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I'm a 23 year old bartender, and I don't drink alcohol. From 18 to 22 I worked in my father's pub, where I served classic beers, shots, and cocktails.

Last year I decided to try my own career. I read a lot about alcohol and cocktails and mixology, I also did a flair bartender course, but since I left my father's place, I was refused several jobs at the exact moment when I mentioned I don't drink alcohol, even if my resume seemed interesting until that moment.

Am I supposed to stop my career and try other jobs? Am I supposed to lie during interview? Can a non-drinker be a decent bartender?

EDIT: Note that if I'm asked to define the flavour of some products, I'm able to describe it and even maybe to make some good improvisation about it. In fact, until questions drive me to say I'm a non-drinker, I'm like any other bartender

EDIT 2: Most comments are heading to the "say the cocktail you like to prepare or so on", but that does not fit the problem here, because at a certain point I'll have to say or my hire will note I'm a non-drinker, and that's exactly the point, not the question of which cocktail I like

Note: Due to a medical issues, I MUST avoid alcohol, even a "tear".

  • 49
    Q: Am I supposed to lie during interview? - A: Never – Mindwin May 12 '17 at 20:03
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    @user3067860: Even if that's the case, a simple "I don't drink alcohol while I'm working, thanks for the soda" would handle that – Dancrumb May 12 '17 at 21:32
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    Folks that taste wine for a living actually spit it out after tasting. – brasofilo May 12 '17 at 22:05
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    Did you clarify that you aren't an alcoholic? In many cultures it's so 'normal' to drink alcohol that many people tend to assume that if someone doesn't drink it's because they're an alcoholic and not by choice. – Pharap May 13 '17 at 10:38
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    So, being medically unable to drink the tiniest drop, how did that wasabi cocktail over on Beer, Wine & Spirits go down? And what did the whiskey taste like? – SQB May 14 '17 at 20:30

10 Answers 10

97

Can a non-drinker be a decent bartender?

I will say: Yes.

I'm a non-drinker and I've made my own award-winning Lemoncello liqueur. Your problem is the loss of credibility. Be straight-forward with this problem - this shows confidence in your skill.

When you get the "favorite drink" question then state that you don't drink but don't stop there. Actively engage the fact how you can still serve tasty drinks and cocktails nevertheless, because you've done this since you are 18. This is not the moment to be shy because you are talking about your future career, this is the moment to be bold!

Offer the interviewer to make HIS favorite drink or cocktail and if he honestly can state that he didn't like it, that you pay for that drink yourself and that he'll never see you again.

Offer the interviewer to ask any question a customer might ask about flavors or drinks and if you cannot answer that one, he never sees you again.

Offer the interviewer to work one evening as unpaid intern under his supervision to allow him to witness himself that the customers are more than content with your skill.

26

In many food service positions it's helpful and in many cases necessary to taste what you're serving so you understand how different quantities affect the taste as well as what a "good" and "bad" one tastes like.

Yes, you are generally going to be expected to taste alcohol because otherwise you can't answer questions like

My friend told me to try ____ are those any good?

with any kind of authority. And ask you have experienced, it's rather awkward to get asked

What's your favorite drink?

The bottom line is that people expect an expert to have experience in his area of expertise. I wouldn't trust a sex therapist that was a virgin either. You don't ask Jews and Muslims about the best way to cure bacon and you don't ask Mormons which region produces the best coffee.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 14 '17 at 2:03
26

To be honest, I would have thought that it wouldn't be a problem.

Try to make it a not so important matter

If it's is a recurring interview problem you have, maybe you should try to act like it's not a big deal and try to answer the questions in order not to lie but still have a "correct" answer.

Example : What is your favorite cocktail ?

Answer : I really like preparing some cocktail.

You are passionate

Ok you don't drink alcohol, but from what I've read you really are passionate about it. Learning how to make the best cocktails, studying the subject even more than a drinker.

It gives you a huge good point. This is what they have to remember.

I don't drink alcohol ? You're getting that wrong. I can do 100 cocktail recipes, I've worked with my father who is bartender since I'm 18 in great pub, what about the ones who drink ?

You have a really great experience for your age, that's what you should point out.

