Meet the best bartender in town

Recipe The Sweet Jane (John Burns' take on the Pineapple Daquiri) Ingredients: 1 ounce of white rum (Denizen preferred) 1 ounce dark rum (Plantation Pineapple preffered) 1 ounce lime juice 1 ounce simple syrup To make the syrup: 1. Fill a quart-sized mason jar halfway with sugar. 2. Boil equal parts water in a sauce pan. When properly boiled, combine the water and sugar to make the syrup. To make the cocktail: 1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail tin. 2. Add ice. Shake it. 3. Strain it into a martini glass. Enjoy!

PITTSFIELD — Stop by Methuselah Bar and Lounge and you're sure to be welcomed by bartender John Burns, who will greet you with a smile and recommend you an exclusive drink you won't find anywhere else, in the warm, intimate space at 391 North St.

For Burns, who was voted Best of the Berkshires for his bartending in The Eagle's annual reader poll, he sees his job as just more than just simple rum-and-coke bartending; he's a mixologist. He plays an active role in designing Methuselah's signature cocktail and drink list, which changes by the season, contributing his intimate knowledge of ingredients ranging from the common to the obscure.

But Burns wasn't always known for his drinks at Methuselah. In fact, half of his six-year bartending career was spent at Baba Louie's, working for Paul Masiero, whom Burns accredits for getting him into bartending. Prior to starting at Baba Louie's, Masiero enrolled Burns in a one-month bartending course at Berkshire Community College, where he learned the basics of bartending. Six years and two bars later, Burns now triumphs as the best of the Berkshires.

"I was over the moon when I found out," Burns said. "I am thankful to [Methuselah owner] Yuki [Cohen] for giving me this creative freedom at Methuselah, and I'm thankful for Paul Masiero for giving me my start."

But helping create drinks is only half of Burns' job. His other half involves making people feel welcome and open enough to have a good time, order some drinks, and maybe try something new. Burns always tries to foster a positive atmosphere at Methuselah, which he believes played a big role in him being voted Best of the Berkshires. Part of it was also the venue itself; with its cozy, modern interior design and regular music, and with its North Street location, Methuselah is a venue that attracts customers all on its own. Of course, once in, it's Burns' job to make sure they stay.

"When you're here, I want you to feel like you're sitting in my living room, and you have my full attention, and I'm just here to pour you a drink," Burns said.

Positivity plays a big role in bartending, as Burns notes. People don't want to be served by someone who is in a bad mood, and he never lets issues back home interfere with his work. This, played with his intimate knowledge of mixology, allows him to engage customers fairly easily and recommend them a drink with ingredients they might not have heard of, based on simple flavor profiles they provide. This is a fairly common practice, as some of the ingredients Methuselah uses are so obscure, not even Burns knew of them when he started the job.

"A big part of selling a product is knowing it," Burns said. "[For any given drink], I know the flavor profile that goes with it, what it works well with."

Burns views the class he took at BCC as planting the seed of his career, with his most valuable experience coming from on-the-job, where he learned how to experiment and make drinks of his own. Of course, at Methuselah, he isn't alone when prepping the cocktail list for any given season. Everyone at the bar is involved in a democratic process of deciding which drinks work and which ones don't. As such, Burns feels like he has a lot more creative freedom at Methuselah than at Baba Louie's, given that Methuselah is far more drink-oriented.

For new bartenders looking to getting in to mixology, he insists that they don't get discouraged by failure. Burns admits, many of his drinks still don't make the cut for Methuselah's seasonal cocktail list, with some that do ending up becoming crowd-pleasers, while others live on as obscure flavor profiles.

And most of the drinks he makes are relatively quick to make, as the bar tries to limit all drink items to 4 or 5 ingredients at the most, to avoid making customers wait, proving that you don't need a lot of ingredients to make an effective drink.


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