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Meet the Bartender Interview Series: Jay Taft

What's something as awesome as a new release here at HELM? The people that wear them. Since our collaboration, we've been excited to see the special edition styles being sported by our friends over at Death & Co.

Hardworking, adept, and of course stylish, here is our second edition of the Interview Series with their Death & Co. NYC bartender, Jay Taft.

Hometown: Danbury, Connecticut 
City of Residence: Norwalk, Connecticut 

Years with Death & Co. 
I Started at Death and Company NYC 3 years ago as a barback. I have been bartending for a year and half now. 

The craziest job you ever had was…
One summer in college I worked on a construction site building swimming pools. I was 110 pounds mixing cement. Talk about exerting yourself...

Proudest career moment?
For me my proudest moment was being promoted to Bartender at D&C. I couldn’t have been asked to join a more dedicated team. The passion and the determination that everyone puts forth in that building every night makes me feel right at home. 

Best unexpected ingredient?
Yuzu juice. We’ve used the east Asian citrus element in multiple applications at Death and Company, from negroni’s to sours. The ingredient is extremely versatile and complex. 

Favorite cocktail tool & accessory?
I’m a big fan of Hoffman style mixing spoons with the tethered top. I love the engineered tight coils of the spoon and the lightweight. The height of the spoons are slightly taller than the teardrop spoons which give my elbows a little rest when I’m slinging 1000 drinks on a Saturday night. 

Person you would most like to create a cocktail for or share a cocktail with?

If I could travel back in time I would have loved to create and share a drink with Sam Cooke. The legendary singer, icon, and humanitarian was unapologetically himself all the time. Stories about him lighting up every room he entered is something I would have wanted to witness for myself. 

Favorite cocktail to make at home 
Keep it simple! That’s how I approach cocktails at home. I love a good spritz. My go to right now is a play on Calvados and tonic.


Calvados Spritz at Home
1.5 oz Calvados 
1 oz of your favorite tonic
Top that off with Sparkling dry cider. 
Method: Build all ingredients in glass 
Glass: Wine Glass
Garnish: Lemon Twist 

Signature cocktail
One of my all time favorite classic cocktails is a Bamboo. Try a Noble One at your next dinner party. 

Noble One
1.5 oz Quinta do Infantado White Port 
1.5 oz Alvear Pale Cream Sherry 
1 tsp Massenez Orchard Apricot Liqueur 
0.5 tsp Honey syrup 
1 dash Orange bitters 
Method: Stir 
Glass: Sazerac 
Garnish: Lemon twist expressed & discarded

Best record or album for enjoying cocktails to?
I enjoy listening to Motown hits when working. It seems to always please the guests at the bar while simultaneously setting the mood. I can always sense a guest enjoying sips of their cocktail, engulfed in deep conversation, as I witness them tapping their fingers to the beat of the song against their cocktail glass.

Last film/tv show/book that you loved?
Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu 

Favorite artist/filmmaker?
I’m really digging Jordan Peele’s filmmaking style right now. His projects are informative in the spaciest, most abstract way possible. 

Most inspiring style city?
New York City without hesitation. 

Describe your personal style in 10 words
I was born in September and from New England so naturally I am attracted to neutral fall colors. Olive, Khaki, camel, nude, taupe, you name it! I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy with a serious jacket obsession as well. I love layering my pieces. You know the vibes. 

Personal style icon?
Idris Elba - The man can wear a suit and he always has that fashionable dad style I like. I don’t have children myself but I like to think I’m an old soul. 

Favorite HELM style?
I’m loving the Helm/ Death & Co Ryder collaboration boot. I’m a sucker for black boots with the black-on-black sole. The boots are comfortable enough to wear behind the bar for a long 13 hour shift, or out on the town with jeans, t-shirt, and a leather biker jacket. In addition to the Ryder boot I really like the Zind boot in the Olive colorway. An all black outfit paired with a hint of a fall color pop accentuates my style to the T.

Your professional motto is…
Always remain the student. The minute you know it all you stop learning. 

You feel most inspired when…
Eating a meal amongst friends at a restaurant that was recommended to us. At Death and Company NYC we love writing drinks that come from obscure flavor pairings we experienced from dishes. It’s that gratifying feeling when you complete a puzzle. It also makes for great conversation when asked where the inspiration came from. 

One thing you’ve picked up in quarantine...
Cycling. I bought a road bike during quarantine and started riding 50-100 miles per week. Moving from Brooklyn back to Connecticut allowed me to take full advantage of the outdoors. There’s nothing more therapeutic than spinning at 18-20 miles per hour on two wheels on the open road. 

Favorite self care ritual? 
Working in the hospitality industry we often think we need to constantly be moving in order to be efficient. The most important tip I realized during quarantine is to slow down. I meditate every morning for about 10-20 minutes before I make myself a cup of coffee. I find that a clear mind allows me to focus on what I wish to achieve for that day.