  • 10
    You may want to tone down the formatting here. Formatting can be a useful way to highlight your main points but it's coming across as shouty here. – Lilienthal May 13 '17 at 21:20
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Am I supposed to stop my career and try other jobs?

Yes.

Since you indicated in a comment that you must avoid all alcohol ("medical issues, i MUST avoid alcohol, even a "tear"") I suspect you would be far safer abandoning alcohol-related jobs altogether.

Find a career where you won't consume any drops of alcohol, even accidentally, for your own medical well-being.

(And in an interview, rather than just saying "I don't drink" it might be more accurate for you to say "I can't drink".)

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    (Captain Obvious, here) If you have a peanut allergy, you don't go working in a peanut butter processing plant. If you have a medical reason to not come into contact with alcohol, then personal career ambitions as a bartender present an intractable problem. – K. Alan Bates May 15 '17 at 13:33
12

From the comments, it sounds like you get tripped up by a question like

What is your favorite cocktail/beer?

A perfectly reasonable question for any job interview. /sarcasm

Answer truthfully, but don't focus on your personal preference. A solid response might be:

Honestly, I don't drink, however, my favorite cocktail to make is my take on an old-fashioned made with a gin aged in a rye whisky barrel, blood orange bitters, a little simple syrup around the inside of the glass, and a twist of orange that I run a lighter over to bring out the oils in the orange peel.

(as an aside, that is the old-fashioned I got when my brother-in-law asked the bartender for the cocktail she would make if she were in a slam dunk contest of cocktails)

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    Don't leave us hanging...how was that old-fashioned? – alroc May 12 '17 at 16:04
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    Good enough that I still remember it and how it was made years later. Also good enough that it's gotten me into various gin-based drinks (that was my first (and best) exposure to gin). – Chris G May 12 '17 at 16:34
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    That sounds like a good approach, but you should expect some followup questions such as: 1. Why is that your favorite drink to make, and how does making that drink differ from others considering that you don't drink yourself? 2. Especially in light of the fact that you don't drink, why would you choose gin to make a cocktail that's well-known for being based on whiskey? – Caleb May 12 '17 at 18:18
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    For a bar tending position a question like that is perfectly reasonable IMO. It's like asking whats your favorite operating system or programming language for a software job. – Dan Neely May 12 '17 at 19:08
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    To expand on this, after talking about you favorite drink to prepare, also talk about how much your customers enjoy it. Your ability to delight customers is what your potential employer cares about most anyway. – Seth R May 12 '17 at 20:05
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Yes. It is reasonable for them to refuse to hire you as a bartender if you have a drinking problem or if they have reason to think you might develop one.

In some of your other posts, you say that you "used to go for a beer once a week" and "Recently I tried a custom cocktail from my barman", suggesting that your sobriety is fairly recent.

There is a difference between a 23-year old who is recently sober versus someone who has never touched a drink. That could be a red flag in your case. Thoughts like "I can work in a bar without having a drink" are exactly in line with the alcoholic way of thinking.

I'm not trying to judge, or say that you do have a problem. Just pointing out that it's a concern, and that you may want to carefully consider your reasons for pursuing this career path.

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    He never said he had a drinking problem. He just doesn't drink. But he has spent several years working in his dad's bar, so being able to work in a bar without having a drink is more than just a thought. – Seth R May 13 '17 at 2:15
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    The OP said in the comments "medical issues, i MUST avoid alcohol, even a "tear"" which could I guess be interpreted to refer to alcoholism but doesn't sound like it to me. – sumelic May 13 '17 at 5:15
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    At first, I thought you were saying that the Interviewer might take someone not drinking as a sign that they were a recovering alcoholic. But actually it seems like this answer mostly just you talking to the OP. In which case it is better to make it a comment or do it on chat. Maybe you are wanting to ask for clarifications as to if the OP is a recovering alcholic? – Lyndon White May 13 '17 at 10:10
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    I'm a bit surprised by a number of people who immediately jump to conclusion OP is alcoholic. There is NUMBER of various medical problems which prevent people from drinking alcohol as they require medication and/or alcohol might increase symptoms. – Maciej Piechotka May 13 '17 at 23:05
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    It's a pretty common problem among bartenders. Known quite a few who have had their driving licenses revoked because of alcohol abuse. – Bradd Szonye May 14 '17 at 23:35
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Be upfront

"You should know first that I don't drink alcohol but I am an excellent bartender and I make excellent cocktails. Let me show you what I can do."

