Photos by Kristin Teig, Courtesy of Drink Lightly by Natasha David, Published by Clarkson Potter/ Publishers
Five years ago, Natasha David moved her family from Brooklyn to Red Hook. Since then, she’s built roots, bars, and penned a cookbook all about low-ABV cocktails.
Tell us your story.
I was born in Germany and then lived in Italy. My mother and I moved to Seattle when I was 12; then I moved to New York City when I was 18 years old to major in drama at NYU. I needed a job, and wound up in hospitality. My first gig was bartending at an Irish pub in the East Village. I had zero experience but picked up a few tricks. From there, I worked in just about every front-of-house position imaginable, eventually managing a café in NoHo where I met some heavy hitters in the cocktail world. They took me under their wing and my love for cocktails and hospitality blossomed.
Why did you move here?
My mother was living in Seattle and my husband, our son, and I lived in Brooklyn. We decided that we all wanted to live together. We slowly started exploring upstate. But honestly, we didn’t know a lot about the Hudson Valley, and we knew nothing about Red Hook, where we ended up about 4½ years ago. It was a big leap of faith, but we decided to just go for it and hope for the best. And somehow the universe was looking out for us—we all absolutely love it here. Red Hook is amazing, and now we have two children, a dog and chickens, and a vegetable garden. It’s all pretty fantastic.
What inspired your cookbook, Drink Lightly?
Low-ABV drinking is simply enjoying cocktails with a lower alcohol content than “traditional” spirits such as vodka or tequila. It’s about making your vermouths, your sherries, or your Aperol the star of the show. It’s a way I’ve been drinking for years, and much to my delight, it’s become quite trendy now. I think these past two years have made a lot of people reevaluate their relationship to alcohol. It’s a style of drinking that’s full of romance and joy. However, low-ABV cocktails live in a very narrow framework—we all love an Aperol Spritz but there’s so much more to explore. The inspiration was to crack that whole space open and present low-ABV spirits in a new way.
Where you did recipe-test?
I have a wonderful home office/bar where I’m able to experiment. About 90 percent of the recipes were created specifically for the book, so with over 100 of them, it was a daunting task, but one that I welcomed. Most of the development process happened during the height of the pandemic while in quarantine with my husband, two small children, and my mom, so life was pretty chaotic. Although drink mixing is very creative, you have to be organized and stay focused.
What’s You & Me Cocktails?
Our beverage and hospitality consulting business, which my husband Jeremy and I launched very unintentionally about 10 years ago. One little project in Brooklyn led to another and through word of mouth we now have a business that keeps us very busy! We’ve been very lucky to find some incredible collaborators in the Hudson Valley. We’ve been fortunate to work on all three of Taavo Somer’s properties up here, including Hotel Kinsley, LOLA Pizza, and Inness. Rivertown Lodge is another favorite project—we’ve been fans of that space since it opened. We did some really fun slushies at Half Moon in Hudson. We just signed on to design a cocktail program at the Little Cat Lodge, Noah Bernamoff and Matt Kliegman’s new project in Catamount which we couldn’t be more excited for: the space, the location, the view—it’s all incredible.
Give us three tips to be a better home bartender.
1) Don’t be intimated! 2) You don’t need fancy bar tools—use a mason jar to shake, a chopstick to stir. The only thing you should definitely get is a jigger! 3) Keep a bottle of bubbles in the fridge because you can turn anything into a spritz, et voilà you’ve made a cocktail!
- 3 shiso leaves (also known as Perilla leaves; a Japanese aromatic herb)
- 3 oz. fresh watermelon juice
- 1½ oz. yuzu sake
- Lightly muddle 2 shiso leaves in a highball glass. Add ice, then the watermelon juice and sake. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with a shiso leaf.
- 4 oz. chilled oolong tea
- 2 oz. Maurin Quina
- 1 tsp peach liqueur
- 3 lemon wheels, for garnish
- Combine the chilled tea, Maurin Quina, and peach liqueur in a festive glass filled with ice. Stir to chill and incorporate ingredients. Garnish with 3 lemon wheels.