The Proper Bar Equipment Makes All the Difference

Cocktail bars have a lot of different types of equipment. Coolers, soda equipment, the beer keg system and more. You really need to know this stuff before applying for a bartending job.

Yes, this is very basic stuff – for those of you who have worked in the Food and Beverage Industry. For you newcomers – you might wish to give this a good read. Especially if you’re learning how to be a bartender.

Q: Will this Lesson help me get a bartending job?

A: Of course. Having a general idea of what type of bar equipment is used on a daily basis is a no-brainer. It will certainly help you on your first day on the job.

Q: Will the interviewer ask me any questions about bar equipment?

A: Possibly. You could be asked almost anything regarding bar equipment. A very common question is to ask if you know how to change a beer keg.

Rookie Mistakes: Clueless about bar equipment. All bartending schools should be giving you a general idea of what kind of equipment is needed that allows a bar to operate smoothly and efficiently.

Read through the list below and familiarize yourself with the different types of Bar Equipment – and take a really good look at what the bars you’ll be visiting have behind the bar.

The bar owner will supply all of the bar equipment (the big stuff), and most of the bartender tools which we went over in the previous lesson.

Bar Equipment – The Small Stuff

Ice Scoop

Usually metal. Use it – don’t scoop glassware in the ice! There is probably some sort of tray or slot next to the ice bin to store when not in use. Lots of controversy on where to store the scoop. Should NOT be left in the ice, but you know how that goes – much depends on the local health codes and health inspector. Follow the bar’s policy.

The ice scoop was mentioned in the previous section as a bartender tool. It’s both, as the bar will supply this item, but many bartenders will prefer a certain type – and sweet talk the bar manager into buying it for them.

Ice Crusher

Not to be confused with the large machine usually located in the back of the kitchen. Small, mechanical – but may be electric, and near the bartender’s workstation. Used for individual drinks – and chilling glasses. Usually a “crushing” machine – not cubes.

Soda Guns/Dispensers

All bars have them. Powered by CO2. Health inspectors love taking a flashlight to the rubber gun holder.

Bartender Liquor Dispensing Equipment

Juice Guns/Dispensers

Probably right next to the soda gun. A lot of controversy surrounding this involving sanitation. Some bars have them – some don’t.

Liquor Gun/Dispenser

Some bars have them for their well/house liquors. They’re getting extremely sophisticated and may dispense more than just liquor. Calibrated to pour whatever the bar owner determines. Regular customers hate them. Bartenders have a love/hate relationship.

Wine Gun/Dispenser

Same as above. Some bars have them – some don’t.

Service Mats

Essential. Larger than a  bartender’s pouring mat. Usually located in the cocktail server’s area. Flat, thin, rubber, many times provided free by one of the bar’s vendors. Somewhere around 3 x 3 feet.

Garnish Trays

All bars have them. Located on bar countertop for server easy access – or below bar the top near the bartender’s ice bin. Again, lots of “sanitation” controversy on where to place the tray. Customers sticking their fingers in trays, garnish items temperature, cross-contamination with ice, etc. Follow bar policy.

Juice Containers

Plastic, usually a quart or liter in size. May have a cap or a pourer. Observe House Policy on sanitation rules.


Anything used along with food service. Bloody Mary’s. You know – ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, etc. There will be one or two easy-access storage areas for the condiments behind the bar. Yes, I know – this isn’t “Bar Equipment.” However, condiments are items that are behind almost every bar.

Heavy Duty Bottle Opener

Usually bolted to the counter within arm’s reach of the bartender workstation. A must-have at each bartender station.

Heavy Duty Wine Openers

Also bolted to the bar countertop somewhere – similar to the bottle opener, above.

Bar Matting

Rubber, assorted colors – green seems to be the most popular – underneath glassware and other “stuff.” Allows for minimal draining and air-drying of glassware. Health inspectors like to check for “stickiness.”

Detergent and Sanitizer

Obviously, every bar needs and uses these items. Follow the directions! More on this in the sanitation section. And, once again, I’m fully aware that detergent and sanitizer is not technically “bar equipment.” Oh well.

Bar Towels

Almost always white. Used for keeping the bar top and other areas clean and sanitized. Moist, folded properly, and placed here and there around the bar. Some bartenders are extremely picky about their bar towels – as they should be. Never moisten them in the 3-sink glass washing sinks!

