A long list of stunning and proper classic cocktails, written on a piece of butcher paper, hangs from the walls of Blackbird, the spacious, chic bar in the Castro. But our favorite of the bunch has got to be the piña colada, listed at the very end, so you just might miss it if you hadn’t looked. Owner and bartender Shawn Vergara said it best: Come to Blackbird and feel like you’re on vacation. So away we went! Vergara opened Blackbird over the summer with the late Doug Murphy, famous proprietor of the Moby Dick bar. His memory lives on in the new, shiny digs that replace the notorious Expansion Bar. In an effort to preserve some of Expansion’s history, the original 100-year-old bar still stands, along with the old bell rung to signal the beginning of happy hour. 2124 Market St., S.F.; (415) 503-0630, www.blackbirdbar.com
If you are going to have a cocktail, what do you typically order? It depends where I’m at and what they serve. It really depends on my mood too because I like beer, I like wine, I like cocktails … I’m not the kind of person where I just drink one specific thing and that’s my drink every time I go out.
What about on a fall afternoon like today where the weather is a little crisp? I could possibly do a Manhattan or a glass of red wine, or a heavier, full-bodied beer like a porter. We’re actually starting to test new cocktails. Our goal is going to be every three months to redo the cocktails and switch out, I would say, half, maybe more of our taps.
We are fascinated by your Grape Drink cocktail (muddled grapes, silver tequila, agave syrup, peach bitters, sparkling wine). We so rarely encounter cocktails with grapes. [It’s based on a drink] called the Jalisco, and it had muddled grapes, tequila, and a few other ingredients, but when we were testing drinks for this place, we were literally just missing ingredients, and we were kind of like, OK, well, let’s just try the peach bitters and agave syrup. And then my friend said let’s put it in a wine glass and top it with champagne.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Oscar Wilde. His quote is: Work is the curse of the drinking class, so I basically like his thought process.
What do you think you’d serve him? Something that would get him drunk; maybe some absinthe. I wonder what he would drink actually. Maybe one of our signature drinks. A piña colada! We do actually serve piña coladas here. We have blenders.
Now there’s a classic cocktail people don’t think of. Exactly, and I kind of came in with the whole idea that we’re a bar and I don’t know why in San Francisco a lot of places think it’s such a hard thing to do.
Well, isn’t there kind of a whole taboo around it? Sort of like coladas and frozen daiquiris are cruise ship cocktails? I really thought to myself, we really want to do something different and be a bar and I feel like … I just really wanted to give as much as we can to guests.
Shake ingredients together in a pint glass filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass.