Opposites attract until they don’t

They could have easily been a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Two star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the tracks; him replete in stocking cap, high tops and a black T-shirt, her in a business casual dress and blouse, daringly high heels, silk scarf and a long coat.

I’ve seen more mismatched couples, but when you stand where I stand, you tend to see a lot of things.

Sometimes the devil really is in the details

“I’ll have a chilled Hangar One, up, no garnish,” I said before taking my seat at the midtown bar.

I was minding my own business; having easily procured my drink all was well with the world. Life is so very much easier when your cocktail of choice is just one ingredient. Mixed drink? Probably not, but 30 seconds from order to completion and it can really be that easy. I was already halfway through my cocktail before my companion even finished ordering his Manhattan.

No saving grace when saving seats

The couple walked into the empty bar and looked around. They walked to one end and then to the other. They sat by the TV, then got up to move farther away then moved again and finally sat — at the only dirty place at the bar.

Aristotle once said, “a man, being just as hungry as thirsty, and placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remain where he is and starve to death.”

When old and antique collide with what’s hip

“I’ll have one of those Moscow Mule things,” the grandmother of the little clan said.

I chuckled inwardly. A friend once said, “Once your grandmother knows about something, it’s no longer cool.”

Sometimes the best comes from the least likely source

There are times when one sets out on a journey to a bar, and there are times when one simply ends up at one. This night was more of the latter. I was in L.A. to check out the cocktail scene; all the hip joints were on the agenda. But ironically the hotel I was actually staying at was not among them.

‘I don’t mean to complain’ deciphered

Every restaurant will get a complaint letter eventually. In these days of Yelp and online forums one might think that the complaint letter is a thing of the past. No one really writes letters anymore, but they do send emails. If the medium for the complaint letter has changed, the content itself has not.

It’s a birthday, happy or not

I do so love birthdays, any life celebration in fact. Making drinks has its own rewards to be sure, being good at one’s craft and all that. But it is the sharing of life’s experiences that makes all the difference. Especially in bartending; a great Manhattan is a good thing, but a great birthday can be remembered for the rest of one’s life. Unfortunately the same can be said of a bad birthday, too.

Remembering Robin Williams

I didn’t know Robin Williams. Sure I’d met him a couple of times, waited on him a dozen or so, saw him perform locally and ran into him in the general environs of the small town that is Marin County. Plus, working in a substance-providing industry probably elevated my exposure, unfortunately. For every feel good story in every bar there is an equally painful one. Every pleasingly served chardonnay to Robert Redford is tempered with every time I’ve had to cut off Steven Adler. Booze can be a pleasant respite or an unshakeable curse. It’s one of the realities of the service industry. What follows are two experiences I had with Mr. Williams.

Beauty only goes so far

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for us that night. It was already going on 10 o’clock. The bottom half of the hour loomed with the next hour’s top representing the end of our collective evening together. Closing time has a way of, well, closing things down.

  • #25 iBooks Bestseller
  • Top 100 Amazon Bestseller
    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”
  • “a book of riotous stories”
    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