How to Talk to Customers About Alcohol if You Don’t Drink

Just because you don’t drink alcohol or certain drinks, doesn’t mean that you can’t work in a restaurant or bar and talk about them well. Lots of people don’t drink at all or don’t like certain alcoholic beverages, and I’m one of those people. Beer and whiskey – no thanks! But I’ve worked in a barbecue restaurant for the past seven years and we sell A LOT of both, so it was either sink or swim when I got thrown into the fire of serving. I decided to swim.

How did I get around the obstacle? Confidence and several handy buzzwords for each alcohol I don’t drink. When you’re selling something, you have to be confident, even if you feel like you have no idea what you’re talking about. A lot of customers just want to get your seal of approval or want a little nudge in a certain direction. That being said, sometimes you get an expert who really knows what they’re looking for. With both types of customers, you need to be confident with your delivery and if you truly need some backup you can always ask one of your peers. Simple as that.

Over time I have learned how to talk about the drinks I don’t drink with ease from learning the language that goes along with them and using my senses to look at and smell them to get an idea of what they’re actually like to consume. While there is a big element of memorization to this, with a little practice it becomes much easier.

Here are some of the buzzwords that go along with drinks to make them easy to talk about whether you drink them or not:

Beer (I’ve grouped them in terms that usually go together)

  • Hoppy, Citrusy, Juicy
  • Light, Crisp, Easy-drinking
  • Wheaty, Unfiltered
  • Heavy, Rich, Malty

Cider: Sweet, Dry, Filtered/Unfiltered

Wine: Sweet, Dry, Tannic, Full Bodied/Light Bodied, Oaked, Fruity, Acidic, Smooth, Crisp

Whiskey (With whiskey it’s most important to have a few that you usually suggest rather than getting caught up in the entire list. Have your go-tos and know that you can always ask someone else for specifics if you need help. Knowing that there are different types of whiskey is most important – Bourbon, Rye, Irish, and Scotch).

  • Malty, Sweet, Smokey, Fruity, Floral

Tequila: Blanco/Silver, Gold, Reposado, Anejo

For Cocktails in general: 

  • Find out what kind of alcohol your customer is or isn’t looking for
  • Find out what flavors they do or don’t like
  • Find out if they tend towards sweet or not

*When it comes to vodka and gin most people’s preference lies in quality so just know a few options to offer them along the quality spectrum.


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