Shawn Vergara wanted to offer the Castro neighborhood something a little different when he opened Blackbird back in 2009.
"We looked around and saw that what was really missing were good, quality cocktails," he told us on a quiet Saturday afternoon. "The menu started out kind of simple, but I think we have a respectable, focused list."
Indeed—the creative, quality-spirits driven menu quickly marked Blackbird as a standout in the neighborhood, and quickly made the bar a destination for cocktail-lovers city wide. The menu changes seasonally and always includes a couple of barrel-aged cocktails—Blackbird was the first bar in San Francisco to serve barrel-aged drinks. The entire bar staff participates in developing new recipes.
"One menu rolls out, and right away we start playing around with new stuff," Vergara said. "I'm a firm believer in having the crew here give feedback."
The team is serious in their drink creation, but playful in their attitude towards their cocktail creations. Drink names like Deez Nuts and Berries show a sense of humor, a wink to the Castro neighborhood, and, Vergara hopes, "remove the pretension" that can be implicit at some serious cocktail bars.
Overall, Vergara hopes that Blackbird makes patrons feel at home. "People live in San Francisco because they love San Francisco," he said, noting the bar top, which is over 100 years old (the building is from 1908). "Let's give them something that feels like this city."
We asked Vergara to recommend five of his favorite drinks on the current menu at Blackbird. Check out his picks in the slideshow above.