Alli Genoway has recently been making waves in the bartending industry, including working high-volume bars, heading up a bar program for Bobcat Teddy’s Ice House, and hosting a fundraiser benefiting the Periwinkle Foundation, which raised $5,000. Genoway has had a very active role in the industry and, beyond that, a heart made of gold. This is her story.
What got you into the industry?
I moved to Houston with suitcases and nothing else. Getting into the industry was a way for me to make money and fast. I started out as a waitress and was working for a company. I wanted to bartend and they had a club and they told me they would teach me. I learned how to do shots and I learned how to blow fire and genuinely put on a show, and I fell in love with it.
How did you discover mixology?
I never really heard the term “mixology” until I started working at Arthur (Ave), where we had a soft-served White-Russian-and-alcohol-infused ice cream. We studied and went through trial and error on how to get alcohol into ice cream, and soft serve at that. We had a cocktail that tasted a lot like our caprese salad. I got an understanding of how to build cocktails through working at Arthur, and it was where I really found out what mixology was all about.
When did it hit you that you could make a career out of it?
I feel you can make a career out of anything you love, and I love what I do. I have people in my life that had followed their dreams, and watching them pursue their dreams had an influence in my decision-making and taught me I could make a career out of anything I wanted to do. Essentially you get paid to be happy.
Are there any other fundraisers you have in the works?
My experience in San Antonio helped motivate me to do my own fundraiser here in Houston. I had lost a friend to cancer last year and I definitely wanted to do something to give back to the Houston community.
I was a sick kid. I was in and out of the hospital; I wasn’t given much time to live. I had a feeding tube and practically lived in Texas Children’s. So the Periwinkle Foundation throws these summer camps for kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and helps them cope with what they are going through on an emotional support level. I want to do something to say [to our youth], "your community cares about you, we love you."
What would you say is your specialty cocktail, and what goes into it?
I’d say my Apricot Basil Whisky Sour; it’s definitely one of my favorites. It was one of my first cocktails that went up at Bobcat Teddy’s that really sold well. It’s apricot basil turbinado syrup that I make with dried apricots, boiling it all down with turbinado and water, throwing in fresh basil and fine-straining it. I use Texas whiskey—Yellow Rose blended whiskey; the vanilla and caramel notes really help tie the cocktail together. It's topped off with ango bitters and a basil leaf for aromatic.
When you're off the clock, where do you like to hang out?
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time at Better Luck Tomorrow and Johnny’s Gold Brick. At Johnny’s I am friends with everyone behind the bar; they’ve even opened up their bar to me to help me with R&D in craft and cocktails. A lot of people find [bartending] to be like a competition but it’s not; help others even if you’re doing the same thing.
What is a criminally underrated cocktail?
I have to say the daiquiri. People do know what daiquiris are but have a misconception about it; guests will order it and they are expecting something frozen, but that’s not what it is. A classic daiquiri is rum, lime, and simple syrup, and then they started adding fruits, purees, and freezing it—I think that’s like a New Orleans thing. When people do order it I have to make sure that they are not expecting something frozen. It’s one of my favorite cocktails.
If you had an empty bar with three empty stools in front of you, which three people, fictitious or real, alive or dead, would you want to serve and why?
Ellen DeGeneres. I love her; she’s a kind human being that does so much for others, and she likes tequila and she talks about Don Julio on her show all the time. Secondly, my best friend Palmo, who tends to work all the time and never gets to see me bartend, so it would be a nice treat. Finally, my grandmother passed away when I was 16 and I know she would be so proud of what I am doing and I would love for her to be at my bar. I miss her and she was my best friend. It would mean the world to me for my grandma to show up at my bar.