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10 Bartender Interview Questions [With Sample Answers]

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Are you thinking about mixing drinks for a living?

As with most jobs, you can expect an interview before you start.

Bartender interview questions focus on experience, familiarity with laws governing alcohol, and experience mixing drinks.

In this guide, we’ll look at some common interview questions, give you a few tips, and answer some common questions that people have about bartending.

10 Common Bartender Interview Questions

  • What do you like about bartending?
  • What kind of bars have you worked at before?
  • What alcohol safety training do you have?
  • What’s your favorite drink to mix?
  • How do you feel about late-night shifts?
  • How would you mix an Old Fashioned?
  • What dessert drinks would you recommend?
  • If you could only stock five drinks, which ones and why?
  • How do you tell if a customer has had too much to drink?
  • How would you cut someone off from alcohol?

All of the questions above are common in interviews, but plenty of locations will have other questions.

Consider reviewing some entry-level interview questions for general questions and interview questions about attention to detail, as that’s an essential part of bartending.

What Should I Say in a Bartender Interview?

There are a few main goals in a bartender interview.

Owners are looking for people who are responsible, reliable, social, good at making drinks, and intimately familiar with laws and regulations governing alcohol.

Bartenders frequently change between roles, from cleaning equipment to running a register, so flexibility and the ability to prioritize are also helpful.

What Skills Are Bartender Interviewers Looking For in a Candidate?

  • Communication Skills: Bartenders frequently chat with customers. Talks may range from managing the mood to advising on drinks. Outstanding communication skills, including the ability to make people feel welcome, are a must-have for this role.
  • Cleanliness: Bars need to maintain high standards of hygiene. Interviewers will examine your appearance and evaluate you on that, so it’s vital to look as clean as possible when applying for the role. Familiarity with cleaning supplies is also helpful.
  • Math Skills: Bartenders frequently deal with money, fractions, and proportions. You should be able to multiply ratios and edit drinks based on customer requests and know how to charge for the same.
  • Independence: Bartenders often work independently, so the ability to get things done with no supervision is important. Bartenders also need to talk with customers and decide when to stop serving them drinks, so the ability to stand up to belligerent customers is valuable.
  • Memory: Bartenders need an excellent memory to recall drink orders, customer names, legislation, processes, cleanup directions, etc. Checking references during a busy shift can be challenging, so good memory skills can go a long way.

What Traits Are Bartender Interviewers Looking to Avoid in a Candidate?

  • Emotion: Friendliness is important, but an ideal bartender can remain calm in a busy environment and keep working during unexpected encounters or events. Bartenders prone to stronger emotions may have trouble dealing with drunk and unpredictable guests.
  • Excessively Creative: Customizing and inventing new drinks is common in bartending and not an issue in most locations. However, bartenders should know when it’s acceptable to go off-menu and when it’s better to give the customer exactly what they ordered.
  • Greedy: Bartenders often get tips, but those who are greedy and trying to squeeze money out of customers are more likely to hurt a bar long-term. Wanting a good salary is fine, but bartenders shouldn’t be laser-focused on personal profit.

Sample Bartender Interview Questions and Answers

Here’s some more information on the common interview questions.

1. What Do You Like About Bartending?

Let’s break down this question further.

Why This Question Is Asked

Bars usually prefer hiring people who genuinely enjoy multiple aspects of bartending.

People who like many elements of the job, like interacting with customers and mixing drinks, are more likely to stay long-term.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Consider the clientele of the bar when answering this question.

For example, if a bar emphasizes an elegant experience, you could focus your answer on maintaining that.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t focus on anything that makes you sound greedy or alcoholic.

Saying you love getting free drinks may convince an interviewer that you’re likely to discreetly steal alcohol instead of serving it.

Example Answer

I love making new and creative drinks.

I saw that your bar has a rotating menu alongside the regular drinks and I feel like working here is a great way to learn a lot of new recipes.

2. What Kind of Bars Have You Worked at Before?

Here’s a more in-depth look at this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

Like most industries, bars often prefer hiring people who already have experience in the industry.

Interviewers are also looking for experience with their specific kind of bar.

Handling a sports bar isn’t the same as serving drinks at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on experiences that are similar to the bar you’re applying to.

They’re looking for relevant experience.

This is also an excellent chance to showcase some industry-specific terms and demonstrate your bartending knowledge.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

It’s hard to answer this question too wrong, but try to avoid emphasizing anything that’s not relevant.

Example Answer

My last bartending job was at Sports Bar in Houston, where I spent most of my time behind the stick.

Customers there mostly ordered drinks neat, but about a quarter of them ordered some kind of cocktail.

3. What Alcohol Safety Training Do You Have?

Let’s take a closer look at this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

Alcohol is fundamentally dangerous if mismanaged.

It is toxic in larger quantities, flammable, and, in some cases, expensive on top of everything else.

As a bartender, you may be exposed to fumes, open flames, and other potential dangers at a bar.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

The best answers here involve professional training or certification.

Programs like ServSafe are ideal, as they offer formal and provable training in alcohol safety.

However, you might get away with describing formal training at a previous bar under someone more experienced.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid implying that all of your safety training is self-taught.

Bars strongly prefer formal training.

Example Answer

I got certified through ServSafe when I first started bartending.

I’ve kept my certification valid, and I last renewed it about a year ago, so I should be good there for another two years.

The head bartender at my last job also taught me how to use tools for flaming drinks, so I can make those if you want to add them to your menu.

4. What’s Your Favorite Drink to Mix?

Here’s a quick breakdown of this question.

Why This Question is Asked

Bars often use this question to help evaluate your personality.

The idea is that people tend to buy drinks that resemble them, so they can use this to understand how well you match the bar’s clientele.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Try to answer with a drink that matches the bar’s overall aesthetic.

For example, if you’re at a high-class bar that exclusively offers premium alcohol, try mentioning tasteful premium alcohol on the lower-middle end of their price range.

This offers a good match without making you look too greedy.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Try to avoid giving an answer that clashes with the bar’s style.

Don’t say you love mixing a $10,000 drink if you’re at a sports bar serving beer.

Example Answer

I like mixing Negroni.

It’s such a simple idea in concept, but you can tell a lot about a bartender’s skill by how well they make it.

It’s actually the first thing I order whenever I visit a bar for the first time.

5. How Do You Feel About Late-Night Shifts?

Let’s break down this question in more detail.

Why This Question Is Asked

Many bars are open for late-night or early-morning hours.

Those in fine restaurants may close sooner, but bars in other areas may stay open until 2 AM or later.

After the bar’s closed, you still have to clean up, so your shift won’t end that early.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

The main thing to consider here is a bar’s schedule.

If they’re open on late nights throughout the week, the only thing they want to hear is that you’re a night owl and you’re always up late.

If they only have the occasional late shift, you can say that you have a regular sleeping schedule, but you’re open to staying late for special events.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t say anything that clashes with the bar’s hours.

They don’t want to hire anyone who will refuse to cover most shifts.

Example Answer

I’ve been bartending for long enough that I’m a complete night owl.

I don’t have any problem staying up every night.

6. How Would You Mix an Old Fashioned?

Here’s a more detailed look at this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

An Old Fashioned is one of the most commonly-ordered cocktails.

It’s understandable if you don’t know how to mix every esoteric drink, but bars expect you to master common drinks before applying.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on the tools and ingredients for mixing this drink.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t go off-script or get creative unless you put it in the context of a customer’s order.

Example Answer

Two ounces of bourbon, a quarter ounce of simple, and two dashes of bitters.

Add the ice and stir for ten seconds, then strain it over cubed ice before garnishing with the orange peel.

Always remember to get the orange oils in properly before rubbing the peel on the glass.

If customers ask for a twist on it, I like making it with brandy instead.

7. What Dessert Drinks Would You Recommend?

Let’s further analyze this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

This is a two-parter.

Here, interviewers are judging both your knowledge of less-common drinks and your ability to make recommendations to customers.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

The best dessert drinks that pair well with something a customer’s eaten recently.

A good bartender knows how to associate flavors together for the best experience. Bonus points if you can tie recommendations to the bar’s existing menu.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid answers that sound like you’re not considering the customer’s preferences.

Example Answer

That depends on what a customer’s been eating.

I saw that your menu has some spicy buffalo wings on it, so in that case, I might recommend a Grasshopper to balance out the spice and not get dulled by the heat.

If they’re heading out to a show and want to be awake, I might suggest an Irish coffee instead, and it’s hard to go wrong with a Mudslide.

8. If You Could Only Stock Five Drinks, Which Ones and Why?

Let’s investigate this question in more detail.

Why This Question Is Asked

This question tests your judgment and understanding of the bar and what to serve.

Bars want to be profitable, so they’re particularly interested in drinks that are both affordable and likely to sell well.

Note that they’re asking about drinks, so it’s okay to include cocktails because you’re not limited to just five ingredients.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

The best answers to this question will match the bar’s style and what they tend to sell.

Ideally, at least four should be common and popular drinks, but you can often get away with including something more unusual as a fifth choice.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid answers that clash with the characteristics of the bar, aren’t ordered very often, or are too expensive for the bar to serve regularly.

Example Answer

I’d want one each of brandy, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila.

Having more options is usually better, but I can make the greatest variety of drinks with minimal other ingredients if I have those as a base.

If you mean specific cocktails to have on the menu, I’d go with an Old Fashioned, a Negroni, a Manhattan, a White Russian, and a Dirty Martini.

9. How Do You Tell if a Customer Has Had Too Much to Drink?

Here’s some additional analysis of this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

Bartenders need to pay attention to customers and stop them from consuming too much alcohol, even if the customer wants more.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Mention tell-tale signs of customers who’ve had enough alcohol and anything you might do to keep track of their orders.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid being too general here. Bartenders need to know this in and out.

Example Answer

I look for people with glazed or bloodshot eyes, poor motor control, slurred speech, and aggressive or negative behaviors towards other customers.

I also pay attention if someone is loud, swearing a lot, or flirting too much with other patrons.

We don’t want anyone making a scene, so I try to stay on the safe side and stop things early.

10. How Would You Cut Someone Off from Alcohol?

Let’s investigate this question further.

Why This Question Is Asked

A core aspect of a bartender’s job is deciding when and how to cut someone off from further drinks.

This cutoff happens daily, so you need to be great at it.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

The key things to remember are encouraging the customer to return, protecting the bar and its property, and following the law.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid anything that would give someone a negative impression of the bar.

Remember, it’s more profitable for the company if people come back regularly rather than trying to squeeze them for every drink in one night.

Example Answer

I usually offer them a glass of water and close the tab. If they’re sensible enough, I like to gently say that I don’t feel comfortable serving them anymore, but I’d love to mix more the next time they come in.

If they’re too inebriated, I’ll have them wait for a cab.

I might also give them the check immediately, which can help forestall requests for more drinks.

Other Common Interview Questions You Could Be Asked

You can expect bartending-specific questions in an interview, but there’s also a good chance the interviewer will ask you some other common questions.

These can show up in interviews for practically any job.

1. Describe Yourself

Let’s have a more in-depth look at this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

When you describe yourself, interviewers evaluate your personality and how well you’d fit in working at a bar.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Focus on things that would make you a good employee at a bar.

If possible, link it to the bar’s style.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Try to avoid any answers that would put you at odds with the bar’s style or that make you come across as a bad employee.

Example Answer

I’m passionate, organized, and a people-person.

I enjoy learning about people and using that to recommend drinks, and I like managing the atmosphere to help ensure everyone has a good time.

I also try to focus on small details since daily effort is the key to good results.

2. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Here is a further analysis of this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

Employers want to know if you’re flaky or reliable.

If you’re going to relocate in two months, they will not be as interested in hiring you.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Answers about improving yourself or your career are broadly acceptable.

You can also address issues with the job itself.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Try to avoid sounding flaky or unreliable.

It’s okay to leave a job for a good reason, but bars want people they can trust.

Example Answer

My role had changed a lot since I first applied for it, and it wasn’t much like what I originally applied to do.

They also brought on a new manager who was changing things even more, so it felt like the right time to leave.

This bar seems steady and reliable, so I think I’d enjoy working here a lot.

3. Sell Me This Pen

Let’s inspect this question more closely.

Why This Question Is Asked

Bartenders often need to recommend and sell drinks to customers.

Your ability to take something ordinary and make it sound desirable can mean a lot of additional sales for the bar.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

Persuasiveness and creativity are vital aspects of sales.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t try to push too hard to sell the pen.

If you make someone uncomfortable, they won’t want to return.

Example Answer

A pen is a simple tool, but it’s also an important one.

Someone in your position needs to write a lot, right?

Whether taking notes, talking to me, or signing papers and forms to keep the business running, I think having a reliable pen is important for your job.

Not only does this pen write clearly, but I’ll give you ten refills with it, which should last you for years.

4. Tell Me About Yourself

Let’s look at this question in more detail.

Why This Question Is Asked

This is similar to describing yourself but should generally focus on specific situations or events.

Interviewers ask this to get a broader understanding of who you are.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

An excellent way to answer this is by focusing on a challenge you successfully overcame without being arrogant in your descriptions.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t repeat what’s on your resume or anything you used to describe yourself before.

Example Answer

I love quiz shows.

I lost in a quiz game to some family members when I was young, and I wanted to win the next time, so I studied hard to learn a lot about different subjects.

I think it’s part of what drew me to bartending since I have the opportunity to chat with customers about all kinds of different subjects.

5. Describe Your Work Ethic

Here’s a quick breakdown of this question.

Why This Question Is Asked

Bars require people who can work both hard and consistently throughout the night.

It can seem like an easy job from the outside, but bartenders have many different time-sensitive responsibilities, so it’s more challenging than it may seem.

What To Focus on When Answering This Question

It’s best to describe yourself briefly with an adjective or two, then tell a story to explain more about yourself and how you work.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid coming across as flaky or telling a story poorly.

Remember, bartenders need good interpersonal skills; storytelling is part of that.

Example Answer

I consider myself dependable and dedicated. For example, at my last bartending job, the owner wanted to change our menu and add some new drinks.

Before I made my recommendations, I decided to talk to customers and find out more about what they’d like to order, then collected and tested a few recipes.

He loved the drinks, and they became steady sellers there.

Additional Tips for Bartender Interviews

Here are some additional tips for interviewing as a bartender.

How Do You Prepare for a Bartender Interview?

Make sure to practice your answers to general and bartending-specific questions.

Bartenders should be upbeat and personable, so ideally, you can answer questions with cheer and no hesitation.

Don’t forget to practice your bartending skills, including the parts of the job that don’t involve mixology.

What Should You Wear to a Bartender Interview?

Go for a smart casual outfit, the kind of clothes you’d wear while dining with your spouse’s family.

Men will do well with figure-hugging pants and a long-sleeved collared shirt that hugs the chest.

Dress shoes or leather lace-ups will suffice for your feet.

Muted colors like brown and dark blue are ideal.

Women should wear black jeans (always black, mind you – this is an industry-standard) and a form-fitting top that’s not too extravagant.

Avoid showing too much skin, and match the color of your jeans.

Flats are better than heels for shoes, preferably in dark colors.

Keep makeup and accessories mild, and mix in neutral colors like brown and navy.

How Should You Introduce Yourself In a Bartender Interview?

How you introduce yourself depends on the form of the interview.

If you’re interviewing over the phone, state your name and introduce yourself.

Most of the time, the interviewer should call you, so you should confirm that you are applying for a position with them.

If you’re introducing yourself in person, say it’s nice to meet them, use their name, and give them your name to confirm your identity.

Chances are they already have your basic information (see our bartender resume sample for more help with that), so you don’t need to dwell too long on this part.

What Questions Should You Ask at the End of a Bartender Interview?

Here are some good questions to ask at the end of an interview.

What are the biggest challenges of this job?

Finding out what a company struggles with can be a good way to position yourself as a solution.

You can tie your answer to experiences at other companies.

Does this bar do any special events off-site?

Some bars support parties, deliver to offices, and have other off-site jobs. It’s fair to ask about this.

Are there any problematic groups I should be aware of?

Some bars can attract patrons the owner doesn’t want to serve or support.

Knowing about these groups ahead of time is important.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about how to prepare for a bartender interview?

Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

What are 3 important attributes of a bartender?

A good bartender is knowledgeable about drinks, has excellent customer service skills, and is great with time management.

Other aspects of the job, like cleanliness and situational awareness, tend to fall into one of these categories.

What is the most important role of a bartender?

The most important role of a bartender is managing a bar effectively.

This means preparing drinks well, adhering to all relevant legislation, and managing time effectively enough to finish all parts of the job.

Everything is ultimately secondary to this.

Wrapping Up

Bartending is a fast-paced, socially-oriented profession suitable for outgoing individuals with flexibility, creativity, and great attention to detail.

It’s an unusual customer-service position, but bars aren’t going away anytime soon, and bartending skills are highly transferable.

If this sounds like the job for you, practice your answers to our questions, and you’ll fit right in.

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