What did Katipai Richardson Wilson learn early on in her bartending career? That she actually, genuinely liked people. Brooklyn based Richardson-Wilson opened Dirty Precious, a brilliant casual cocktail bar in the heart of Gowanus in March 2016. She has done what many consider the impossible, by opening a bar that truly meets the definition of a place people look forward to going to, where people from all over can find a community.
As a bartender, why New York? Why Brooklyn? - Money, freedom, respect. This was never something I saw myself doing long term but New York is a different beast to most other places in the world when it comes to the hospitality industry. There’s not the same stigma attached to working in bars as there can be elsewhere. It’s a legitimate career here. And then Brooklyn because it just feels more about community than money. There’s a connection level here that is often harder to find in Manhattan.
How was the experience of opening your own bar? - It was insane! I’d pretty much prided myself on the fact that until the age of 39 I’d managed to avoid stress at all costs, so I was completely unprepared to deal with it once it finally hit!!! The learning curve was steep (it still is) and there were times when I was so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back, but seeing what we’ve created and watching people enjoy the space for the first or fifteenth time makes me really proud. I was also INCREDIBLY lucky to have a super wide circle of people who had already gone through all this who were so generous with their advice, and support, and connections.
What influenced your look? - Shana Sandberg is my business partner and designer. She did an incredible job of taking my very vague notes (“I want it to remind me of the places back home”) and creating this really beautiful environment which is closer to what I wanted than I ever even knew. We wanted to draw on the urban gypsy experience, the fact that in this city most people come from elsewhere, or even in their day to day life experience many different cultures and places. That nomadic nature was definitely a huge inspiration and that more and more I believe we are becoming global citizens. So there’s neutral woods and metals and stone interacting. And textiles from Africa, Turkey, India (and now Waraniéné!). And then just treasures… whether it’s Shana’s grandmother’s lamp, or my parent’s wedding crystal, or a pony coat hook we found on a road trip. I love that there are so many little notes in this place and yet it all feels as if everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be.
What do you love about bartending/bar owning? - It’s who you can be for people. Creating spaces and environments where people look forward to going. Whether it’s to have a quiet glass of wine and read a book (I get super jealous of people who do this in my bar...To me it’s one of life’s great pleasures), or to celebrate a birthday, wedding, promotion or break up. Everyone should have a local.
How has our craft evolved over the years? - I think it’s gone through about 90,000 ebb and flows and hardships and slumps and Renaissances and spikes and dips which had all been moving towards legitimizing it as an actual industry. I love that now that cocktails are more mainstream and people are more exposed and educated about product and style that the elitism and snobbishness is falling away. And I love that there’s more movement towards gender equality in the industry.
What is your favorite drink and how has that influenced the types of drinks you create? - Sherry!! Tequilla!! Rosé!! Shiner Roby Redbird!! Too hard to pick a favorite...Why can’t I just love them all? I’ve had the great privilege to be widely exposed to the multi faceted diamond that is the New York food and beverage scene and therefore get to taste ALL the things. I like to think there’s something for everyone, but at the same time hopefully we can turn you on to something new.
Besides, Dirty Precious, what other bars do you love in Brooklyn/New York? - Lighthouse is always at the top of my list. That place is a shining example of hospitality. And there food doesn’t suck at all either (Goddamnit now I want chiliquiles). Ba’sik because it has more heart than should be allowed in such a small space. Mother’s Ruin because there’s always a friendly face somewhere in the building.
What inspires you? - Humans. Not all of them, but I’m pretty lucky to be able to surround myself with people that are striving for their dreams and hustling for happiness. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to create connections with customers who then become regulars and part of the bar’s community. Listening to their lives, connecting with them, connecting them with other people. It’s a pretty great feeling seeing people’s projects come to life and knowing you were in someway a part of it.
Dirty Precious is located at 317 3rd ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215.
Drink Picture: Spring Fever - Gin / Yellow Chartreuse / Thieves Vinegar / Kalamansi Honey