It all comes down to the people in your life

In the service business you get all sorts of customers but the hardest ones are those who don’t just expect you to do your job, and do it well, but also expect you to be delighted to. It doesn’t matter if its 10 seconds to midnight on New Year’s Eve, or the bottom of the ninth with a full count and the bases loaded in a tie game, or the last 30 seconds of the NBA Finals, someone is going to demand your undivided attention, and then expect you to be thrilled about it.

The quest to be cool is never quite cool

I hadn’t seen him in years, maybe two or three bars ago. If it is true that change is the only constant, then someone should let him know.

“I hear that you write a little thing for the paper now,” he said in a way that acknowledges yet diminishes at the same time.

“Yep,” I said, knowing better than to give him more ammunition.

“I never read it.”

Whiskey makers thinking inside the barrel

With the advent of craft cocktails and modern mixology it is possible, even in the most remote recesses of our great nation, to get the most inventive cocktails imaginable. And if we are to believe Plato — that necessity is the mother of invention — then our necessity is that imaginative cocktails require imaginative spirits. And credit our nation for its ingenuity because that is exactly what is happening, and it is beginning in the most unlikely of places.

Don’t reward bad behavior

It was a busy night, not so busy that the man didn’t have time to tell me that he was looking for a seat at the bar, and not too busy for me to acknowledge that.

When hick meets hipster, press on

They clearly were cool. It wasn’t something the two needed to say outright, it just permeated every aspect of their being, from their tribal tattoos to their attitude.

Everybody celebrates a birthday differently

I think I might have yawned. I know that I looked at the clock on the wall. Time can crawl or race by depending on circumstance. Sometimes working behind the bar is exciting — making lots of drinks, talking to lots of people, loud music, hustle bustle — and then sometimes it’s not.

Give the lady what she wants

I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I remember well how it ended.

“I never went back there,” said the young woman.

The problem with telling a customer, “no problem”

It was as good a lunch as one could remember. If Virginia Woolf is known for saying, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” I would like to go on record as saying that the same is true for lunching well. Anyone who works nights will tell you the same thing.

Spirited conversation, with cherry on top

“I’ll have an old fashioned with George Dickel, orange and angostura bitters and maraschino liqueur,” she said authoritively.

“With an orange twist and a cherry on top . A Luxardo maraschino, if you have it.”

“Ah, the original,” I said.

It all looks good until it doesn’t

He had been coming in a lot as of late. If they say time heals all wounds, then it would be safe to say his were sufficiently scabbed over — at least enough to be dipping his foot back into in the shallow dating pool around here.

Handsome, successful, generous and kind, certainly a catch for anybody interested in those sorts of things.

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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”
  • “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