that may come up…but are you really??

Over the years, I have run into many situations where I thought to myself, ‘I WISH I had this and that to make my job easier at this type of party.’ As time went on and the experience grew with my good fortune of bartending many different types of parties, I have obtained inexpensive items to help my job easier if the client does not have a suitable solution to the situation at hand.

Here’s a list of the items I’ve added to my collection over the years:

An Igloo Ice Bucket

This is NOT a cooler. This is an ice bucket made by Igloo. Most people don’t have a big enough ice bin for bartending. When this is the case, you are ready with yours.

A Durable Plastic Box

This would be used to cart your additional tools-of-the-trade into the event and also to use under your ice bucket/bin to lift it to a manageable level for your use during the event.

Stir Sticks & Mason Jar

Stir sticks (5” and/or 7” size) and a container for them (I use a pint size Ball jar as you can easily grab one when needed). The stir sticks are sort of a ‘freebie’ to your clients. Most of the time, your host forgets to buy then and will notice that you have provided them. They like the nice touch and makes a better impression.

Buckets for Chilling Beer & Wine

You may have a good amount of wine that needs to be chilled and kept within reach while the reserve bottles are in a cooler or fridge. I have four clear buckets. (Once I even used these buckets for my clean drink ice due to a confined workspace as well as using it for my liquid garbage bin.)

Helpful hint: For wine chilling, make sure to add water to your bucket! This will help make the wine colder (reducing the additional ice needed) and it’ll make it much easier to put bottles in / out of the bucket. You can also do an ice bath for your beer cooler if you don’t have enough ice. For tall neck beers, make sure to keep the necks in the ice bath. The first impression makes a difference. If the beer in the neck is warm, it turns people off, even if the rest of the bottle is chilled sufficiently.)

Bar Towels

The host does not always have enough hand towels to go around. These are great for all sorts of cleaning purposes and also makes you look prepared and professional to the host. (Tip: Use dark colored towels to hide any current or previous wine stains.)

Ziplock Bags

If there fruit left over and the host doesn’t want it, these baggies make it easy for you to take it home if you like. I’ve also worked many parties where they insist I take food home. These will also help in that case also should the host not have enough containers to give items away.

Small Bar Mat

Many portable bars are made with formica. When it gets wet, the plastic cups will slide out from under you as you’re pouring. A bar mat will give you a nice non slip surface to work on.

Since you don’t know the size of the table or bar you will work on, you should purchase one around 12” x 6” in size. If you don’t have one yet, you can use one of your nice bar towels as a bar mat in these situations.

Small Cart

I managed to find a small, foldable cart. It looks like a milk crate and has a retractable handle like a suitcase. It’s not terribly stable, but it does the job and I treat it with care. I can fill it with some of my equipment, however, I’m not comfortable in the stability to use it under my ice bin. If/when you choose to get a small cart, make sure it’s foldable and small enough to put in your trunk and hide away during the party. (TIP: you can use sturdy, empty beer case boxes or wine case boxes to raise your ice bin, making sure the boxes are not wet. It helps if they have the dividers still in the boxes for added stability.)

Cutting Board with Drip Catcher and Sharp Knives

There are many times where the host can’t find a cutting board or are using it for cooking. If you need to cut fruit, you’ll be ready. (Remember to always make sure your knife is sharp before your event. You don’t want to risk getting cut by a dull knife that slips.)

If you can’t find a cutting board with a LARGE drip catcher, try to buy a plastic drip tray that your small cutting board can fit into. I bought mine at the dollar store. You may be cutting sticky fruit at the bar and don’t want a mess on your hands.

Hand Sanitizer

Now that you’ve cut your fruit and may not have access to water, you can use your hand sanitizer to help clean up the mess. We all know that vodka will also do the trick, but it doesn’t look great to pour vodka on your hands in front of a client! (Tip: keep it in a zip lock baggie so the pump doesn’t leak on your other tools.)

You may also need it during the evening – let’s face it, we all need to blow our nose at times and no matter how careful and discreet we are, we must clean our hands afterward!

Other Tips for What You Bring:


You will want to make sure you label your items in a discrete way. I have run into other bartenders who have some of the same items I do, and you don’t want to lose your stuff. But it’s tacky to have your name all over the sides of your mat. If you write your name in a silver Sharpie marker underneath your mat, you’re fine. (Should you leave an item behind by mistake, the host will know it belongs to you as well!)

Where to Get These Items:

Try the dollar store for the items above, but if you don’t find them there you can follow the links to Amazon or look at your local big box Target, Walmart, etc.

It’s important to note that the items you purchase should be a generic color such as black, grey or clear, whenever possible. It would look very tacky to have a lime green container when you’re at a more formal event!

What do you Bring?

When I walk into a party, I bring my basic bar bag, assess the situation, and go back to my car for add’l items needed. There’s no need to be ‘loaded for bear’ if you don’t need the additional tools.

You will find that there are other situations you run into where you can think of a solution or other dollar store item that could help you in the future. Feel free to pick up the item and share the experience with your fellow bartenders in the comments below!

Lisa Freeman

Lisa Freeman has been bartending private parties as a side hustle for 3.5 years, working events from small birthdays to large 350-person weddings. She's also a former accomplished ballroom dance competitor, enjoys martial arts, and is always looking to try new things (hobbies, side hustles, and otherwise!)