Well, the 1940s. But in the City by the Bay, where bar owners have been famously obsessed with both the Prohibition-era speakeasy and San Francisco’s debaucherous Barbary Coast District at the turn of the 20th century, finding cocktail inspiration in the 1940s feels like space-age thinking.
The building housing Stookey’s has been a bar since 1944.
HOW TO CAPTURE THE 1940S
Tim Stookey, Stookey’s namesake co-owner, has spent nearly 20 years behind a bar. After much reconnaissance, he landed on the space near the city’s Nob Hill neighborhood. The building itself has, appropriately, been a bar since 1944 and in all likelihood, “they were slinging booze here since Prohibition,” says Stookey. The former Faverman’s Pharmacy #4—there were once five locations in San Francisco—became Faverman’s Liquors and remained a bar until its current incarnation.
The longstanding bar previously had a giant octopus on display and served some of the cheapest drinks in the neighborhood. The bar’s transformation unfortunately hasn’t gone over well with every local. No one said change was seamless.
The Art Deco Society of California helped design Stookey’s stunning interior.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
Style and substance are everything at Stookey’s. Stookey brought in preservation director Lynn Harrison, from the Art Deco Society of California, to design the venue—and it is stunning. It has high ceilings, blue walls and big portals on the bathroom doors, as if you were rocking on a ship.
The bartenders, both female and male, wear tuxes and Stookey himself purchased a vintage collection of 1930s ties for them to trot out nightly. He says that the era evokes formality, when women sported gloves and everyone dressed smartly. Stookey’s doesn’t have a dress code, but it’s the kind of place that might benefit from one.
The bar’s soundtrack looks to the past, too, a logical addition being that Stookey collects vintage ’78s. Still, Stookey’s is not strictly a slavish replica of a bygone era: “It’s more of a modern bar, post-Prohibition,” Stookey explains.
A DRINK TO THE PAST
The cocktail list doesn’t zero in exclusively on the 1930s. Instead, it covers classics from Negronis to Aviations and Corpse Revivers. Knowing its home base, Stookey’s also serves San Francisco stalwarts, such as Pisco Punch and Irish Coffee. There is also a fairly broad list of bitters, digestives and gin. Soon, Stookey’s will start mixing sours with egg whites, the next progression in Stookey’s ongoing affection for the 1930s.
Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about drinks for two decades. She is the principal of the San Francisco–based Liza the Wine Chick consulting firm and regularly contributes to publications such as Wine Business Monthly, DrinkUpNY and the SOMM Journal.