In San Francisco: H. Joseph Ehrmann, Elixir
As bartenders go, H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco, is a certified rock star. He was named 2010 Bartender of the Year by Nightclub and Bar magazine. Patrons line up three deep for his Manhattans (which boast Buffalo Trace bourbon). Heck, even the selection on his 1950s-style jukebox gets props (folk meets world meets honky-tonk and more).
Still, among entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and folks in green business, "H," as he's known, is most renowned as the Bay Area's best bartender if you're on the market for some work-related gossip.
Maybe it's because he's a good listener. Maybe it's his MBA from Thunderbird. Or maybe it's those green business happy-hour events he hosts on the second Thursday of every month. Whatever the reason, customers feel comfortable chatting with H. And H is happy to spill.
"We're a neighborhood bar with a friendly atmosphere," Ehrmann says. "That alone seems to loosen people up."
Lately H has been trading information about development along San Francisco's waterfront in preparation for the 2012 America's Cup yachting race. He's also got his ears to the ground for local government gossip and scoops on the local software industry. So what company will emerge as San Francisco's next big thing? H has his hunches. Just ask him.
Order like a regular: Ehrmann's award-winning Bloody Mary.
Go: 3200 16th St.; (415) 552-1633; elixirsf.com
In Chicago: Katie Vina, The Purple Pig
Three things add up to making Katie Vina and her co-workers the Windy City's must-know bartenders:
- Its Michigan Avenue location, a stone's throw from the Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building, makes The Purple Pig the post-work gathering spot for Chicago's Magnificent Mile crowd.
- The Pig's menu is centered on an ever-changing selection of tasting portions of pork, cheese and wine, so regulars rely on the knowledgeable staff to help them navigate the new stuff.
- European-style communal tables and wide, welcoming spots at the bar make it an easy place to shoot the breeze about the office. Regulars stream in for happy hour and to "dish about their day," says Vina, who can't help but pick up some choice tidbits from all the wheeling and dealing. --M.L.
Order like a regular: One of the new Greek wines; ask Vina (or your bartender) for a recommendation du jour.
Go: 500 N. Michigan Ave.; (312) 464-1744; thepurplepigchicago.com
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor in Healdsburg, Calif. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, and has covered startups and entrepreneurship for The New York Times, TIME and CIO. He also covers a variety of other topics, including travel, parenting, education and -- seriously -- gambling. He can be found on his personal website, Whalehead.com.