Depending upon your resources, you may have prepared this drink in its purest form: Kahlua, vodka, and cream.
If you have a preference for the type of liqueur or garnish, do share! There are many different recipes you can try. Do your research and determine your favorite way to prepare a White Russian so you can impress the bar manager!
Bartending Interview Questions
How do you make a White Russian?
Depending upon your resources, you may have prepared this drink in its purest form: Kahlua, vodka, and cream.
"I became obsessed with White Russians after seeing the movie, The Big Lebowski, for the first time. Jeff Bridges is my hero, so I started drinking White Russians after this movie came out. I make mine in a rocks glass filled to the top with ice cubes. I add 1 part vodka, 1 part heavy cream, and 1 part Kahlua. I do prefer to use top-shelf vodka whenever possible as it's a smoother finish."
"I believe that a White Russian is one shot Kahlua, one shot vodka, topped with milk. Is this how you prefer a White Russian be made?"
How do you make a Cosmopolitan Martini?
The cosmo is a favorite drink, so you had better know the necessary ingredients, which are vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and a splash of lime.
If you have a unique way of making a killer cosmo, explain those subtle differences to your interviewer.
"I am a traditionalist, so I do prefer making Cosmopolitan Martinis in its original state with vodka, triple sec, cran, and lime. I may ask my customer if they prefer their cosmo on the sweet or sourer side. Also, I skip the sugar and garnish with just a twist of lime."
"From my understanding, a Cosmopolitan Martini is made with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice. Sometimes the glass is rimmed with sugar, and it's usually served with a lime twist."
Do you have any flaring techniques?
Do you even know what flaring is? Well, you should! Flaring is a way to entertain guests and creatively serve drinks. Have you ever watched a bartender juggle liquor bottles from behind the bar while he was making your drink? That was flaring! If you have no flaring techniques, this is something you can practice at home. Watch videos and hone your skills. If you want to stand out, take the time to learn cool techniques, like ice throwing or palm spins! Not sure what that means? Do some research and practice!
"Yes, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve! My favorite flaring techniques include the jigger tap, the tin roll, and the classic napkin drop. I am working on a few new ones as well involving flaming shots."
"I am currently practicing the basics of flaring in bartending school such as the napkin drop and the jigger tap. I look forward to learning more advanced techniques."
Your drawer is $44.21 short, how would you explain this? What would you do to correct something like this in the future?
Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, they can cost you out of pocket, depending on the rules of your bar. Those busy nights can be chaotic, and you could make a mistake when counting money and offering change, only because you are moving so quickly. The interviewer wants to know that if you make a mistake, you own up to it and correct it. Explain your thought process in addressing a situation like this and show them how you have proven yourself reliable and trustworthy in the past.
"If my drawer was short, I would recount a couple of times to make sure the amount is accurate. Then I would check credit card slips and search the cash drawer to see if anything slipped through the cracks. I would try to find out why it happened first. Immediately, I would take the $44.21 out of my tips. For the long-term solution, I would pay closer attention to my cash paying customers."
"I certainly hope this wouldn't happen because I would hate to lose out on taking that cash home in tips! If my drawer were short, I would first recount, check under the drawer, and then ensure I didn't mistake a cash receipt as a credit card receipt. I would ask a coworker to recount as well if someone were available."
If your car broke down on the way to work, what would you do?
This question is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you are wise and do not allow these unplanned situations to get the best of you.
Start off by telling the interviewer that you would assess how much time you have until your shift starts. Taking into account this amount of time, you would call/text a couple of friends or family members to see if they could get you to work on time. If they are unavailable, you would call for a cab, take city transportation, or walk depending on how far away you are.
Finally, be sure to mention that you would call the restaurant to let them know what happened if you will be arriving a few minutes late due to the setback.
"If my car broke down, I would immediately call the bar to let someone know the situation. I would then call a tow truck to take my car to the nearest mechanic. From there, I would take a cab to work. I rely on the money I make each shift so, rest assured, I would not skip out on a shift unless I were hospitalized!"
"My father raised me to believe that if I am not ten minutes early for work, I am late. I would be very diligent to get to work on time, regardless of my car breaking down."
How do you feel about serving drinks in a heavy volume environment?
Can you handle the pressure of a packed bar of demanding patrons shouting over one another? Are you able to remember drink orders when they are consistently being shouted at you? In all of this excitement are you also able to have a conversation with a patron, give correct change, and keep a smile on your face? You must be a master of multi-tasking!
"I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. It's a challenge, but that makes it more fun. I enjoy the energy and the adrenaline working behind the bar of a busy establishment."
"If you're new to bartending, you might want to ask for a couple of slower shifts to learn and improve your skills.
