David and Oertel credit to their sharing common influences, most notably, “The Death & Co. crew,” says Oertel. “And everyone involved in that school of thought.” —Joanna Harkins

NATASHA DAVID

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What do you want to be when you grow up?
A mom who runs an animal sanctuary with a bar attached to it.

If you could come back as anyone or anything, who or what would it be?
I would love to come back as a farm cat with the luxury of a warm, cozy bed at night and the freedom to prowl outside and nap in a field next to baby piglets. Pretty much my fantasy.

If you could only have one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If we are talking cocktails, it would definitely be a margarita up with extra salt. If we are talking beverages in general, it would be red wine. Probably something like gamay so I could chill it in the hotter months.

What is your spirit ingredient?
Amontillado sherry.

What’s on your essential behind the bar playlist?
“Head Over Heels” – Tears For Fears
“Dancing On My Own” – Robyn
“Chandelier” – Sia
“Faith” – George Michael
“Loosing You” – Solange

(Don’t you dare judge me! You know you love all of these songs.)

Living or dead, who would you most like to see sit down at your bar for a drink?
My mother’s father. He died right after I was born. He was a 17th generation Buddhist priest and had an incredible life—from being sent to Japan at four years old, to becoming a priest to the Japanese internment during WWII (my mother was born in an internment camp) to being an adored and revered leader of his community. He also loved scotch. So I would love to have a glass of scotch with him.

Who would play you in a movie?
Oh god. Probably Shannon Doherty. Seriously, we are basically twins.

What do you crave at the end of a long shift?
A glass of wine and a plate of pickled herring.

If you could resurrect any New York bar, what would it be?
I really would’ve liked to be here in the Basquiat and Madonna era, just to go out to bars in the East Village with them—and to experience Mars Bar the way it was intended to be when it first opened.

What advice would you give to those looking to bartending as a potential career?
Something I feel really happy about is that I’ve done every job that exists in this industry. If your goal is to run your own bar one day, you need to be good at everyone’s job. Take every opportunity; don’t turn down jobs because you think you’re better than them. There’s something to be learned everywhere.

And if you own a bar, you really need to have a presence at that bar. It’s really crazy what’s happened the past few years to the bartending world. Bartenders are being flown everywhere and treated like rock stars. But you can’t accept every one of those trips, and you can’t do every single interview. In order to be a bartender you actually have to bartend.

What’s something you never expected to love so much about bartending?
I know it sounds so simple and ridiculous, but there’s something really gratifying about creating a space where people can come and have fun.

Natasha on Jeremy

(By the way I just want to preface this with the fact that this is really unfair. I’m completely transparent and Jeremy doesn’t ever talk.)

What does Jeremy want to be when he grows up?
A yogi with a 401K, a lounge chair to read in, good coffee and a wife who doesn’t spend all his money on pretty dresses.

If Jeremy could come back as anyone or anything, who or what would it be?
Matthew McConaughey’s character in Interstellar. Jeremy would love to travel between dimensions and galaxies and talk about space and time.

If Jeremy could have only one drink for the rest of his life, what would it be?
Miller High Life, because not only is he genetically destined to drink it (he is from Wisconsin).

What is Jeremy’s spirit ingredient?
Rum.

What is on Jeremy’s essential behind the bar playlist?
The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.

Living or dead, who would Jeremy most like to see sit down at his bar for a drink?
Isaac Asimov, because Jeremy is a nerd. Or Gene Wolfe, because Jeremy is a nerd.

Who would play Jeremy in a movie?
Chris Evans. Duh.

What does Jeremy crave at the end of a long shift?
A shorty glass of porter or stout, depending on the weather.

JEREMY OERTEL

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What do you want to be when you grow up?
Retired.

If you could come back as anyone or anything, who or what would it be?
My cat, because he sleeps all day and doesn’t have to do chores.

If you could only have one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I know its boring, but a Daiquiri. They always make me feel better.

What is your spirit ingredient?
Brandy.

What’s on your essential behind the bar playlist?
Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street” at the beginning, then Outkast “Atliens” for breaking down.

Living or dead, who would you most like to see sit down at your bar for a drink?
My grandfather. He died when I was young and it would be great to meet him again.

Who would play you in a movie?
Chris Evans.

What do you crave at the end of a long shift?
My bed—I’m old.

If you could resurrect any bar out there what would it be?
Toby Cecchini’s Passenger Bar, which sounded like an amazing place.

What advice would you give to those looking towards bartending as a potential career?
The thing I have the most problem with is everybody trying to get ahead of themselves. Hospitality is really the first thing people need to learn. I think a lot of younger people see all of the attention being paid to bartending, and the articles being written, and that’s all they want. It’s more than just making up cocktail recipes. It’s becoming a good barback, it’s working at the same place for a while and really working all of your shifts. You can’t just bum around—there’s all this other stuff that needs to be done. Another thing is working well with your co-workers.

What’s something you never expected to love so much about bartending?
For me it’s making something and developing a skill set, being able to work on getting better at something all of the time.

Jeremy on Natasha

What does Natasha want to be when she grows up?
A mom.

If Natasha could come back as anyone or anything, who or what would it be?
Our cat.

If Natasha could have only one drink for the rest of her life, what would it be?
Wine.

What is Natasha’s spirit ingredient?
Sherry. Or some other fortified wine.

What is on Natasha’s essential behind the bar playlist?
Future Islands early in the night, then Spice Girls or Madonna radio when it’s busy.

Living or dead, who would Natasha most like to see sit down at her bar for a drink?
Madonna; she’s obsessed.

Who would play Natasha in a movie?
Olivia Munn.

What does Natasha crave at the end of a long shift?
Wine and food. Here’s a typical text from Natasha at the end of her shift: “Just got done, coming to meet you, is there food?”

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