Behind the bar, you need a lot of bar tools and equipment, often more than you think, especially if you want to be perceived as a professional. Most bars will have the essential equipment, such as shakers and bottle openers, but depending on where you work, they may not provide all the things that make your job easier. Aside from the most common items (bottle opener, wine key, shaker), there is a whole list of other tools and things that are useful behind the bar. Now this list is what you as a bartender should bring to work, not the things that should be naturally supplied by the restaurant/bar. The key reason for all of this stuff is that it will make your life easier, and it will help increase your income, believe it or not. A lot of the stuff on this list is there to help your guests have a better experience, and in return, they will reward you with better gratuities.
This list is relatively long, but surprisingly you can fit everything into a small bag. I use a shaving kit bag that has three compartments to provide for a little organization. The only problem, if you are a guy, is that your “kit bag” will eventually be referred to as a “murse” or “man-purse” by some dork, but you’ll learn to live with it because work will be easier and your tips will be higher.
Photo: Bartending tools
Required Common Bartending Tools
This is the absolute basic list of equipment you need behind a decent cocktail bar.
Boston Shaker: Plainly obvious bar tool, but at one place I worked they only had two, so your personal shaker will ensure you always have one. Faster service, better tips.
Hawthorne Strainer: Still the best way to strain a drink. Buy a good one. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a broken slinky.
Bar Spoon: Great for stirring, scooping, layering and rapping the knuckles of garnish buffet deviants while they try to feast on the garnish tray.
Muddler: A modern bar professional always has a muddler. It’s a great way to make unique drinks and extract great flavours from fruit and herbs. If you work in a rougher bar, get a PUG Muddler to keep the miscreants under control.
Citrus Zester: Martini with a lemon twist? No problem, and it’s faster and safer than using a knife.
Fruit Press: One-handed style. A hygienic approach to squeezing fruit. Also, it maximizes the amount of juice you get out of a lemon or lime. Plus the citrus juice won’t irritate all those little cuts on your hands.
Mesh Tea Strainer: This is an excellent way to polish drinks to make them look great (i.e. removal of raspberry seeds, pulp, etc.). Also, great for filtering out wine crystals, for those who don’t appreciate them.
Knife: A good sharp knife helps make excellent garnishes. Also, if you have to cut three cases of limes for a Friday night, it will save your wrist. The cutting position can be awkward and put a lot of pressure on your wrist, leading to a repetitive strain injury. If you use a dull knife, you have to exert more pressure, leading to injury.
Bottle Opener: Obvious, but a good one will help save your wrist and palms. Bar blades are good if you do high volume sales.
Ice Scoop: Pick a decent sized one, not a 6-ounce scoop. Get something like a 12oz or 16oz scoop that is cylindrical in nature, not square, it will help funnel ice into the glass, not around it. Stick with a good metal scoop, not cheap plastic. And don’t get a cheap ass stamped scoop, they cut your hands, spend the extra $5 and get a good ice scoop.
Wine Key (Cork Screw): Again obvious, but in so many bars I’ve seen people without one. I’ve watched four servers share a wine key once. Get a good one, and the two-stage corkscrews work nicely (Pulltaps).
Spirit Measure: A good jigger is nice to have makes your boss happy and gives the customer a good drink. I like to free pour, but sometimes a jigger is handy.
Pour Spouts: A few extra are always handy for when a liqueur bottle gets the pour spout stuck, and you don’t have time to mess with it.
Funnel: Great for getting stuff into bottles, like simple syrup, etc.
Lighter/Matches: Most establishments are going smoke-free, but lighters and matches are still useful for lighting candles and flaming orange peels.
Can Opener: You need one of those old style punch openers to get at the pineapple juice, coconut cream and apple juice.
Pens: You need three of them. One to keep, one to lend, one to give away.
In part two I’ll take a look at some of the bar tools that aren’t so common, like a first aid kit, reading glasses, business cards, soap and breath mints. In total, there are an additional 27 items that come in handy and can make you the go to the bartender when someone needs something. Trust me, guest and co-workers do appreciate these things.
Helpful Bartending Info
Writer, author of Fix the Pumps, chemist, beekeper and general do-er-of-things, Darcy can generally be found looking for new and interesting things to do, usually over a cocktail. Currently working on more soda fountain history.
Last modified: November 16, 2018