Bartender of the Month - March 2019: Brett David, Leave Rochelle Out of It

When Brett David isn't posting pics of his tattooed bod on Instagram, the 39-year-old native New Yorker is manning the bar at Leave Rochelle Out Of It (a.k.a. Rochelle's) on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Beyond his modeling career, his very entertaining social media presence, and that beard of his -- we adore Brett for his ability to be bold, candid and unapologetic (have you seen the bathroom door at Rochelle's?)
Take a seat (or dance on the bar) with Brett, Liquor Lab's March 2019 Bartender of the Month.

What’s your drink of choice (to drink)?
If I must drink, it’s always a Miller High Life.

Drink of choice (to make)?
My fav cocktail at my bar, Daddy Issues: Vodka, Aperol, honey and lemon.

How did you start your career?
I got involved with hospitality in my early twenties, as a male model cater waiter. I then started booking the staff out and running the biggest events in the city and the Hamptons, and then moved onto managing bars and restaurants in my early 30s.

When and how did 'Leave Rochelle Out of It' come about?
My current boss Mike Shah was the owner of Sons of Essex, and he had a terrible business partner on the hospitality side. We’ll just call him ML. That guy and Mike opened up what called “one of the top 5 biggest restaurant failures of 2012” Called Cocktail Bodega. It went on to lose a ton of money and closed in five months. I saw that as an opportunity to put something in that space, that was now
vacant again. So, I wrote a business plan with my best friend Steve Yorsz, and we created the best bad decisions bar in the Lower East Side. Huge hit right off the bat and open five years this past November.

Tell us a highlight (funny story) from the past year? 
I met a woman thru an ex of mine on line at Whole Foods a block away. She said, “This is Brett, he’s the guy behind Rochelle’s down the street,” to which her friend replied “Oh, I love that bar! But my boyfriend doesn’t let me go there anymore.” I asked her to leave that as a Yelp review.

You have a random list of artists that DJs are not allowed to play at Rochelle's (i.e. Kesha, etc.). Who came up with this list, how did it start? And why no love for Kesha?
I came up with the list, and while I don’t have any personal issue with any of the artists, I want to stay away from the most cliche top 40 and Murray Hill- style college bar anthems. This is how we do it by Montel Jordan is at the top of the list, followed by Sweet Caroline. I have no issue with Kesha. But ,she’s got a few terribly lousy beyond cheesy pop songs, just like J. Lo and Ja Rule. So, I’d rather say no to all than have a debate with my DJ the day of. One thing we do not play is R. Kelly. F*** that guy.

Rochelle's is a whisky bar. What's the most popular (or funniest) misconception you've heard about whiskey, cocktails or the industry, in general?
I absolutely hate it when someone that has a lot of money, orders a very expensive scotch, let’s say $75 a glass, and then puts coke or club soda in it. It happens more than you might think.

When you have a night off, where are you drinking and what are you ordering there?
When I have a night off, I’ll hit up Flower Shop and have a trusty Miller High Life or Corona while playing a few games of pool. If it’s a club, basically anywhere I want. But, I’ll probably stick to bottled water there.

Tell us about some people in the industry who inspire you. What makes them unique?
I really respect the guys behind the bars The Garrett. They now have three of them and really know their stuff. Matthew Green, Sheldon Wiley, and of course Dave Delzio. A couple of the true rockstars in the hospitality scene in NYC.

Anything else you’d like to add about bartending/mixology and what you’re excited about in the industry?
I’m excited that people are gravitating to bars more so than clubs. Was a different vibe 12 or so years ago, for sure. The Lower East Side is both amazing and f***ing terrible at the same time. But, I guess that can be said about this whole damn city.

Rochelle's is located on the Lower East Side. Besides 205 Club, who are your favorite neighbors (eateries and non-bars included)?
The Box and Et Al are my neighbors to the South, and the Public Hotel to the north. We have a whole Chrystie Street strip these days. And, it’s a wild scene on the street most of the week.