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For the last seven years, if Michael Zeni hasn’t been working behind a bar, he’s been enjoying a gin and tonic on the other side. During his stint as a Milwaukee mixologist, Zeni has composed cocktails and poured wine in a variety of spots from swanky bar-slash-restaurants to high-volume Water Street watering holes. While his […]

For the last seven years, if Michael Zeni hasn’t been working behind a bar, he’s been enjoying a gin and tonic on the other side. During his stint as a Milwaukee mixologist, Zeni has composed cocktails and poured wine in a variety of spots from swanky bar-slash-restaurants to high-volume Water Street watering holes. While his current gig at a high-end eatery keeps him away from the beer-guzzling college crowd, Zeni’s got plenty of tales stored up from his years in the biz. Who better for me to chat with about our city’s nightlife? I sat down with the seasoned Zeni to compare bartending notes and hear about how interesting life behind the bar can be.


AT: What trends have you seen in drinks people are ordering?


MZ: I think we’re still perfecting the Cosmo. The latest variation is the Pom-tini, made with pomegranate juice or liquor. A lot of people are requesting those.


AT: What about in terms of bars? What trends do you see in all the new ones cropping up?


MZ: The bar and restaurant hybrid has really taken off, especially those with some kind of theme like Bayou or The Good Life.


AT: Let’s say you were opening a bar. What kind of place do you think we need in the city?


MZ: I’m still looking to see a wine bar get it totally right. Maybe the problem is that Milwaukee doesn’t have enough people interested in something like that to really make it work.


AT: When you’re on the other side of the bar, where do you normally choose to have a cocktail?

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MZ: I’ll occasionally go to Vitucci’s or Points East Pub, but I’m old … I pretty much go to restaurants and eat as an excuse to drink.


AT: As bartenders, we know that your job often requires that you play the role of psychologist. What are some things people have spilled to you?


MZ: Well, there’s the cardiologist who drinks and smokes and goes on about his God complex.


AT: A lot of major cities are banning smoking in bars and restaurants. Your thoughts on a similar ban in Milwaukee?


MZ: Let them smoke. I’m a bartender … I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds me!


“Bar Time” runs every other week on the Milwaukee Magazine Web site. Look for the next column Wednesday, Feb. 7.

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