Destinations

Five Ways to Experience Cuba on the Edge of Downtown NYC

Can't make it to Cuba during Daiquiri Season? Try this homage to Prohibition-era Havana instead.
The interior of BlackTail features commissioned artwork, original photographs, and antiques sourced in Havana. Photo courtesy of BlackTail.
The interior of BlackTail features commissioned artwork, original photographs, and antiques sourced in Havana. Photo courtesy of BlackTail.

Cuba is inarguably the home of the Daiquiri, thanks to the 200-year (and counting!) legacy of El Floridita, the historic Cuban bar widely credited for inventing the Frozen Daiquiri in Vieja Havana. However, various levels of travel restrictions have made it difficult to visit the storied Caribbean island — unless you're lucky enough to be on the Tales-sponsored trip this October. What's a lime-loving Daiquiri connoisseur to do during the 30 days of Daiquiri Season? Here's one (air-conditioned) respite on the edge of downtown NYC: our 2017 Spirited Award winner for Best New American Cocktail Bar, BlackTail.

Since opening last summer, BlackTail, the brainchild of The Dead Rabbit’s bar visionaries Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, has served thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to the city. What's with the name? During the decadence of Prohibition-era Cuba, well-heeled dry Americans would flock to the wet island nation aboard airplanes nicknamed the “Blacktail fleet.” In fact, those very planes whizzed over the New York Harbor where BlackTail stands today. There's unfortunately no such easy commercial flights today, but the Cuba-inspired bar aims to “transport” its guests to the island nation through cocktails and culture.

Cuban cocktails by BlackTail.

BlackTail offers reimagined Cuban cocktails like the Daiquiri de Luxe, whimsical Cuban souvenir postcards mailed globally at no cost, exuberant live Cuban music, a signature Rabbit Cuban Sandwich, and more than 300 museum-quality photos of Cuba’s proud people and places. So if you're not able to visit "El Cocodrilo" during Daiquiri Season, you can at least ride the subway to the edge of downtown New York City, take in the Atlantic breeze, and experience Cuba through one of these five ways:

Cuban Cocktails That Taste Just Like 1929

BlackTail’s 48 cocktails take inspiration from what Americans were actually drinking from the 1920s through the 1950s and reinterpreted for today’s tastes; including multiple takes on Hemingway's beloved Daiquiri.

Greetings From Cuba

BlackTail’s menu includes souvenir postcards for guests to share their experiences via the old-school way and are mailed at no charge anywhere in the world; more than 500 postcards are sent out each week.

Sidle up to the bar at BlackTail just like Hemingway. Photo courtesy of BlackTail. Sidle up to the bar at BlackTail just like Hemingway. Photo courtesy of BlackTail.

A Menu That Mixes Fact & Fantasy

BlackTail’s drinks list is a hefty 88-page tome that weaves a fictitious tale of an increasingly tipsy narrator who descends to Cuba in search of Ed Donovan, a real-life barman who packed up his Hoboken bar and brought it to Havana during Prohibition.

Musical Performances Inspired by the renowned Tropicana Club

BlackTail’s background music includes Latin Boogaloo, Doo-Wop, Rock ’n Roll, and Club Swing from the 1940s to the 1960s, and its live performances of Cuban music exemplify the island’s musical exuberance.

Artwork & Decor Straight From the Island

The design of BlackTail takes its cues from Havana watering holes like Sloppy Joe’s and El Floridita. Commissioned artwork, from a reproduction of Vanderlyn’s “Landing of Columbus” to a statue of José Martí on horseback, bookend Cuban history from colonialism to independence. These are joined by hundreds of photos and antiques sourced in Havana. More than 300 original black-and-white and color photographs line the wall, all by Vern Evans, an American photographer who documented contemporary Cuban life for the past 25 years


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