The Presidio Social Club's Tim Stookey Turns Back Time

Lou Bustamante
The Presidio Social Club's Tim Stookey.
When I was growing up in the Bay Area, trips to San Francisco were defined by its sights and smells: the damp, cool, mineral scent that arrives with the fog; the menthol chill of the eucalyptus groves; and the sudden calm of stepping from noisy streets into one of the scenic parks that dot the city like a string of pearls.

The Presidio captures so many of these memories that walking up to the Presidio Social Club, a 1903 barracks-turned-restaurant, triggered the sensation of arriving on a school field trip. Thankfully, the guided tour was done in cocktails, and I didn't have to suffer on baloney and cheese.

I was there to investigate the old-is-new-again cocktail list that bar manager Tim Stookey has put together: 17 classic cocktails, organized chronologically from the Sazerac (1840) to the Moscow Mule (1946). It would be easy to dismiss the list as a gimmick, but Tim's manner and skill in executing the drinks, along with the history that exudes from the building, makes the experience feel genuine. It felt natural to sip a 1927 Boulevardier (a blend of bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and Gran Classico bitters) while inspecting the old medicine cabinets that display the bar's liquor collection.

The bartender also features only one of his original creations on the new list: the 100 Reasons Rye, a Manhattan variation made with Triple Sec. It was good enough that I wished he featured more. Talking to Tim and trying his drinks, there was little doubt the bartender has some serious knowledge and skills. I'm betting on Tim Stookey being a name you'll hear more of in 2011.

Walking out into the foggy night, giddy from both cocktails and nostalgia, I was reminded how pleasurable studying the past can be.

Presidio Social Club 563 Ruger St. (at Lombard), 885-1888.

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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