HS: Blacktail at Pier A – do tell…
SM: Blacktail at Pier A takes its name from the Aeromarine Company’s Prohibition-era fleet of Flying Boats of the Hudson that whisked “dry” New Yorkers to the “wet” island of Cuba. These airborne limousines, with their tail ends painted black, were tricked out with wicker armchairs and mahogany veneers and carried 11 passengers and three crew members in ultimate 1920s style from New York via Atlantic City, Beaufort (South Carolina), Miami and Key West to Havana. Over the course of several years, these planes brought thousands of thirsty American travellers that drove Havana’s cocktail scene to greatness. The bar itself takes as its inspiration an American bar transplanted to Havana in all of its glorious decadence that would have been frequented by these tropical tramps.
HS: So why Cuba?
SM: I’ve always been inspired by Ernest Hemingway, have read all of his books and have made numerous pilgrimages with the goal of visiting every place that he wrote about. Naturally, Cuba played a large part in Hemingway’s life and I have already visited all of Hemingway’s Havana haunts. I totally loved the city and that got on us on the path of researching Havana’s bar scene when it was at its height in the 1920s.
The current thaw in US-Cuba relations, especially the easing of travel restrictions for Americans, has certainly captured many people’s imaginations and revived Havana as a destination. As it happens, Jack and I will be traveling to Cuba next week, right after President Obama’s historic visit, as well as an appearance by the Rolling Stones. The timing could not be better and it will be a lifelong dream come true for me for both personal and professional reasons.
HS: Tell us about Pier A
SM: The investment team behind Pier A, which backed us at The Dead Rabbit, always wanted to do another project with us. They reached out to us to transform their upstairs bar into something that tapped more into history. As we researched more, we learned that the Blacktail planes actually passed Pier A en route from New York to Havana, which sealed the concept for us.
HS: What will be on the menu?
SM: 40 drinks: five categories, eight drinks per category. Categories will be Highball, Punch, Old Fashioned, Sour and Cocktail. Menu is completely different to anything else that's out there. All drinks will be inspired by drinks from the era. Product selection will be small enough and well-curated (150 bottles).
HS: Any more details?
SM: The place will have 130 seats - 100 in the main bar, 30 in the lobby. It will open nights initially, from 5pm to 2am. There will be 20 or so staff, excluding kitchen staff. Jesse Vida (one of the Dead Rabbit senior bartenders) will be the head bartender. All drinks are being created by him, Jack and Jillian Vose (our Head Bartender at Dead Rabbit).
HS: Great. So when does it open?
We are aiming for June 1. That was historically when the season for the Blacktail flights to Cuba from the Hudson started.