Best Bartender

John Berg, Dressel's Pub

We have little regard for those friendly "how's it goin', Joe, what can I do for ya?" sorts of bartenders. Give us someone enigmatic to mix our drinks, keep us guessing and make us feel even a little bit unsure. Someone who reminds us that if we're looking for solace in a bar, we should be giving our lives some serious, sober thought.

John Berg stands, rail-thin, behind the bar at Dressel's. His shock of white hair and long mustache invite caricature. His voice rises from some depth, we imagine, of profound existential contemplation. We know folks who hold him in a combined estimation of awe and fear.

The standard story is that somebody who commands such a presence is really a sweet, regular guy. We're happy to report that Berg is not a sweet, regular guy. Berg is complex and perverse. He has an intimate knowledge of the follies of humanity. He can rail eloquently against the puritan aspects of the American character. He's a font of hard truths.

And he mixes terrific drinks -- a superlative martini, a chocolate concoction that makes us swoon.

And there is, we admit, something sweet about him, too.

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