There are a lot of things to notice the first time you walk into Story Brooke Craft Coffee Bar, which opened just south of downtown in late January: the bright turquoise walls, the reclaimed wood pallets that hold clear bottles of syrups and teeny espresso mugs, the long line of matted photographs hung from the ceiling with jute.
None is more crucial than the long, tiled bar behind which owner Story Stuart stands. It’s a specific choice, her place behind the bar, customers on stools in front of it, that nods to Stuart’s dream of one day owning a space that serves martinis instead of espresso.
“I’ve always been into drinks,” she says the first time I stop in to chat about the new space at Fourth Street S and 14th Avenue S. “Even as a little kid, every holiday party, my sister and friends, we would make a Thanksgiving drink, a martini, and sort of play bartender.”
Stuart, 24, whose middle name is Brooke, most recently worked as a food and beverage experience manager at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World and Gaylord Palms Resort, where she helped develop cocktail programs, traveled with spirits companies, and worked on a drink menu that debuted just after she left at the end of 2016 to open Story Brooke.
The coffee shop taps into a larger trend happening in Tampa Bay — coffee purveyors crafting drinks that draw their main inspiration from the harder stuff, Manhattans and mint juleps and more.