For example: "I am well prepared when it comes to making drinks correctly. Also, my experience in retail and customer service will help me a great deal when it comes to talking with customers and giving correct change. If possible, I would love to start with a couple of slower shifts and work my way into the busier nights. Would this be possible?"
What is your favorite drink with vodka?
There's no right or wrong answer here. This is just an opportunity to share how you make your favorite vodka beverage. Explain your process starting from the chilled glass to how it's garnished. Be creative! Rather than talking about how much you love Cape Cods, try explaining a drink that's a bit more complicated and takes more time and care to create it, like a Lemon Drop Martini or a Cucumber Fizz. Vodka is one of the most versatile liquors, so show off your skills and give the interviewer a taste of your style.
"I have a few favorites to drink, and a few favorites to create! I have recently been learning the art of floating and discovered this great drink called the Harvey Wallbanger. I believe it was a big hit during the '70's disco era! This drink calls for 1 part vodka, 3 parts orange juice, and a half ounce of Galliano L'Autentico. Galliano is a sweet, herb-based Italian liquor. In a tall glass filled with ice, I add the vodka and orange juice and stir. Then, I float the Galliano on top. Finally, I garnish with an orange slice."
"I am well versed in making complicated vodka drinks, but I always prefer the simplicity of a delicious Moscow Mule in the summer. It's a delicious drink, but I also feel that serving it in the classic copper mug adds to the magic. In a copper mug full of ice, I add 2 parts vodka, 3 parts ginger beer, and half a fresh squeezed lime. Last, I garnish with a lime wedge."
How do you make an Irish Car Bomb?
A tummy filled with Guinness, Irish cream and whiskey is undoubtedly a bomb waiting to go off! So how do tenderly prepare this shot in a way that makes the party chant for more?
"When making an Irish Car Bomb, I start with the shot. First, I pour the whiskey. Second I carefully layer the Irish cream on top. Then, I pour a stout glass about half full of Guinness. Then, bombs away!"
"Irish Car Bombs are tough to make, and I am still working on my layering technique. I understand that to make one; I need to layer the Irish cream on top of the whiskey in a shot glass. The patron then drops the shot into a stout glass of Guinness."
How do you make a Dirty Martini?
How many different types of martinis do you know how to make? If you're struggling on this one, you may want to spend some time practicing different martini recipes. What makes it dirty? Olive juice!
Some people like their martini real dirty, which means extra olive juice and sometimes extra olives. You will need to be prepared for the variations of martinis, so it may be best to hit up the liquor store and gather your ingredients. Don't forget the olives!
"A good Dirty Martini is enough to put some hair on one's chest! To make a dirty martini, you need vodka or gin, dry vermouth, and olive juice. Rather than using a shaker, I use a glass filled to the brim with ice. To this glass, I add 2.5 parts vodka (or gin), a half ounce of dry vermouth, and a half ounce of olive juice. I then stir and strain into a chilled martini glass with a 3 olive garnish."
"Dirty Martini's are fun to make! In a shaker with ice, I add 2.5 parts vodka, 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth and a 1/2 ounce of olive juice. Shake, and add to a chilled martini glass with an olive garnish. That's a basic recipe. Some customers prefer even more olive brine!"
When you go above and beyond for a customer and they don't tip well, how do you handle it?
If you have worked in the service industry before, you know that even some of the seemingly most pleasant people are terrible tippers. However, if you make a point to provide fast, seamless customer service to every person who walks through the door you have a better chance of getting tipped generously.
If the interviewer asks you this question, assure them that you give excellent service regardless of the tip percentage. When someone tips poorly, you just brush it off knowing your hard work will be rewarded, even though it may not be in the form of a generous tip every time.
"One of my most memorable customers was an elderly gentleman who would sit at my bar every day from 3PM -5PM before going home to make dinner. He drank two vodkas on the rocks and had some great stories to tell. He always tipped just .25 cents, and I thought it was adorable. You don't know everyone's financial situation, and it was more important to me that he had somewhere comfortable to come when he was feeling lonely."
"Not everyone is a great tipper, and others are excellent tippers. It all works out in the end, and I don't take it personally."
This is a coveted bartending gig. Why should we hire you?
Pressure is on! The interviewer takes a lot of pride in their bar, and they are not willing to settle for just anyone. If you don't have the length of experience and an impressive skillset, you still have a chance. Think about your transferable skills. These are skills that you gained from working other jobs that might not be relevant to this one.
Skills like money handling, customer service, and time management are all worth sharing because they apply directly to the job. Also, give examples of how you have gone above and beyond in a previous position give you extra points. Show off how you have proven yourself reliable and trustworthy, two qualities that can be hard to find in the service industry.
