Now that travel is (mostly) open to Cuba, I am dying to get down there. I want to experience the local flavor before there’s a resort on every block. But 2017 is shaping up to be quite busy, so in the meantime let me share with you a little spot that will not only transport you to Havana—but back in time.
One of my favorite places to go when working down in FiDi was The Dead Rabbit. Not only does it have one of the best cocktail programs in the country, but the food is delicious and the atmosphere that of a cozy pub. I was excited to learn that the people behind Dead Rabbit opened a new venture in the same vicinity—BlackTail.
BlackTail is located in Pier A, a refurbished building over by the ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, that was supposedly a stop for boats coming to and from Havana during Prohibition. And you’ll feel just like you’re in that time period once you step into the bar.
We walked up the stairs and into a large bar area with stained glass, plants, rattan chairs and bartenders and servers in straw fedoras. Mahogany walls were lined with photos and old posters and signs. We were seated in the back corner at a round table and give menus the size of books—because they literally were books.
Each book took you on a tour of the cocktail list from highballs to cocktails. Tucked inside was a post card you could write on and have them mail anywhere you wanted.
The drink menu is certainly overwhelming, but to get us in the mood and inspire our taste buds we received a mini glass of their pineapple daiquiri (not frozen!). It was so good some people got it cocktail-sized.
I ended up going with an Alaska—gin, sweet vermouth, yellow chartreuse, kaffir lime, cucumber, and honeydew melon. The honeydew was perfect—unlike many other gin-cucumber-lime-mint-style drinks with have the tang from a lime or the very muted cucumber with sugar somewhere in there, the melon struck a perfect balance and made the drink incredibly smooth, unique, and delicious.
Other favorites included the Journalist, the King Cole (this may have been my second favorite), Mississippi Mule, Parkeroo, and Toreador. Every single one was delicious, and we declared BlackTail’s cocktails to be even better than Dead Rabbit’s.
For some sustenance, we shared several of the small plates. The crispy Cuban fries were the ultimate favorite, cooked perfectly and accompanied by a chimichurri-style sauce.
The vegetable bouquet was refreshing (delicious sauces for dipping).
We also got chicken lollipops (spicy!)
Grilled octopus (sadly way overcooked).
Glazed pork ribs (sticky and yummy).
And then a jamon Iberico that we could have done without.
If you’ve been to Dead Rabbit, then expect even better cocktails with an equally awesome (incredibly different) atmosphere. If you haven’t, you’ll be in for a real treat—as the cocktails are head and shoulders above many I’ve had at various speakeasy cocktail bars in NYC.
BlackTail is located at 22 Battery Place, on the second floor of Pier A (enter from the outside). The later you go, the more likely you’ll need a reservation, especially for a group.