That way any employer inclined to rule you out without giving you a chance will not waste your time, or theirs, and you can concentrate on those who are still interested.

As an aside, a non-drinking bartender sounds like a very useful person to have.

5

I would generally not hire a non-drinker as a bartender any more than I'd hire a non-smoker to work in a cigar shop or a vegan to cook steaks at my steakhouse.

There's no reason to hire someone with 2nd hand information and no practical knowledge.

If you want that job, you should bring something more to the table than "I don't enjoy the product I serve. Hire me."

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    While I don't agree with downvoting this answer, I think you might have overlooked part of OP's post. You mention no practical knowledge, but OP claims to have worked as a bartender in his father's pub for 5 years, has taken courses, and does research on his own time. – Knetic May 13 '17 at 5:32
  • @Knetic Is that not literally the distinguishing property between 'theoretical knowledge' and 'practical knowledge'? – user70005 May 13 '17 at 5:39
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    @Incurrence Five years of on-the-clock experience isn't practical knowledge? – Knetic May 13 '17 at 6:57
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    @Knetic depends on what 'knowledge' we are referring to. If the knowledge we refer to is about completing the service of providing the correct mixtures for the drinks, then s/he has first-hand practical knowledge. If the knowledge is on what they taste like, then s/he has only second-hand, entirely theoretical knowledge, and no first hand practical knowledge. – user70005 May 13 '17 at 7:09
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    Considering the amount of badly fried steaks I have tasted in steak houses, there must be plenty of vegetarian cooks out there. – John Hammond May 13 '17 at 13:14
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I'm a bit confused as to how drinking alcohol is brought up during the interview steps. So you show your drink mixes, and somehow they ask how it tastes. You describe it then somehow you say, "... but I don't drink alcohol." But this immediately makes them not hire you?

Unless you're making a huge deal about it, I suspect something else is at play here. It would be insane for a bar to expect their bartenders to be drinking. I think you're failing these interviews for reasons outside of you being a non-drinker. Even if they did say you are a non-drinker, it could be how you deliver it. "I don't know because I never taste it myself." is probably not a great response someone wants to hear after asking how's the X tastes. Imagine for a second you went into a restaurant and asked the waiter how is the soup of the day is, and their response is, "I heard it's great but I never tried it myself because I'm allergic to sea food and end up in the hospital." You'd just sit there thinking what in the heck and on top of that you still don't know if you want the food of the day and now you have to respond to something totally unexpected. If the waiter just stopped at, "I head it was great" you'd be able to think, okay maybe I want this.

I suspect that while mixing drinks, you come up with some sort of speciality that catches the bar's attention. After mixing it you somehow bring up that you don't actually drink it and it makes them wonder why you're showing what you're showing. On top of that you say you have a medical condition and this drink will send you to the hospital. They'd probably think something is really wrong with your drink and they don't want their customers ending up in the ER. My advice is to simply state something and stick with it. You say you know how it will taste, the flavor, texture, etc. Talk about that, and don't bring up that you can't drink it. Just don't drink it at all while mixing or showing it off.

Edit: I didn't realize this question was so old. I hope the OP landed a job by now.

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I don't know about the laws where you are, but if it were illegal to ask about medical issues. You being unable to drink is part of that. If they ask what your favourite drink is then I assume you had a favourite which would be an honest answer. The fact you can't drink is an answer to a question that they had unintentionally and illegally asked. While it's not their intention it's the same as questions to try and work out if a woman might get pregnant.

  • 3
    It is entirely legal to ask if medical issues will prevent the employee from completing reasonable duties expected. Asking "do you drink" of a bartender is completely different from asking "have you recently gained weight, experienced morning sickness, missed your period" of an engineer or art director. – user53718 May 14 '17 at 18:38
  • @Nij it's not his job to drink. If they asked if he was a Muslim that would be a different question. He can make and serve alcohol just not try it. – PStag May 15 '17 at 8:53

protected by Lilienthal May 13 '17 at 21:16

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