Best Bartender: Michael Haney, Water Street Tavern and Jesika Smigel, Venice Cafe


Mike Haney is a bartender at Water Street Tavern.

Madeleine Winer


Michael Haney, Water Street Tavern

Michael Haney greets customers behind the bar with his wide grin as an added flair while pouring Water Street Tavern’s wide selection of specialty drinks, including Mongolian Motherfuckers, Fish Bowls and the Gusher – his favorite shot to make.

The senior biology major and Michael Cera look-a-like has worked at Water Street for about a year and equally enjoys the test of remembering four drink orders at once during the bar’s Saturday night rush and hanging out and making small talk with customers on slower nights.

“His service is out of this world, and his drinks are immaculate,” said Robert Popilock, who frequents the bar when Haney is working. “When I see Mike, I can’t help but put a smile on my face.”

While Haney navigates the bar’s bottles and brews with ease, he said he’s still trying to master one aspect of his job: “I have yet to find a deodorant to keep up with the rush,” he joked.


Jesika Smigel, Venice Cafe

Bold flavors, good people and the bar’s vintage feel are what Jesika Smigel, bartender and manager at Venice Cafe loves most about her job.

“I definitely love the people, and that’s important because when you have good people around you, you become a family and work well together, which makes it more fun,” she said. “I also just like the atmosphere. It’s real vintage. It’s not fake — they have the original bar stools and the original bar, too, that was there in the ‘40s.”

You can find this redhead behind Venice’s bar on her usual Thursday, Friday and Saturday shifts fixing one of her favorite drinks — Venice’s hand-crafted, customizable old-fashioneds — for customers or recommending a new craft beer guests should try based on the flavors they already enjoy.

She said her recommendations rarely disappoint. Jess, as her coworkers call her, said she doesn’t make a signature drink but instead, prefers perfecting drinks for both returning students and locals.

“Consistency is key, and if you go back to the same bars, you want to have to have the same experience,” she said. “That’s what we try to do.”



Zach Mitchell, Bricco

With a sharp wit and knack for pouring with precision, Zach Mitchell can be found bustling behind the bar at Bricco serving one of the restaurant’s craft brews or concocting an Espresso martini — one of his favorite to make — from its extensive martini menu.

The senior managerial marketing major most enjoys working the restaurant’s fast-paced dinner hour, meeting locals who tell him stories about the city and working with his coworkers, many whom he describes as friends.

George Kiefer, a Kent resident who frequents the bar often when Mitchell is working, said he likes to joke with Mitchell, who he calls courteous and professional with customers.

“He offers good conversation,” Kiefer said. “He always pays attention, and that’s nice. I can actually say when I’ve been in here, I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. His cocktails are very consistent.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].