In the previous article on bartender tools, I looked at the equipment that you will use frequently. In this article, I’ll be looking at items that if you didn’t have, you would survive, but having them will make your life easier and your guests experience more pleasant. If you take bartending as a profession, then giving your customers the best experience possible is the goal. In return, your tips will increase and hopefully, those customers will return, and regular customers are the best.
Useful Bar Tools and Items
3-Piece Metal Shaker: Yep, this all-metal shaker, the one most pro’s say they never use, can be handy. One bar (same as above) had only two shakers glass left after some breakage and inevitably they both broke and no replacements were around. The 3-piece shaker saved the day.
First Aid Kit: Behind the bar, you will cut yourself eventually. Usually, they are only annoying little nicks and cuts but they still need to be covered up. Regular bandaids are rather unsightly and when wet can fall off. Let the nightmare scenario begin. The solution is Liquid Band-Aid. This stuff rules, it is transparent, extremely durable and doesn’t fall into drinks or the ice bin. Also, it protects against the sting of citrus juice.
Aspirin: Actually any analgesic will work (Advil or Tylenol). When the crowd is loud, the boss is yelling and the music pounding, sometimes we all need a little relief. If your co-workers are complaining, this will also help get them back on track.
Tums: The bar and restaurant business doesn’t really allow anyone time for a break, and when servers or bartenders get one it’s usually very short. So, people wolf down whatever they can eat and usually there are consequences. Tums can help. Also, if you have people eating at the bar and over-indulge, suggest bitters first, but if that’s not their thing, offer a Tums.
Soap and Alcohol Gel: There is absolutely no reason a bar should not have soap, period! But, for some odd reason every bar I’ve worked at has run out of soap at one point or another. Soap protects you as much as it protects the customers, it is mutually beneficial. Use it!
Mechanical Pencil: Pencils are handy for taking reservations (if you have too) because they are erasable. Handy for writing on bottles and food labels. You do date your open containers don’t you?
Black Sharpie Marker: Great for making permanent notes, plus it writes on glass.
Micro plane Grater: Best used to garnish drinks with nutmeg or chocolate.
Note Pads: Extra paper is always handy for writing down inventory needs, food orders, and when a customer needs a piece of paper.
Hand Towel: Bars should provide towels, but you should always bring a couple of clean ones for personal use. For example, drying your hands after you wash them.
Calculator: When it is late at night and you are counting your sales this little companion will make things much easier. Also, a quick way to calculate tip outs from serving staff.
Watch: You need to know the time and so do your guests.
Tape: Useful for many things that need an emergency fix. Also, good for first aid, in case someone needs stitches. Electrical tape works.
Mints / Gum: Hygiene is important and no one likes bad breath. Your guests will also appreciate it if the restaurant doesn’t provide mints at the end of the meal.
NoteBook: This is a book filled with information you need as a bartender. For example, you should have a list of all the local cab services. Eventually, you will memorize them but nothing sucks more than flipping through the yellow pages when you are busy. In this book, you should also have your original cocktail recipes, peoples business cards and the names of your best customers with drink information. Usually, you can memorize this stuff, but we all have senior moments and it’s good to refer to your written notes.
Cocktail Guide: Most people can’t memorize every drink in the world, so a good cocktail guide is handy. I’d avoid the simple or basic guides because they don’t offer much, pick a book that has some unique recipes that can give your guests something new. Right now I’m carrying “In the Spirit” which is a collection of cocktails and recipes from Tales of the Cocktail event held in New Orleans. It’s conveniently small,but packed with loads of great recipes.
Odds and Ends
Bitters: It never hurts to have a bottle of bitters with you. Pick up some orange bitters if you want to give your guests something different.
Orange Flower Water: A nice edition to any bar. Orange Flower Water can make a cocktail a little bit different with just a few drops.
Powdered Egg Whites: For restaurants and bars that are skittish about using raw eggs. These powdered egg whites are simply dehydrated and guaranteed 100% salmonella free. Just add a little water and voila you have an egg white.
Spare Reading Glasses: This is one that I never thought about until recently. I had a customer ask for a pair of glasses so she could read the menu. I’ve also seen people struggle reading the menu, so offering a pair of glasses would be a welcomed gesture. You can pick them up at any pharmacy for a few bucks.
Toothpicks: Handy for when people politely ask for something out of the garnish tray. Also useful for someone with a lobster lodged between their teeth.
Spare Cash (Float): Even if your bar/restaurant has a till, it is always good to have some spare cash.
Business Card: If you are trying to make bartending a career, get some simple business cards printed up. You might be surprised how many times people will ask for them.
This list has everything that I carry in my bar kit, but I’m sure there are other things that could be handy. If you have any suggestions please submit a comment.
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 12, 2018