A Barkeep's Best FriendNovember 3, 2009 By: Jack Robertiello
If you don't know Brian Rea, too bad for you. Rea knows as much about American bars, bartenders, drinks, drinking and drink memorabilia as any man alive. Until recently, he owned one of the world’s greatest and perhaps largest collections of bartending books, guides, collectibles and ephemera; it’s now part of an even greater collection in Germany. He's done it all and knows it all (just ask him), and as far as I'm concerned, he’s one of the bar business’s keenest and funniest resources. You don’t become head barman at New York City’s famed “21” Club, among other places, without knowing what’s up.
Rea gets around quite a bit, from his time at 400 Restaurant and Little Club to a stint on the dark side as corporate beverage director at Host International (airports, hotels, restaurants, etc.), but if you haven’t met him, his web site, thebarkeeper.com, is a great introduction into the mind of a man who knows every thing that was worth knowing about bartending in America in the 20th century — and quite a bit about the 21st century as well. He includes a lot about management and operations, and his reminiscences are very funny and apt to the current marketplace. Beyond the collectibles and recipes, I visit the monthly updates just to get a little shot of Rea’s PITA links — his Gimlet-eyed view of Pain In The Ass moments at the bar. My hero.