In the mail
When I consider where to go for this column, I consider a complex mix of factors—reputation, buzz, legendary status, curiosity, previous experiences, time since last visit, time in business, and other intangibles. My buzz meter largely relies on my relatively small network of friends—online and real life—but time open is a solid metric. I try not to go too soon while they find their pace, but I don’t want to wait too long to tell you about a great new place while it’s still fresh. Those two details were on my mind when I decided to try out Stamp Social Club.
Still relatively new, hearing little word of mouth, curiosity finally drew me to The Basement, the cool subterranean marketplace of businesses beneath our historic downtown (former) post office. I’d been down for coffee, lunch and a beard trim, all before Stamp’s opening last winter. A bar altered The Basement landscape a bit, seating in the central common area has been rearranged to accomodate the variety of customers from the food and drink merchants surrounding it.
Just one other drinker graced the bar this Sunday afternoon, but the camaraderie between “Jim,” me, and co-owner/bartender Jesse Snodgrass formed quickly when I paused to consider a drink. Jim recommended what he was having, a suggestion Snodgrass quickly shot down, having just used his last egg. While I looked for beer options, he asked what I liked, not just what I would like, what I liked—flavors, spirits or specific cocktails.
The draft list would have sufficed if I had really wanted a beer—a couple of decent IPAs and little more—but I didn’t. I was in a cocktail mood, and said I was thinking gin and tonic. Without pause, Snodgrass suggested a “Last Word,” and, throwing caution to the wind, I accepted. A cocktail amateur, I had no idea what it was, but I felt safe, trusting that he knew best.
Snodgrass put as much effort into describing the cocktail as he did making it—going to great lengths describing the components, detailing the enigma of green chartreuse and the history of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur. It was fascinating and demanding, absorbing boozy history lessons dispensed in big gulps. The cold, limey drink was unlike anything I would normally order—brimming with tartness, sweetness, botanics and a hint of alcohol.
While Jim and Jesse talked about mutual friends, I perused the cocktail menu, an exquisite and expensive-looking piece describing Stamp’s cocktails and a glossary of spirits, ingredients and bar lingo—plenty of reading material, if you’re so inclined. Broken into sections—“Signatory Stamps” for example—the theme in each section escaped me, but I quickly realized my own idiocy in missing the obvious postal theme—old post office? Stamp? Now I get it.
I enjoyed my cocktail a lot and love the setting—this historic building goes well with Prohibition-era cocktails and spirits made from generations-old recipes, but at the same time, tt feels a little odd, like a bar in the mall would. I’m sure there are busier days and times, but The Basement often feels like there aren’t enough customers. Snodgrass was surprisingly frank with an anonymous customer about his concerns for the future of the bar. Stamp, The Basement, and downtown Reno are all still a work in progress, but I would enjoy a Last Word from time to time.