September 11

Called in on a Tuesday morning. What a drag. One of the drawbacks of the restaurant business are the odd hours. Of course that is also one of its many advantages too. When you work in the highest grossing restaurant in the nation ($37 million) you are going to have to make some sacrifices. Especially if that restaurant is in one of the City’s most iconic landmarks.

This particular Tuesday it is breakfast for a group of insurance people (contain your excitement). Oddly people who work with numbers all day long are notoriously unable to figure out a proper tip on a bill, inevitably their math is wrong, and invariably it is in their favor. I don’t know why this is; I just know that it is. On top of that they are British, meaning that a 10 percent tip will be the starting point. Double ouch.

Barfly Sunday at San Rafael Pacific’s ballgame Aug 17!

Join Jeff Burkhart, celebrity mixologist, Barfly columnist and author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: the spirited adventures of a real bartender” at the ball park for specialty drinks and conversation.

Books and autographs will be available.

Game #39 Pacifics vs. Vallejo – Barfly San Rafael Pacifics Baseball Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM (PDT) San Rafael, CA

Madness is never a solo condition

Jean-Paul Sartre spent his life arguing that there is no madness in individuals and that it only occurs within groups. Dealing with both on a regular basis I have to respectfully disagree.

The challenge of making the customer right

The waiter came quickly over to the bar with a combined look of stress and perplexity upon his face.

“That guy over there,” he said pointing back over his shoulder, “wants to see our wine connoisseur.”

Now I had the confused look.

“Our what?”

When stereotypes collide

“Got any light beer?” the man in a trucker’s snap back hat asked.

“Light in color or light in calories?”

“You know, light,” he said, offering no new information.

Often people think they are being clear when in fact they are not. Sometimes there are 100 different answers depending on the question. So, I offered a choice.

It’s more about mixing people than drinks

“When are you going to get a real job?” my relative asked recently.

Youth gone…and now wild

It could have been any Wednesday night, but it wasn’t. Because it’s not every Wednesday night that a bachelor party rolls through. Maybe every third Wednesday, but that really doesn’t make my point now does it? Whatever the case, this night was going to be special, and as I soon learned, not just for them.

“We’ll have five shots of Scotch,” said the ringleader of the band of bachelors.

Shots of Scotch? Evidently discerning judgment was no longer a factor.

Being called ‘doctor’ doesn’t mean you are

It was another of those lazy Sunday afternoons, the kind that make working the night shift that much harder. A day of leisure followed by a night of naught can be a difficult adjustment, but in this business adjustment is what it is all about.

Two cups of coffee later — one for the mind and one for the body — I was standing behind the early evening bar, my serene summer afternoon now drifting slowly into memory.

She sat at the bar carefully; often women feel uncomfortable sitting by themselves at a bar. One can only speculate why, but when most of your evidence is anecdotal, you go with what you know.

“May I help you?” I asked doing my best to make her comfortable.

Explaining the unexplainable

Our relationship didn’t start exactly auspiciously. If memory serves, it went a little like this:

“May I get some bread?” I asked the young kid standing behind the counter.

“I’m sorry. But we don’t serve bread,” he said.

“I’ll be happy to pay for it,” I said knowing that in some restaurants the policies toward giving out free stuff differ. It you haven’t actually paid for something than it is not a right, it’s a courtesy.

“We don’t serve bread at all,” he said, getting an odd look in his eyes.

When ‘most people’ really means ‘me’

HE ENTERED THE coffee shop through the wrong door, embodying “against the grain.”

Most people would have realized that everyone else was going the other direction. He was, however, not most people.

With parties it’s all fun, until it’s not

THE PARTY HAD been in full swing for a full 20 minutes before I realized that it was an actual party and not just another Thursday night.

Shots had been ordered, bottles of wine procured and due diligence on the taxicab and Uber situation had been offered. Bartenders are not the fun police — we have a job to do and a legal obligation to be met, but we are there to facilitate the fun, not stop it.

  • #25 iBooks Bestseller
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    Food Related Books
  • “more about mixing people than drinks”
    Christopher Kimball America’s Test Kitchen
  • “racy and innocent”
    Marin Independent Journal
  • “insightful writing about bar culture and human nature”
    SF Examiner
  • “the best stories are of the clueless at their worst behavior — often before they’ve ordered their first drink” “juicier reads than you would find in the pages of a family newspaper”
    Patch
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    The Bold Italic
  • “great book, quite funny, and includes recipes!”
    Joel Riddell, Dining Around, NewsTalk 910
  • “I love this book. It's insightful, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and includes expert cocktail recipes, too!”
    Erika Lenkert, author of Last-Minute Party Girl and Raw: the Uncook Book
  • “Served straight up, with humor, irreverence and a one-of-a-kind perspective, Twenty Years Behind Bars takes us up close into the life of bars, bartenders, and those who frequent both. To get any closer, you'd need be an olive in one of Burkhart's martini glasses.”
    Kimberley Lovato, author of the award winning cookbook, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves