flickr photo by Sam Howzit shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Bartending shifts can be unpredictable, stressful and long. They can also be entertaining, lucrative and full of opportunities. By preparing yourself (just as you do your bar) prior to the start of your shift you will be setting yourself up success.

Here are five must-pack items for every bartender:

Wine Key/Bottle Opener:

Your bar is 100 deep and understaffed. You can barely keep up with the orders and are furiously nodding in every direction trying to let patrons know you will be with them shortly. A woman who has been waiting patiently for 10 minutes to place her order comes up and asks for five bottles of Pinot Noir.

“YES!” You think happily. This is a dream order that will only take you a minute or two to complete and knock out an entire group of people.

You reach for your wine key and feel your stomach drop like you are going down a giant roller coaster. You forgot to bring it to work. What should have been a quick and easy order becomes a stressful one because now you have to search for an available wine key and your customer’s patience is running low.

In order to avoid a scenario like this, bring your wine key to every shift. If you are forgetful like me, hide a wine key somewhere at work where no one else will find it (I like to hide mine under the ice well).


I can’t tell you how many times I have waited around for a manager to bring me change when I run out. And you know what? It almost always happens during the busiest times. There’s nothing like falling behind because you can’t make change for your customers. This creates all kinds of confusion and delay.

As a remedy, carry $40-80 dollars in small bills during your busy shifts. Then, when you run out of change and are waiting for your manager to bring you more, you will have a quick fix so you can keep serving customers without delay.

Spare Shoes:

As bartenders, the shoes we wear are so important. After all, we stand for eight to twelve (or more) hours at a time. Unfortunately for our shoes, they also tend to get destroyed quicker than a frat boy drinking redbull and vodka. So do yourself a favor and keep an extra pair of shoes at work in case the pair on your feet fall apart mid-shift, get soaked or you forget your work shoes all together.

Extra Socks:

This goes hand-in-hand with your spare shoes. Bring an extra pair of socks to work with you so if your feet get wet from a drink spill during your shift you can change them. I have worked so many shifts with liquor soaked socks and it was no fun. Not only were my feet freezing they were also sticky and smelly!

Business Cards:

If you don’t have business cards, I recommend you make some ASAP. There are a lot of online services such as Vistaprintwhere you can customize your cards for cheap. Why are they important? Because you work in an industry that requires networking and socialization.

You never know who you are going to serve or engage in conversation, and when you’re in the midst of a rush, you aren’t going to have time to legibly write down your information so keep your business cards handy at all times.

The best way to stay ahead of a busy shift is to show up prepared – and while your bar should have spare change and extra wine keys, it’s in your own best interest to have your own as well. (If only bars could also help with shoes and socks!

So check your bag before you leave for your next shift, and you might just make your shift that much easier along the way.

flickr photo by Sam Howzit shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Antasha Durbin

Antasha is a seasoned bartender with more than seven years of bartending and hospitality experience. She is also a spiritual writer at, where she writes free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living. You can follow her on Twitter @cajspirituality for daily inspiration.