So you’ve been hired – congrats! You’re all scheduled for your very first shift and excited to dig in. As with any new job, you want to show up looking polished and prepared for anything. So I thought I’d put together a quick list of all of the things I’d recommend you bring to your first shift.

Some of these items are more obvious than others, and you may realize you don’t need some of them after all. But it’s far better to be prepared than not! This list should give you a very good starting point for your first day.

What to Bring to your First Shift:

A Notebook

Let’s face it most of your first day will be taking notes, asking questions and basically getting the lay of the land. Showing up with a moleskin or similar piece of pen and paper will help youremember all the little pieces of information that you will be expected to know over the coming days/weeks/potentially months of training. Even better if the pages of your notebook will be waterproof, because of, well, obvious reasons.

Pens. So many pens.

If you had to choose between showing up naked and showing up with pens, I’d almost choose pens. If you’ve spent any time behind the bar you know that pens are the ultimate currency!

Some bars and restaurants have their own branded pens, but most do not. If you don’t bring your own pen, you might be out of luck as far as taking notes. If you are going to the dollar store to pick up a set of pens for yourself, buy a few extra packs and consider leaving them at the bar as a gesture of goodwill to your new coworkers.

As far as what type of pen to bring, I’m sure we all have our favorite types, but make sure that they are retractable pens that have ink that won’t run if it gets wet. Usually the cheap ballpoint click pens are good enough, or you could always spend a little more money and get the ones that have a sturdier clip that won’t break the first time you use it. Don’t spend too much money as you’re going to lose quite a few of them during a normal shift!

Seriously don’t forget pens as they can be a form of currency in the bar and restaurant world.

Wine Key / Flat Blade Opener

As we mentioned before, you probably won’t be making cocktails the first day you step behind the bar, but you might be opening wine or beer if the training bartender gets a little busy. Make sure you are prepared, just in case you have to show off your mad beer opening skills.


If you are in a high volume bar that mostly does beer and very little wine, a flat blade openerseems to be the best tool for the job. If your bar serves a decent amount of wine, you may want to bring in a wine key instead.

If you end up choosing the wine key route, there are a few things to look for:

  • Double hinged wine opener – you are able to get more leverage with these type of wine openers vs the single hinge openers. (Your wrists will thank you!)
  • If possible look for a wine key that has a Teflon coating on the corkscrew, aka “worm”. Usually the corkscrew will be black vs the shiny stainless steel. The coated corkscrew will make its way into the cork much easier than the stainless steel and prevent the corkscrew from destroying the wine cork.

Distributors are a great source for free blade openers or wine openers as they usually have a ton of branded ones they give to bars. You may have to buy your first few just to get you started. No matter which direction you choose, may sure you have a backup because they often get misplaced, borrowed and stolen.

Comfortable, Durable, Non-Slip Shoes

You’re going to be standing on your feet for a long time and it will usually be in a wet, potentially oily environment. Getting the right shoes will help you avoid fatigue and injury.

Take a look at shoes that are both slip resistant and oil resistant and that offer decent support. Red Wing shoes, SafeTStep and Emeril Lagasse all make shoes that feature oil and slip resistance in many different styles. Dansko’s also are well known for their ability to combat fatigue, but they they are not the most attractive pair of shoes on the planet and offer little to no ankle support.


On the first day of training, you will probably not be making cocktails, but you never know. Having your tools ready in case you have to spring into action and start making drinks is always a good idea.

Here is a list of bar tools that you should plan to have in your bar kit:


Cocktail Shaker

No surprise here. You should definitely bring a cocktail shaker in case you’re asked to start making drinks. (Chances are you already have one, but here’s our pick: Stainless Steel Boston Shaker Set

Hawthorne Strainer

The bartenders trusty sidekick, the strainer is almost as important as the shaker itself. Here’s ours: Hawthorne Strainer

Julep Strainer

If you’re working in a cocktail bar, you’ll want to bring one of these. Typically only used for stirred drinks, it holds back the ice as you pour. If you don’t have one, you can probably skip it as long as you brought your Hawthorne Strainer. Here’s a good choice: Julep Strainer – Top Shelf Bar Supply

Fine Strainer:

Again, important for a cocktail bar but not nearly as important for a neighborhood dive. Used alongside the Hawthorne or Julep Strainer, the Fine Mesh Strainer – 10cm Stainless Steel Reinforced Fine Strainer fine strainer offers an even finer strain. Also looks fancy!

Bar Spoons

Again, more cocktail bar than neighborhood joint, but handy nonetheless. Bring a Set of 2 Professional Bar Spoons for stirred cocktails, layered drinks, etc.


If you’re going to be pouring, you might well be measuring. And even if you’re the King/Queen of Free Pouring, it’s not a bad idea to have a Stainless Steel Japanese Style Jigger available in case the bar you’re working prefers you measure.


I feel like the muddler is such a personal choice – but every bar I’ve worked has not had a muddler I liked. We made this one exactly the way I would have wanted my muddler behind the bar. (Extra long, sturdy, ergonomic, etc.): Hardwood Muddler – Extra Long (Top Shelf Bar Supply)


Got pith? A good quality peeler will be your best friend if you find yourself needing citrus peels for garnish. (Again, more likely at a cocktail bar but not a bad idea to have a backup just in case.) This one’s a safe bet: OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler


Note: many of the tools above are from our very own line of bar tools – because Julia & I have designed them to be the best tools out there for pro bartenders. But I’ll admit – I’m a little biased! 🙂

A Positive Attitude

Each bar runs their own training program and the spectrum of training could be as simple as showing you how to clock in for a shift to the other extreme of a multi-month training program that you have to pass tests along the way in order to continue moving forward.

Whatever your training program looks like, make sure to have a positive attitude and a willingness to learn how they do things there. Many of the times the employer also use this period to evaluate you as a long term employee. So if you come in with a bad attitude, start asking questions about how many drinks you are allowed during a shift and taking smoke breaks every 30 minutes, don’t be surprised if at the end of the training period they decide not to offer you a job.

Go Get ’em!

If you come with an open mind, a willingness to learn and a bag with the things listed above, you’re definitely going to start your new job on the right foot. You will almost certainly not need everything listed here, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it!


Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.