Bar Equipment – The Big Stuff

Speed Rails/Racks

Located directly in front of the ice bin – about knee/thigh high. Usually holds the house/well liquor. Additional speed racks may be installed elsewhere – close to the bartender’s workstation.

Stainless Steel Shelving

All over the place. Sinks, coolers, shelving. Easy to clean and sanitize.

Beer and Wine Keg Cooler

Most bars have a separate walk-in cooler for beer kegs. Possibly wine kegs. May also store back-up bottled beer, perishables like juices, garnish trays, olives, cherries, fruits, etc. Usually fairly close to the main bar.

Draft Beer Pouring System

Powered by CO2. You’ll probably learn how to change kegs and CO2 on your very first shift. Easy, but every bartender is going to get doused with beer at one time or another. Outside vendor will probably clean the beer lines once a week or so. Some beer companies will do it for free – if you buy their products.

3-Sink Glass Washing System

All bars have them – unless they committed to 100% commercial glass washers. A very important part of the bartender’s duties, and I go into much more detail in the “Sanitation” lesson.

3 Sink Glass Washing System

Commercial Glass Washer

Some bars have one – some don’t. They’re just like the dishwashers used in the kitchen, only smaller and specifically designed with racks for glasses. Fast, efficient. Hot!

Ice Maker

Probably located in the kitchen area. May even be a couple of them. Smaller ones could be behind the bar. Cubed ice. Maybe crushed ice. Bar owners better have a bagged ice vendor on speed dial when these go down.

Ice Maker, Crushed

Same as above, but may also have a small, mechanical/electric crusher in the bartender’s workstation.

Bartender Station Ice Bin

A lot of controversy over exactly how the ice bin should be used – and what sanitation procedures to follow. Might (should) have a stainless-steel cover. Careful here, and I go into greater detail in the “Sanitation” lesson. One of every health inspector’s pet peeves.

Cold Plate for Soda Dispenser

Slab of heavy metal that the soda system runs through to help chill before dispensing. Usually buried under the ice in the bartenders ice bin. About 12” x 16” and an inch or two thick. There are also other ways of chilling the soda lines. Technology is amazing – and constantly changing.

Floor Bar Mats

Usually black, heavy-duty rubber about an inch thick. Anti-fatigue, anti-slip, and each section is around 4 x 4 feet. Very heavy! Should be pulled and washed at the end of every day.

Overhead Glass Racks

Some bars have them – some don’t. Great space saver. Glasses better be clean, as customers can see them very well in the light. A lot of controversy back when customers could smoke in bars.

Cash Register/POS System

POS systems can be a beast. They do everything these days, and it’s pointless to describe one as they’re all different. If you can operate a smartphone – you’ll be just fine. Communicates directly with the BOH (Back of House), system (Manger’s terminal in the office), for real-time sales/stats. Don’t leave home without one. Many bars still have the old-time cash registers.

Bartender and Server POS “Clients”

Smaller computer POS units for food and cocktail servers. Located around the bar and restaurant. Kind of like your home cable TV system with the main unit and smaller “client boxes” for each individual TV.

Beer Coolers

For bottled beer, juices, wines, cream, etc. Usually located underneath the back bar top, but could be strategically placed anywhere. Bartenders like them very close by.

Tap Beer Stations

Could be located anywhere. Many bars have multiple locations.

Bar Decorations

Beer/liquor signs, etc. The bar owner’s choice. Many are provided free by liquor and beer vendors.

Menu Boards

Daily food & drink specials, promotions, up-coming events. Usually the bartender’s responsibility to keep it updated.

CO2 Containers

Powers the soda dispensers and kegs. Probably in keg walk-in cooler – or towards the end of the bar somewhere.

Liquor/Wine Room

Should be under lock and key. All liquor storage, probably wine, and other valuable items. Managers only. Liquor dispensing system may be located here. Don’t get caught in here without manager’s prior approval.

Supply Room

All supplies/dry goods needed for bar – and kitchen. Napkins, straws, towels, olives, cherries, etc. Some bars have a completely different storage area for bar supplies.

Kitchen Area

Stay out of their way! Really no reason to be back there other than to possibly sign in, get some ice, or use the general walk-in cooler if perishable supplies are stored there. NEVER walk down the cook’s line!

That’s it. All bars are different and have different equipment and set-ups. Pay attention when you go out and observe working bartenders.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

Next Lesson: Mixers: Juices, Soda and More

Previous Lesson: Essential Bartender Tools

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course