Though she’s been in the restaurant industry for about 15 years — seven at Longhorn Steakhouse — she’s only been behind the bar for about four years. But that didn’t stop her from taking home the title of Longhorn’s best regional bartender this year as part of the restaurant chain’s inaugural Bar Stars Series.
A Johnson City native, Rivera graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in psychology and hopes to work with children and adolescents at risk. Aside from her job as a bartender, Rivera also teaches children’s gymnastics.
Favorite drink to make: Three Dons Margarita
Hobbies: Teaching kids gymnastics, spending time with family
Favorite color: “It’s seasonal, but right now it’s going to be forest green.”
Favorite food: “Probably Vietnamese.”
Sweet or dry drinks: “I’m not much of a sweet drinker, so I’ll go for a dry red wine or I’ll do a margarita, not on the sweet side.”
How did you get into bartending?
It was just the next step in the process. I was hired on as a server and then I just worked my way up and became a bartender here for the last three or four years. It just kept kind of rolling from there, and here we are today.
What’s your favorite part of bartending?
I love talking to people and getting to know them, I may forget the name but I’ll definitely remember their story. It’s about being as genuine as possible and honest and just really getting that one-on-one with someone — I really love doing that behind the bar.
What was it like being in the competition?
It was super fun and I had a great time. I really have a supportive team behind me, and it was just encouraged to have fun and enjoy the process. Of course, there was a little money involved ,which was nice. It was a good time for sure, and I’m glad they started it — it kind of gives us incentive to learn our drinks and really engage in the community.
How did it feel to be named best bartender in the region?
It was fantastic, and I had a great time. I was kind of surprised, nervous and excited at the same time. We just had our fingers crossed and I definitely was excited to have that opportunity.
What are some of your tips for people who want to try bartending?
Be as genuine and as honest as possible because I think that’s what brings the guest back and just try. I know it can be scary because there’s a lot of responsibility in the restaurant being a bartender, but it’s worth it in the end. If you just take that leap forward, you’ll see the rewards outweigh the cons.