"When I read the job description, I laughed because it was as though you had written it with me in mind. I know that I am the best candidate for this role because I have three years of professional bartending at your strongest industry competitor. I am certified and trained in the art of bartending. I understand the importance of upselling, as well."
"I'm a certified professional bartender and passionate about customer service. I am excited about the idea of creating a fresh cocktail menu, as mentioned in your job ad, and will hustle for the opportunity to go above and beyond for your bar."
Explain the differences between a wheat beer, a pale ale and an IPA?
Customers will ask for recommendations based on their beer preferences. Often they'll say things like, "Give me something light," which usually means they want something like an American Lager. Do you know the spectrum of flavors and styles of beer? If not, do a little research.
You'll need to know the words to describe the types of beers as well. Wheat beers tend to have more of a citrus flavor, and IPA's are characterized as "hoppy," with a piney flavor. If you want to know your beers, you'll need to be able to talk about aroma, body and finish too! Beer is just as complicated as wine. Study the different types, and you'll be amazed at the complexity of beer.
"Give me something light,"
"Currently, I am working on a fuller knowledge of beers. They are very complex, and the variety is vast. From my understanding, an IPA is a more bitter taste, quite hoppy and sometimes cloudy. A pale ale is usually a light gold color and tends to taste more woody. Then, a wheat ale is a bit hazy due to the protein in the wheat. These tend to be lighter. I love wheat beers in the summer."
Tell me about your previous bartending experience.
The interviewer is not asking for you to list your past jobs in chronological order with all of your responsibilities. They are only interested in a brief history, highlighting the relevant work you have done.
If you don't think you've done any work that is relevant to bartending, take some time to review your work history. Think about those transferable skills that you acquired from a job in customer service, for instance.
"I have three years' experience bartending at the competing pub, across the street from your establishment. I started as a bar assistant, then a backup bartender and now I am a senior bartender."
"I have not worked as a bartender in the past; however, I have worked as a bar assistant for the past nine months. My duties as a bar assistant include ensuring the bar is fully stocked, running for ice, replenishing the garnishes, and general clean up. I am ready for this next step in my bar career."
How do you treat customers on special occasions, like birthdays and bachelorette parties?
Customers want to feel special when celebrating a fun event like an upcoming wedding, a birthday, or even a divorce party. When they walk into the bar wearing that tiara and sash, it's up to you to help make their night more enjoyable. Do you give out free shots for the bridal party or do you show off your flare? What will you do to entertain your customers and offer the best service to keep them coming back?
"I always address my customers by name, show them respect and listen to them. For special occasions, I like to make a shot especially for the person celebrating. I ask them what they like, and I put on a little show to make them feel special. Throughout the night I check in with them to make sure they have everything they need."
"Customers who are celebrating a special occasion should be treated well because chances are they are going to come back if they remember having a great time! If the bar allows, I would promo one round of shots or give a family/friends discount on their bill. I could even create a signature cocktail, for purchase, for their party and name it after the bride-to-be! Nobody forgets an experience like that."
How do you make a Whiskey Sour?
A Whiskey Sour is one of those traditional drinks that is simple enough that you should know how to make it. It can also be jazzed up a bit with fancy add-ons and garnishes. Most bars use a sour mix and whiskey, but you could show off your fancy pants skills by using lemon juice and powdered sugar! It depends on the bar. If it's an upscale bar, you want to show your expertise, even with the simplest of cocktails. Research recipes and give it a whirl!
"A Whiskey Sour is a great drink, so simple to make, yet so fun to dress up when needed. In it, is two parts whiskey, 2/3 an ounce of lemon juice, and some fine sugar. I put all three ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake gently, then strain into a highball glass. In my current bar, I garnish with a burnt lemon rind for an added twist."
"I learned how to make a classic Whiskey Sour in bartending school. In a shaker with ice goes two parts whiskey, less than an ounce of lemon juice and table sugar. I strain this into a chilled highball glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry."
How do you decide which customers to serve first when the bar is packed?
If you see a fight start across the bar, do you act or do you wait until the bouncers take care of it?
Do you enjoy socializing with strangers?
Tell me about the garnishes you enjoy using for various cocktails.
Why did you leave your last bartending job?
How do you avoid serving to minors?
How do you use your time on a slow shift?
Are you flexible to work any shift?
What techniques do you use to upsell?
Besides making drinks, what roles do you think bartenders serve?
How do you make a Washington Apple?
Explain to me how you properly stir a cocktail.
How do you make a Johnny Vegas drink?
How do you engage with customers while making and serving drinks?
How do you garnish a Manhattan?