In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board – the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.
Presidio Social Club
563 Ruger St, S.F; (415) 885-1888; www.presidiosocialclub.com
Disclaimer: Before reading the Q&A that follows this introduction, let’s get one thing straight: Tim Stookey is a class act. But he’s got some definite opinions on what makes a good cocktail and ordering etiquette. We asked Stookey what one thing he would change about the world, and he said, “If you want a martini, don’t assume I think it’s vodka.” Yes, he’s a little passionate about these things. This doesn’t make him a snob, and trust us: Once you take a seat at his bar, you will immediately feel like you’ve been swept back in time. That has to do with the fact the Presidio Social Club oozes history, fromits historic exterior to its charming interior, which has been designed to feel like a 1930s lounge. The food and cocktail menu is equally classy.
How did you get into bartending? I started off as a bellman in a little hotel on Sutter and Gough called The Majestic. They had a bartending position open and someone thought I’d be good for it. I’d never done it. I’d been the bellman for seven years. The more I started doing it, the more I got interested in it.
When did this place open? We celebrated our year anniversary at the end of December.
And it used to be a barracks? It was a barracks building, and we think buffalo soldiers might have been here for awhile. They had to rebuild the whole thing. The wall behind me is a historic wall, so you can’t drill into it.
Have you seen George Lucas yet? His folks come in now and then, but I haven’t seen Mr. Lucas. I’ve seen Mr. Coppola though, trying to sell us his wine.
You’ve made us a specialty cocktail from the menu, but what would you consider your signature cocktail? I’m most proud of this variation I do on a rye Manhattan, the Boots & Saddle. It’s an old cavalry term that meant the men had to put on their boots and saddle up their horses. It sounds leathery and old. And I decided I would make a traditional Manhattan that’s equal parts rye whiskey and Punt e Mes, splash of bitters and a flamed orange chip. It’s not good for a hot summer day.
If you could serve a drink to anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? Well, I’ve already served Julia Roberts, so that’s out. W.C. Fields is always a good one.
Do you have any pet peeves? When people think everything in a martini glass is a martini. There are two kinds — and puristswill say there’s actually only one, and the other is a vodka-tini. What I like to do, is when someone asks for a martini, I ask, “What kind of gin?”
Because you’re a purist. Well, yeah.
Are there any drinks that you refuse to make? An apple martini. Drinks that have stupid names. People ought to act like adults. Drinks are for adults.
Since this place is so decade-centric, which decade would you live in if given the choice? I guess the 30s.
During the Depression?! Well, we’re talking fantasies, so what the hell? I got money. I got enough to get by.
Featured drink: Boots & Saddle
» Take equal parts Rye whiskey and Punt e Mes.
» Add a dash of orange bitters.
» Stir with ice and strain into a martini glass.
» Take an orange peel chip the size of a quarter, heat it up and drop it into the drink.