Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart's taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City's nightlife. So, who wants a drink?
Michael Jirkovsky, of Social Studies fame, used to live next door and half a floor above Elixir. We were friends from college, and both moved to SF after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, so I’d occasionally drop by his place for a beer. While showing me around his new digs on my first visit, the tour ended at the bathroom. “Do you hear that?” Michael asked. There was a low din coming through the vent.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Those sounds are from Elixir, the bar next door,” He proceed. “The vent is connected to the bar’s bathrooms. At one point they installed talking ads with sexy female voices above the urinals. It was pretty disturbing the first time I heard it while pissing at 6 am. I thought my bathroom was haunted by a dead hooker. They kindly removed the ads once I complained. ”
At that point, I had never been to Elixir, so when I asked Michael if it was a cool bar he said, “Yeah but everyone is way older, like in their 30s,” which seemed ancient to us at the time, considering we were probably no older than 23. We decided to go to the bar that night to try to meet some “cougars.” While we failed miserably, it was still a pretty epic introduction to Elixir.
Sitting on the corner of 16th and Guerrero, Elixir is one of the oldest bars in San Francisco. Since 1858 it’s been a saloon, a “Soft Drink Parlor” (read: Speakeasy) during Prohibition, and a Latino gay/trans bar. So considering it’s age, the idea that it could be haunted isn’t that far-fetched. When H. Joseph Ehrmann took over the helm in 2003, they completely restored the place to it’s saloon-era beauty, and instituted a legendary drink program that has gotten the bar named one of America’s best bars in everything from GQ to Food & Wine magazine.
Since that first visit many years ago, I’ve spent quite a number of nights bellied up to that dark bar. If there were such things as sports bars in the Victorian era, they would’ve all looked like Elixir. Athletic teams compete against each other on the television while patrons watch, often indifferent to the Tiffany-looking light fixtures hanging above their heads. Asses and elbows rub against each other in the tight space, as people cram into the saloon, vying for a drink, shooting the shit, picking up on each other, or just scoping out the old pictures and artwork that line the walls. At least that’s what it feels like on weekends or on game days. But you and I, friend, we’re weeknighters. We go to Elixir for Bar Industry night on Mondays or Trivia Night on Tuesdays, or we offer to bartend for charity there on Wednesday nights.
Though Michael moved out of that apartment many years ago, I still drop by Elixir as often as I can. It’s funny–now that I’m in my 30s, the crowd doesn’t seem old at all. I guess that’s because I’m part of it. Social Studies is playing at Brick and Mortar tonight for Noise Pop. Maybe I’ll hit up Elixir on the way to the show and give Michael’s regards to the ghost of the dead hooker. Or maybe Michael and I will go after his gig. We’ve still yet to meet any cougars there.