Award Winner

Motif Bartender Awards: Boozy, Silly, and Full of Drama

Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“None at all. Isn’t it great?”

– Overheard at the Bartenders’ Ball


This year’s award ceremony took place just above the go-kart track at R1 Indoor Karting in Lincoln. Go-karts whizzed around the racetrack and the room’s high ceilings and the purple and blue lights emanating from the nearby bar created that electric “night on the town” atmosphere.

Doors were at six, but guests eased in slowly and by 7:30 it felt like a party. But just as the ceremony started a tension filled the air – the crowd felt that pull between getting their first drink and staying to watch the first award. The feeling to seek out a cold drink was strong, but the energy of the hosts, Askew owner Windsong Hadley and Lucky Enough owner Vito Lantz, was even stronger.

For the first half of the awards, the main room stayed full, but when intermission hit, with a hive mind, the crowd turned towards the bar like a field of sunflowers turning towards the sun, steady and determined. 

The first round of awards included Best Social Media, Favorite Singing Bartender, Funniest Bartender, Favorite Hotel Bartender, and Favorite Original Mixed Drink Creator. Unsurprisingly, there was a moment of confusion over who had won “Sassiest Bartender.” With a long list of nominees, all deemed “sassy” enough, a nominee, wearing a tight electric blue dress approached the stage before the winner had been announced. Realizing her presumptiveness, she broke out in laughter, and returned to her group. The woman in electric blue did not take the win, but her flare suggested she was certainly the sassiest at heart. 

Providence Drum Troupe enlivened the evening with their customary loud enthusiasm. The Troupe entered the party from a back room. Dressed in mostly black, with colorful light sticks and LED costumes one might see at a rave, they captured everyone’s attention.

Presenter Mary Rose Noir Langlois, part of the Providence Drum Troupe for the evening, impressively circulated around the event in stilts. And I was left feeling embarrassed that I was thinking of complaining about my two-inch heels. My heart leapt into my throat, when she bent down to hug a friend from behind. The surprise embrace was met with a squeal that turned into a so-great-to-see-you-laugh. How is it possible that the two did not come tumbling down? I thought. Moving in the opposite direction, a mime of traditional height, Amy the Mime, handed out hand-folded paper roses.

Amy the Mime “pouring” a drink for a thirsty patron. (Photo: Craig A. Kirkland)

Following the performance there was an opportunity to meander, chat with bartenders, and visit some of the vendor tables. Artists, healthcare workers, and distillers excitedly greeted each group who came to their table, feeding off the energy of the awards, even from the back of the space.

I spoke to Kim from Rhodium: Rhode Island Spirits, New England’s only LGBTQ-owned distillery. They offered shots of flavored vodka and gin that were going fast. I tried a grapefruit gin and while it was great, I’m not a gin drinker and I was working very hard not to pull a face while Kim told me extensively about where they forage for different plants to naturally flavor their liquor. Boot Black Brand Syrups and Smoke Lab Vodka also offered samples at their vendor tables, while others offered artwork, crafts, or Narcan.

As presenters Mike Delehanty from Union Station Brewery and Alice (@aliceimusic) from R1 Indoor Karting kept the awards rolling, live bartending competitions took place throughout the space. After multiple competitive rounds during which no one really lost track (but it was close), Steve Sharp edged out Seth Grayson in the prestigious Guinness Perfect Pint competition, judged by traveling Guinness expert Michael Reardon. Kaiya Hope dominated the long-distance pour by inventing a new wine-catching move – the contest was judged on distance and spillage, as participants tried to catch wine poured by our resident stilt-walker. The margarita contest, judged on flair as well as taste, was won by Galactic Theater Sasquatch, Dave Podsnap.

As most events centered on drinking, laughter, and connection, the schedule was running a bit behind as the clock struck nine.  Mary Rose performed a gravity-defying Burlesque show on stilts. The show was rounded off by comedians/presenters Hadley and Lantz, with a climax including the audience singing the Happy Birthday song to Hadley. Clearly, the evening aged her! Soon after, the audience dispersed to afterparties that sent ripples across select bars across the state.

It was, overall, a wonderful way to spend a Monday night. Instead of being stuck in front of a television listening to the dull sound of an air conditioner, bartenders, their friends and family got out of the house on a hot summer’s night. We connected, laughed, drank, and fed our senses, with music, art, performance, and conversation.

