In contrast to the highly stylized and filtered images that populate social media, Natasha David’s Instagram feed isn’t entirely glamorous. Sure, there are elegant photos of David behind the bar at Nitecap in New York City, her hair and lipstick perfect as she stirs a cocktail.
But her other photos tell a richer story: David pumping breast milk in Nitecap’s storage room for her infant daughter, or baking cookies with her toddler son, or looking exhausted while settling down at the laptop to do the bar’s paperwork after finally getting her two kids to bed. At a time when the cocktail world’s social media feeds are crowded with parties and flashy junkets—and with rumors and revelations of misogyny and malfeasance from beginning bartenders to industry titans—David’s portrayal of the real life of a working bartender as she juggles business ownership and motherhood isn’t only refreshing, it’s necessary. That’s why Natasha David is our Bartender of the Year for 2020.
“There’s a stigma attached to the bar world, that we can’t hold down a job and people are drinking all the time so you can’t have a family,” she says. This stigma—and her determination to overcome it— prompted her to go public about her life. “I know a lot of friends in the industry who want to have children and didn’t see a way they could do it. I wanted to show you can work in this field, and it’s a safe and wonderful place to raise a family.”
David admits that bartending presents its own challenges—the hours are unconventional, and the physical demands can be taxing—but her Nitecap staff has been incredibly supportive. “There are office environments where even getting pump time from your boss is a big deal, and women are weaning their babies early because they don’t have that time, and that’s insane to me,” she says. “So I wanted to share this, and show other people that it’s a very nice life, that my kids are growing up healthy. I wanted to show other moms that it’s possible.”
David and her husband, Jeremy Oertel, run a consulting business, You & Me Cocktails, which creates bar programs for venues including the Soho Grand and the Roxy Hotel. A home office complete with an R&D bar helps David avoid a frequent two-hour commute to Manhattan, and while the schedule is still overwhelming at times, she says life’s working out, and she hopes her industry colleagues see some hope in that. “I think there’s a misconception that if you’re a bartender, you’re an irresponsible human,” David says. “I’ve been a bartender since I was 18. I own a car, I own a home, and I have two children who are well taken care of. It’s a viable career that has a future.”
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