So, You’re a New Bartender: How to Set Up Your Bar

First bartending gig? Consider this your cheat sheet on how to get stuff done like an old pro.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

You did it. You got that all-important first gig working behind the bar. In this industry, it goes one of two ways: you’re either a lifer or you ain’t gonna make it. The bar life picks its people and there’s no grey area. Them’s the facts.

Since you’re learning the ropes, we’re going to help you get your shit straight. Consider this your cheat sheet on how to get stuff done like an old school pro.


Keep your stuff in order 

  • Keep your shot glasses clean and up close. People do shots. A lot of them. All night long.
  • Are your most used liquors close by? They should be. If you’re a bar known for slinging Jameson, it doesn’t make sense for it to sit on a back shelf. Put it in your rack.
  • Do you make drinks from left to right or right to left? Set up your station to match your natural tendencies.
  • Where’s your fruit? You’re probably going to use a lot of lemons and limes. Olives, not so much. Keep the fruit close.
  • If the bar is known for a killer appletini, set up a minibar with all the makings for that drink. If you have mixed drink specials, set up a station for your most popular mixed drinks.

Clean, clean, clean

Don’t let stuff get dirty. Never, ever wait until you slow down. It doesn’t matter if you work at a total dive, everyone gets busy when they least expect it. There’s busy, really busy, and “did a f*cking bus break down out front?” busy. Depending on what kind of bartender you turn out to be, cleaning will play a big part in how you succeed.

If you let stuff pile up:

A. It’s gross. 

B. Not only do have you added extra time to the end of your shift, but you’ve also created a safety issue. If a glass at the bottom of the sink breaks, but you can’t tell because there’s so much shit in it, you’re going to cut yourself. 

Do you really want to stick your hand into filthy booze water, potentially ripping parts of your flesh off? That’s Infection City. Just wash as you go. Take the three minutes, dry, and put away the two shakers and four shot glasses.

Slow + Deliberate = Satisfied

In martial arts and yoga, the movement has a purpose. This also applies to tending bar. If you have to run from one end of the bar to the other to find what you need to make a drink, you look like an idiot. And then if you’re dribbling mix or alcohol while pouring, you look like an idiot with the lousy aim. 

This isn’t a race. Slow down. Gather the items you need, then make the drink. Carefully pour the mixes and spirits into the glass. Get Zen. At first, it might feel awkward, and like it takes too long. Once you realize that slowing down means you make less of a mess when making the drink, you’ll see it’s worth it in the end. 

Keep your beer parred 

Don’t let coolers run low, keep your beer stocked. Always keep track of your ice. If you’ve got a bar back, that’s even better, but if you don’t – don’t let laziness get the best of you. Remember what we said about getting busy all of a sudden. 


See? It isn’t that hard to set up a station that works with you and not against you. You’re going to have your hands full dealing with drunk people anyway – the last thing you want is your setup adding to the mayhem.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
More from SIN

Get SIN In Your Inbox

Sign up for your bi-weekly digest of service industry news & current events including videos, popular drink recipes, war stories, and more.

Get SIN In Your Inbox

Sign up for your bi-weekly digest of service industry news & current events including videos, popular drink recipes, war stories, and more.