Mary Rose elevates her pour (Photo: Craig A. Kirkland)

Favorite Overall Bartender:
Mike Rigney

Mike, aka “Riggs,” won overall favorite bartender and favorite beard this year. He’s notorious for wearing a lot of black, and for producing some gorgeous cocktails which you can mainly find at The Stable and occasionally at Askew

He’s our favorite for a reason: He’s charming and witty and apparently quite humble. When asked why he’s the best, all he could say was, “I’m not sure that I’m the best per se, haha. I’ve got a lot of favorite bartenders in PVD. But ummm, I guess some of the things are: Solid flirt to roast ratio, dope playlist, and I’m told I make the best martinis around.” Martinis aside, Rigney is also probably favored because he wants to be there. When asked why he bartends, he said “I do it because I’ll never be the 9-5 type. I like to be out and I like to party, so if I can catch that vibe while I’m at work, without getting in too much trouble, and make a few friends along the way, it feels like a win.”

– Zei Martinez

Mike Rigney with his shiny new trophy (Photo: Craig A. Kirkland)

Favorite Social Media Account: Corinne Southern

With well over 4,000 Facebook followers and a strong Instagram presence, it’s no surprise that Corinne Southern took home the prize for Favorite Social Media Account. She is constantly promoting her bartending and musical appearances through entertaining videos. She currently works at Platforms, The Parlour, and The Pump House, and plays in Corinne Southern & The Constellations.

“I like to consider myself a musician first and a bartender second,” Southern says. “All of the places I bartend are live music venues and my social media serves the triple purpose of promoting my own music, the music at those venues, and the cocktails that I make. My content is a mix of promoting the music community and showcasing the libations available at the venues. Letting people know when and where I am working has gotten me a bit of a following and I have been recognized out and about for my bartending content, which is pretty cool. 

“Being behind a bar is a lot like being on stage and I treat my bartender’s social media posts the same way I would promote other types of creative endeavors… I love taking pictures, making videos and creating cocktails, so it’s definitely all interconnected. Bartenders who aren’t as active on social media definitely miss out on the opportunities that can come with being a bartender ‘influencer.’”

“I’m honored to have won the award,” she adds. “I am very proud of my work and it’s definitely an effort to create the content I make on top of the other work I do. It means the world to me to have friends, patrons, fans and followers who enjoyed my content enough to vote for me. I don’t think I would have taken the runner-up title for favorite overall bartender if I wasn’t so active on social media. I look forward to creating even more content in the coming years. I am also honored to be nominated alongside so many other talented bartenders in Rhode Island, it’s a great community and there is a lot of talent here in RI.”

– Bobby Forand

Favorite New Bartender: Matt Prezzato 

Matt Prezzato is originally from Detroit, Michigan. He found his passion for bartending when he moved to Austin, Texas in 2012. During the pandemic, he left Austin to travel the country, spending time in Ohio and Massachusetts. He has recently started to work his craft in Rhode Island, as a bartender at The Royal Bobcat, Ogie’s, and The Avery. Matt loves to create interesting, novel, and sweet cocktails. Aside from making the drinks, Matt believes in making connections with each person that comes to his bar, whether its music, sports, or travel, he says, “The guest may only come to your bar once in their lives, so why not make it a memorable experience they can pass on to others?” 

– Emma Strempfer

Bartender In An Unexpected Location: Steve Sharp 

Steve Sharp, originally from Cranston, has worked at several bars in the Greater Providence area including Kimi’s, Sports Tap, and The Hot Club, where he started at the door and quickly moved to behind the bar. 

His favorite part of being a bartender is the social interactions. He finds that it balances his social life perfectly with exciting, at times boisterous, interactions and quiet alone time, like at closing. 

Steve is no stranger to the science behind a good beer. He worked for eight years at FoolProof Brewing Company. He’s also been known to throw quite a few kegs in regional strong man contests.

He also works as a massage therapist on the side. Steve truly loves what he does, unable to see himself doing anything else. 

– Emma Strempfer

Favorite Dive-Bar Bartender: Janay DeMello

Janay DeMello is the mother of two of Rusty’s favorite mascots. With years of experience under her belt, the local bartender is a hometown favorite for her regulars and a welcoming face to newcomers. Whether she’s bopping around to a live music set or the sound of billiard balls smashing, she’s serving Rusty’s dive-bar clientele as the best dive-bar bartender.  

