Zacaria Anny does more than just work behind the bar at Two, 718 E. Burleigh St. According to customers, he creates drinkable art forms. Anny, who is also a sculptor, is known for designing his own signature cocktails and even bringing in his own bitters and non-alcoholic mixers just to perfect a recipe.
On a recent visit to one of Milwaukee's most romantic bars – complete with private, enclosed booths veiled with beaded curtains – we chatted with Anny about velvet hammers and carnies and his dislike of ABBA.
OMC: Prior to Two, where did you work?
ZA: Stack'd. It sucked. The food was great, but there was all of this amazing liquor there and yet all anyone wanted was a beer or a Jack and Coke.
OMC: How did you learn to tend bar?
ZA: From drinking. And I learned from my old man that if you're gonna do anything, you might as well do it right. He was a blue collar guy with a 1950s work ethic. I also read books and keep learning. I'm not the best. I have a long way to go.
OMC: What's your favorite drink to make?
ZA: The Velvet Hammer. It has Hendrick's and Pimm's and blood orange bitters and orange-flavored water. You pop the zest (on the orange) and it has a smoky, charred flavor. It's really fun to make. Mostly, I just like to mix things together.
OMC: Is it true you are making your own bitters?
ZA: Yeah. In about a month, I will have my own bitters. I'm making a white peppercorn, cardamom, Meyer lemon and hyssop.
OMC: How do you cut people off?
ZA: I use the "casual ignore" approach. You know when someone has had too much, and they try to look at you, to catch your attention for another drink, and then you just go over here. (He walks to the far corner of the opposite side of the bar.) It's less confrontational this way. I try not to be an assh*le.
OMC: What's your favorite cocktail to drink?
ZA: I'm really fussy about cocktails. My favorite is a pisco sour. I also do a champagne cocktail called a sparkling pisco. It's a little boozy, but I like my drinks to be boozy.
OMC: What do you like to do when you're not bartending?
ZA: Ride a bike.
OMC: Are you from Milwaukee?
ZA: I grew up all over the place. I was born in Wausau. I worked at a cowboy bar in Eagle. In high school, my friend's family owned a carnival and I worked there.
OMC: You were a carnie?
ZA: (He looks at – then points a finger at – the interviewer and corrects.) I ran that motherf*cking carnival.
OMC: So how frisky do people get here?
ZA: I will not comment. Other people's business is their business.
OMC: Is Two a gay bar?
ZA: Gay friendly. We're not exclusively anything. No labels. Everyone's welcome and we encourage you to have fun.
OMC: What are your goals, your dreams?
ZA: I'm too old for dreams.
OMC: What do you think of the all-love-song jukebox here?
ZA: You gotta dig deep. And if anyone plays ABBA ever again I will kill them.
OMC: You get hit on a lot?
ZA: Yes and / or no. Let's just say, not by the people I want to get hit on by. But that's OK. It's part of the thing.
OMC: You are an artist, too, right?
ZA: I have a degree in sculpting. I just sold a piece of sculpture, actually. I work in all different mediums, but mostly, I like mixing things together. I get crazy with the glazes. My art translates well into this job. It's about a fussiness.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.