Towards the beginning of June, I went to a really fun event at The Outsider where some of Milwaukee's bloggers got together to learn how to make flower crowns and enjoy the great rooftop views at one of the best restaurants in the city. We snacked on amazing hors d'oeuvres and sipped delicious cocktails. It was pretty fab.
I'm afraid to admit this on a website dedicated to Midwesterners, but I don't love alcohol. When I took a sip of Persephone's Great Return, the featured cocktail at the event, though, I had to admit it was quite delicious. I decided then that I wanted to chat with the mastermind behind the drink, Gen Longoria.
Gen is the Lead Bartender for both Tre Rivali and The Outsider, the restaurants at The Journeyman in Milwaukee's Third Ward. Gen is super cool and creative, and I was dying to find out about her career as a bartender. Check out my Q&A with her below to learn more. Plus, if you fancy yourself an at-home bartender, you can find Gen's recipe for Persephone's Great Return after the interview. Cheers!
My Midwest Is Showing: How did you get where you are today? What was your education and career path?
Gen Longoria: I didn’t know it then, but my food and beverage career began when I was 18. In the beginning, I worked a few nights behind the bar as a way to make a little extra cash and have the flexibility of being home with my young daughter. As time went on, I truly fell in love with food and beverage. I started buying more cocktail books, reading more cocktail blogs, and self-educating. Eventually, I pursued culinary arts as a college major. I really wanted to understand flavor and kitchen technique on a deeper level to help me behind the bar. I’ve worked in various bars ranging from local family-owned restaurants, high volume night clubs, the beloved Milwaukee dive-style bar, and cozy cocktail bars. Prior to joining the Kimpton family, I was the General Manager of a cocktail bar called Distil, part of SURG Restaurant Group. I received a call from a friend one day asking if I had any interest in leading the Journeyman’s bar programs, and the rest is history.
MMWIS: What's a normal day like for you?
GL: All days are very different from one another. Early in the week, I spend time building relationships with spirit and beer purveyors. Most of my time early in the week is spent mapping out what the week’s bar prep might look like – making syrups, infusions, batching cocktails, and if time permits, working on upcoming cocktail menus. Towards the mid/end of the week, I spend my time behind the bar making cocktails for our guests.
MMWIS: Best part of your job? Most challenging part?
GL: There are many rewarding aspects of my job – I get to come to work every day and do what I love. I love to take care of people, teach and guide my team, and be creative.
This is the first property where I oversee two completely different beverage programs. Tre Rivali and The Outsider are two completely different concepts, which require different care. In the early months, managing my time well between the two bars was an interesting balance to find. Thankfully, I have an army of amazing bartenders and bar backs, and an incredible support system from management. None would be possible without them.
MMWIS: Tell me about the artistry involved in your job (creating menus, developing new cocktails, etc.).
GL: This is my absolute favorite part of my job. I love pulling inspiration from local ingredients in developing new cocktails.
MMWIS: How do Tre Rivali and The Outsider differ in terms of your responsibilities?
GL: Both have completely different identities. For Tre Rivali, our focus is beverages to be paired and enjoyed with Chef Heather’s Mediterranean menu. Researching and teaching the team about different wines and fortified wines is such a treat.
The Outsider sees quite a bit of volume. The prep for this bar is more involved to make service a little easier on us.
MMWIS: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GL: Self-educating is huge. This industry is ever changing and you have to be willing to change with it. It’s also important to treat your body well, go to the gym, eat well – it is super important when you’re busy.
MMWIS: What advice do you have for anyone who makes their own cocktails at home?
GL: Use fresh and seasonal ingredients! Browse the farmers market for fresh herbs. And keep your vermouth in the refrigerator!
MMWIS: Greatest career accomplishment so far?
GL: Finding my passion at an early age. For some, this takes a lifetime.
MMWIS: What's your favorite drink you've ever created? Favorite drink of all time?
GL: My favorite drink to make is the one that perfectly complements the mood of the evening.
Favorite drink of all time – after a long day, a glass of sherry during a shower…shower sherry.
MMWIS: What are you currently watching?
GL: My daughter and I LOVE the Gilmore Girls – we’ve watched the whole series at least three times.
MMWIS: You're the first person on My Midwest Is Showing who's not originally from the Midwest! When did you move here, and what were your first impressions? Why did you decide to call Wisconsin home?
GL: I am native to Texas, but I moved to Wisconsin when I was 11. It was a complete culture shock, everything was different – the weather, the food, the social culture, the people…did I mention the weather?! It took some time to adjust, and after about a year, Milwaukee became my permanent home. I love this city.
MMWIS: Thoughts on the Midwest and Midwesterners?
GL: We’re just a friendly buncha’ people. We love to eat and love to drink more.
MMWIS: If someone was visiting Wisconsin for the first time, what would you tell them to do first?
GL: They obviously need to find themselves a good fish fry and try deep fried cheese curds – life changing!
MMWIS: Favorite thing about the Midwest?
GL: That it’s always going to feel like home.
MMWIS: How does your Midwest show through your personality and/or what you do?
GL: I care about people – I truly want people to come into my bars and feel like they’re at home. That Midwest hospitality is a real thing.
Photos courtesy of Tre Rivali and The Outsider.
PERSEPHONE'S GREAT RETURN
.75 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
.25 oz St. Germain
.75 oz Rosewater Syrup*
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.2 oz Peppermint Tincture**
1.5 oz Coconut Water
Dried Rosebud, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a dried rosebud.
4 Bottles Rose Water
40 oz Granulated Sugar
8 qt. Simple Syrup
Combine all ingredients together and stir.
200g Rishi Peppermint Tea
15 oz Twisted Path 100proof Vodka
Add all ingredients to a clean glass jar and close lid tightly. Allow to macerate for seven days. Shake daily. Strain solids with a chinois, strain small particles with cheese cloth, and store in a glass jar.