– Zei Martinez

Favorite Tap Room Bartender: Julie Taylor

Taylor has been a mainstay at Trinity Brewhouse for twenty years. If you ever have the good fortune to be served by her there, pay extra attention to her eyes – they literally sparkle from within. Her easygoing nature and sense of humor sparkle forth just as noticeably. Her husband, Luke, is an outdoorsman and regular contributor to Motif (full disclosure), and she is also a graphic designer and artist, when not tending to her own family and her extended family of Trinity regulars.

– Mike Ryan

Favorite Multitasker: Leah Stoddard

Leah Stoddard, the bartender who made the pandemic a little less lonely with Facebook videos dedicated to her regulars, is Rhode Island’s favorite multitasking bartender. She and her dynamic partner Jess are heaven-sent for her clientele at The 133 Club and at The Hot Club. A comedian at heart, Leah puts her customers at ease with a bright smile and some genuinely friendly banter.

– Zei Martinez

Funniest Bartender: Jodi Furtado

This mom and softball lover makes Market Street Pub’s clientele bust out in stitches. Her busy schedule is packed on all sides, from being a mom to recent graduates, to fixing to-die-for cocktails. This comedian at heart even makes Friday karaoke nights bearable with special drinks and jokes. 

– Zei Martinez

Sassiest Bartender: Gina DeCesare

A Johnston local and purveyor of sass at its finest, Gina DeCesare of Atwood Grille is Motif’s favorite sassy bartender. She’s the kind of person you turn to for help with apartment hunting and pray is your closing partner (we got that straight from her co-workers). Her wit makes long shifts seem shorter and keeps her customers on their toes. 

– Zei Martinez

Favorite Overall Watering Hole: Moonshine Alley

Moonshine Alley is described as a “home away from home for Tennesseans in Providence.” This Nashville-themed bar is home to Nashville inspired cocktails – RedBull Watermelon Frose and their Nashville Bloody Mary (garnished with a slider sized hot chicken sandwich) – and hosts great live musicians. Plus, they serve your Rhode Island staples – Whalers and Wormtail, among around 10 other locally and regionally brewed beers. It’s no mystery why this country-hit is our favorite overall watering hole. See Corey Plante’s full write-up at

– Zei Martinez

Favorite Gay Bar: The Stable

One of the best gay bars in America (according to Esquire), and the favorite gay bar in RI among Motif readers, The Stable is home to gorgeous drag shows and cocktails galore. It is also the home to Rhode Island’s favorite beard and bartender Mike Riggs. Known for being: “That bar that no matter who you are you know you can come in and have a good time without having any judgment. We showcase that everybody is family and it shows with our beautiful amazing staff and delicious cocktails,” says manager Mike Correra. 

The Stable stays on top by staying on top of trends while still making everyone feel welcome to have a good time. When asked why they do it, Correra says, “We do it because as the times are changing we make sure we stay true to who we are. We get to be the escape from the outside world and it feels like nothing else matters. When you sit down at the bar you forget about all the other worries in your life and you just enjoy the time you are having now.” 

– Zei Martinez

Favorite Dive Bar: Rusty’s

Rusty’s Bar and Grille has a home-like feel that provides a pleasing environment for everyone. With their “Favorite Dive Bar” award already displayed on their shelf for all to see, owners Robin and Chuck Dings are proud of their great dive bar. They have weekly dinner specials and live music on the weekends. They also offer pool and darts.

“We are regular people; my husband and I both work here and we try to make everyone feel at home,” says Robin. “Like they’ve been coming here forever.”

“Dive bars are special because they are usually real, down-to-earth people, the best food and the best workers,” Robin boasts.

The regulars are what keep the bar feeling like home and up and running. Reviews are riddled with compliments on the friendly atmosphere. Their location is close to the beach and near hotels, so there are a lot of tourists that stop in. Dings says that the regulars gladly welcome in newcomers, inviting them to sit down and sing along to the radio.

“The regulars are important because that’s what keeps us going in the winter when it’s slow season,” Robin adds.

– Bobby Forand

Favorite Fancy Drink Bar: The Eddy

At 10 years old, the Eddy is no longer that new surprise you might discover, but it maintains that atmosphere, tucked away unobtrusively on Eddy St in PVD, it has the mystique of an exclusive, hard-to-find treasure. Always dark and atmospheric, the little corner bar with three or four tables as well, and a giant painting of an oncoming plane, the Eddy is a favorite of those who value tastefully presented, tastefully tasted mixed drinks. It’s reputation for hosting bartenders who know their mixology precedes it, and it’s a great date-night place to visit when you’re in the mood to drink something special.

– Mike Ryan