A Nest for Odd Birds
Always on the lookout for new watering holes in the area, my ears pricked up at the mention of a place in St. Augustine. Like an ornithologist on a quest for a rare sighting, I ventured downtown one evening, and came up empty-handed. Undaunted, I returned a second night, this time with a more specific location – “across the street from the fort parking lot.” Peeking inside a courtyard that had previously been empty space behind a restaurant, I spotted it – Odd Birds!
Tucked away behind an unmarked gate on Charlotte Street, the eclectic Odd Birds started as a way for co-owner/bartender Cesar Diaz to experiment and further expand the beverage palate in the region and introduce his liquid repertoire to a new audience, while having the flexibility to change up the bar program to reflect shifting consumer demand. Diaz moved to the area from Miami two years ago and is best known locally for his creations behind the bar at The Ice Plant.
As a professional bartender, Diaz sees himself as an educator and facilitator, with a true passion for mixology. He’s always ready to help customers who want to try new combinations. “I want to create an experience that lets customers step out of their comfort zone. There’s been a change in behavior with more thoughtful consumption and I want to act as a guide to help my customers explore new drink flavors.”
Although tiny in space, Odd Birds offers a global drink menu, with bottles on the shelves representing traditional spirits from across the globe: Pisco from Chile and Peru, fernet from Argentina, singani from Bolivia, soju from Korea, agave from several countries, among others. Bar bites also provide a taste of the exotic: meat or vegetarian arepas from Diaz’s native Venezuela pair well with the cocktail creations.
“We are creating a cultural bridge and an opportunity for people to explore the world’s flavors without going to another country,” said Diaz.
While there is a South American flair, Diaz changes the bar menu every six weeks to introduce these and other foreign flavors, in combination with seasonal produce. “I treat the bar like a kitchen and I want to use local ingredients whenever possible,” said Diaz. “We have started identifying local farmers who can provide the fruits and vegetables for our menu, such as datil pepper, molasses, citrus and ginger turmeric. I am always looking for the ingredients I need to create that wow factor.”
With a belief in collaboration among the bartending profession, Diaz is intent on making St. Augustine a cocktail destination. Odd Birds is part of a “cool movement in town, and not just a tourist trap,” said Diaz. Guest bartenders—or influencers, as Diaz refers to them— also bring awareness of new taste sensations to patrons at Odd Birds, and this collaboration and education between professionals in the beverage community is an important part of his mission.
“So far we’ve had visiting bartenders from Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee—with two hours to show off, they bring their best and demonstrate the art of the cocktail,” said Diaz. “It’s like a lab session, brainstorming. It’s not a competition, it’s teamwork.”
Unique pairings, exotic flavors, a cozy and friendly ambiance, each cocktail a conversation starter—sounds like an odd bird indeed.