Jason Burczyk has been bartending for 10 years in many Milwaukee establishments as well as bars and nightclubs from New York to Portland, Ore.
Currently, he works at Ten Bells, but also helps out at other places, including Sabbatic, Bel Air and more.
"I’m a gun for hire," says Burczyk.
Recently, we stopped by Ten Bells to chat with Burczyk about bourbon, tattoos, music, his hatred of sports and what it’s like being an identical twin.
OnMilwaukee.com: Where was your first bartending job?
Jason Burczyk: I started at Buckhead Saloon. I opened that place when I was about 19.
OMC: What do you like about bartending?
JB: It’s not a 9-to-5.
OMC: Where else have you worked?
JB: Eastsider, Cans, Boone & Crocket, River Horse, Cush ...
OMC: Did you work at Cush when it burned down in the "Pizza Man fire?"
JB: Yep, I was the last person in the building. I locked the door, went home, a while later, got the call. I went back and the place was burning to the ground. It was bananas.
OMC: What do you like to do when you’re not bartending?
JB: My brother and I have been doing music forever. He’s in a band and I do some management stuff for him. I travel a lot, too. Mostly, I’m either working or traveling.
OMC: Tell me about your brother’s band.
JB: It’s called Jayk. He’s playing with the Dashboard Confessional guys.
My brother and I have done music together before, but this is his solo project. We are actively seeking management, but for now I’m making sure things are going in the right direction.
OMC: You’ve lived in a lot of different places, right?
JB: Yeah. Portland, Eugene, New York, Youngstown, Ohio...
OMC: Why Youngstown? A girl?
JB: No, it actually wasn’t. I rode BMX years ago and I was with a team – Division BMX – and we were on tour and ended up there with some guys and I didn’t leave.
OMC: You grew up in Milwaukee?
JB: Yes, I was born and raised here and then I went to high school in West Bend. And then moved back to Milwaukee when I was 17.
OMC: So you’re an identical twin. What’s that like?
JB: He’s been a staple in my life since day one, of course. I probably talk to him more than anyone else.
OMC: Are you two close?
JB: Yeah. We get along. But we probably fight more than we get along.
OMC: Did your mom dress you alike when you were little?
JB: She did. We have some pretty embarrassing photos.
OMC: Do you have the same style now?
JB: No. I’m the dirtier, grungier twin. He doesn’t have any tattoos. He does pop music. But he’s still a rock ‘n’ roll kid. He’s got a nose ring, but that’s about as edgy as it gets. And his hair is pretty stupid.
OMC: What’s up with his hair?
JB: He flat irons his hair out in every direction. It’s not giant. Anymore. It was. Back when he was doing the MTV thing – he had a brief, 15 minutes of fame – and his hair was out of control. It’s better now.
OMC: Have the two of you ever dated twin girls?
JB: No. We tend to keep that stuff pretty separate.
OMC: Are you going for full sleeve tattoos on your arms?
JB: Absolutely. I didn’t get the first tattoo until I was 22. I’m having work done by John Bartels at Walker’s Point Tattoos. He’s 22 years old. Amazing. Really talented. He and his brother both work over there.
OMC: Do people hit on you a lot?
JB: Yeah. I don’t mind it. Being a bartender has its perks.
OMC: Do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend?
JB: I do not have either. Well, not really. There is someone. She lives in Austin, Texas, and I’m going to visit her this weekend. But it’s probably not going to work out. I love her to death. She is awesome. She moved up here for a brief period of time and while she was here I was a total sh*thead. She worked at the Irish Pub for a minute. She had never been to the Midwest. Then she went back to Austin. I went back down there, tried to make it work. But it didn’t work out. That’s life. She’s my best friend, though.
OMC: What’s the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard?
JB: At Cans, I would get girls walk up to the bar and say, "you’re really cute" and I’d say, "thank you." And then they’d immediately apologize for it. Saying, "I’m sorry. Was that too much?" Don’t do that. That’s just the worst. If you’re gonna hit on someone, go all out or don’t go at all.
OMC: What’s your favorite drink to make for a customer?
JB: I’m partial to the classics. I’m a bourbon guy. Manhattans.
OMC: You’re a bartender in Wisconsin and you make Manhattans with bourbon?
JB: Absolutely. I know most people don’t agree.
OMC: So, what are your life goals?
JB: I have no idea. That’s probably why I am 30 years old and still floating. I will eventually settle down and do what normal people do. A girl you can tolerate coming home to. Maybe kids. Be financially stable. That’s the American Dream, right? Isn’t that what "they" say?
OMC: Have you ever cleaned up puke on the job?
JB: I have never. No. Up until now I was a general manager at nightclubs. I had staff. "Hey, Richard, the bathroom’s a mess." It was nice being the boss.
One night after (OnMilwaukee.com’s) Bartender Olympics, Lee (Guk, former owner of Ten Bells) had to clean puke off the monitor down there. A girl did a shot, threw up on the monitor and then wanted to do more shots. Ah, 23. To be that resilient. To be young again. I haven’t thrown up since I was 22 or 23, if I did now I would be unable to walk.
OMC: Are you a sports fan?
JB: Not a sports fan. In fact, I’m a huge hater of sports. My brother is a lover of sports. I went to my first Brewers game this year. It was something. All these people gather together and watch guys hit balls for 10 hours? No, thanks. I was in my seat for about 10 minutes and then I went to Friday’s. Now if that’s baseball, I’ll go all the time. I don’t even know who won the game.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.