Lonely Planet Writer

This Cuban-inspired cantina just won best new American bar

Raise your glass to BlackTail; New York’s Cuban-inspired cantina, with a view of the Hudson River, just took home the accolade for best new American bar. The latest venture from the team behind The Dead Rabbit is the first Cuban-themed watering hole to win at the Spirited Awards, widely considered the ‘Oscars’ of the hospitality industry.

BlackTail in Battery Place, New York
BlackTail in Battery Place, New York Image by BlackTail

Located at Pier A Harbor House in Battery Place, BlackTail aims to capture the spirit of thirsty Prohibition-era adventurers who took off for Havana on luxe flying boats to get their fill of libations. Co-owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, natives of Belfast, Ireland, were also inspired to tell the tale of the mass displacement of Latin, Irish and American bartending talent to Cuba during those “devil-may-care” years.

Co-owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry.
Co-owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry. Image by BlackTail

Muldoon and McGarry’s names need no introduction when it comes to New York City nightlife. The duo are behind The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, a two-story parlour-style pub which has been claiming “world’s best” accolades since its inception. Muldoon’s first enterprise, The Merchant, was also awarded the coveted Spirited Awards title in 2010.

While The Dead Rabbit aimed to bring the no airs-and-graces aura of a traditional Irish pub into the 21st century, dialing it up a “notch or nine”, BlackTail seeks to convey what an American bar in the “wet” haven of Hemingway-era Havana would have been like with its authentic menu offering everything from yuca fries to sugarcane Gulf shrimp.

BlackTail wins the Spirited Awards.
BlackTail wins the Spirited Awards. Image by BlackTail

In front of some 1500 bartenders and industry luminaries at the New Orleans-based awards ceremony, McGarry and Muldoon dedicated their win to the “everyday people of Cuba who inspire with their resilience, grace and spirits.” They also paid tribute to the venue’s staff, including the current head bartender and lead server who joined the team “many years ago” as rookies. Said staff can be found behind the bar serving up Manhattan’s finest mojitos and daiquiris in their distinctive panama hats seven nights a week. Stop by if you’re in the area. After all, viva la fiesta.