Allison Ryan likens being a bartender at Kona Grill’s Scottsdale Fashion Square location to working as a counselor—and she’s good at it.
“I really love talking to people and interacting with them,” Ryan says. “I love hearing people’s stories. I love helping people. I love all the regulars that I have. they sometimes give me advice. That’s how I met a couple of my best friends.”
Ryan started her career with Kona Grill eight years ago as a hostess in Colorado, the state in which she grew up. When management realized she was overqualified, she was became a server. From there, she worked as a cocktail server, lead manager, bartender and corporate trainer.
She transferred here to marry her husband, a fellow Kona Grill employee whom she met at a restaurant opening. She works Monday through Friday at Scottsdale Fashion Square.
“It’s been my home for eight years now,” she says. “I’ve opened 18 restaurants for them. Kona Grill isn’t just an employer. It’s family.
“What I love about the company is that it’s growing at a rapid pace, but it recognizes the people who become servers or hosts and they move up through the ranks. They are promoted to manager or district manager. A district manager in our company was a general manager and now he’s a district manager for nine restaurants. They look within. They really care about their employees and that’s what I love.”
The Entertainer! recently sat down with the mixologist to dish on all things behind his bar.
Tell me about the oddest drink request you’ve received.
This is probably my favorite. About three months ago, a lady at the bar ordered a red cabernet with Coke—inside the wine glass. It took me aback, but there’s not judgment over here! I don’t know what she liked about it. Maybe it was the carbonation?
What is your No. 1 pet peeve when working?
My No 1 pet peeve is when a guest snaps their fingers, whistles or shouts, or says ‘Hey!’ after I introduce myself—especially when I’m talking to another guest. They see me talking to someone, then they’re rude about it. It’s weird. It happens more than people think. I am very efficient. I’m very aware of everybody and what they need. It’s those people who are very impatient.
What is your go-to drink?
My go-to drink at Kona Grill is the Moscow mule. The reason for that is Tito’s Vodka is my favorite vodka because it’s gluten-free and made in the USA. The drink comes in a copper mug. It tastes completely different if you drink it through a straw. If you were to sip it with your lips, it doesn’t taste the same. I don’t know the scientific reason, but the copper creates a different taste.
What does ordering Jack and Coke say about a person?
I have never been judgmental in my bones. That’s just who I am. I just think that that person likes whiskey, or it’s his or her comfort drink. There’s no judgment at all for anybody who orders a Jack and Coke, or any mixed drink.
What is the one cocktail you would like us to feature?
What do you like about this drink?
If you look at the menu, we don’t have any mojito-like refreshing drinks. That’s why I really like the Cucumber Southside. It has the mint. It has the cucumber. It has the soda water plus the vodka and lime juice. It tastes like a mojito, but with vodka. There’s a little taste of a cucumber as well. It’s so good and so refreshing.
Kona Grill, Scottsdale Fashion Square, 7014 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480.429.1100, konagrill.com.
2 cucumber slices
10 mint leaves
1.5 ounces of Tito’s Vodka
.75 ounces of lime juice, fresh squeezed
.75 ounces of simple syrup
2 ounces of soda water
1 cucumber slice
1 mint sprig
1 long black straw
In a mixing tin, add cucumbers and muddle.
Add mint leaves and gently press on top of muddled cucumbers.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except soda, into the mixing tin.
Add ice, cap with large mixing tin and shake approximately 35 times.
Add soda water into ingredients in mixing tin to incorporate.
Double strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.
Garnish by pulling a mint sprig through the center of a cucumber slice and floating on top.