When you step behind the bar, there are a few tools you know you always need. There’s the obvious cocktail shaker and strainer, but the bartender apron is a surprising must-have.
After all, no matter how much of a pro you are, spills happen. And unless you want to risk staining your clothes, an apron will protect your duds and keep you dry. A good bar apron will also have plenty of pockets in different sizes, ideal for fitting various tools you always want to have at the ready. So, you’ll never have to pause the party to find your bar spoon.
Plus, an apron is a great way to add some extra style or flair to your look. From denim to leather to canvas, with various straps and detailing, a stylish apron can easily turn even the most ho-hum outfit into something fashionable.
“As bartenders, we look for aprons that can do two crucial things for us,” says Raleigh Swan, the assistant general manager of The Hope Farm in Fairhope, Alabama. “The apron has to be comfortable as well as functional. This means we look for aprons with lots of pockets, even custom pockets for holding bar tools, and we also look for aprons with crossbacked straps, which helps to distribute the weight more along the shoulders rather than on the neck.”
He adds, “We look for aprons that look great! Bartending is a very public profession, and looking good in front of clients never hurts.”
To find the best bartending aprons, we spoke to hospitality experts about their favorites.
1. Under NY Sky No-Tie Apron
Available in four colors, this cotton twill apron doesn’t require any tying, as the name says. Instead, it features a clasp and ring closure on the waist and neck with adjustable straps. The durable, mid-weight twill is reinforced with leather patches and the metal hardware is treated with anti-allergic Zamak coating. It’s also designed with a split at the waist for easy movement.
Pete Vasconcellos, the beverage director at New York cocktail den Albert’s Bar bought these for his staff to wear. “Apart from the excellent price point, they made this apron with the hard-working bartender in mind,” Vasconcellos says. “The neck and waist are adjustable separately, unlike a crossback design, which makes individual adjustments more challenging.” He also loves that the apron has a utility loop for towels and tools and doesn’t have any hanging straps that can get caught.
2. Carhartt Firm Duck Apron
The Carhartt name is synonymous with durability and this apron is no different. The heavyweight material is 100% woven cotton duck canvas that’s machine washable.
Jordan Slocum, the beverage director at Crown Jewel in Portland, Maine, appreciates the heavy-duty material and finds it perfect for a day’s work. “The fit is incredibly comfortable, just like the Maine Tuxedo we are known for—Carhartt overalls,” Slocum says. It also has plenty of pockets of various sizes and is adjustable thanks to a drawstring closure and tie in the back.
3. Chef Works Memphis Bib Apron
A stylish denim number, this apron by Chef Works is made of 100% cotton with fully adjustable straps to fit many sizes. It features two chest pockets with inner compartments and two large front pockets as well.
“I personally selected these aprons for the bartenders,” says Sean Stapleton, the bar Manager at Houston’s The Lymbar. “Denim has a history of taking abuse, being stain resistant and wearing gracefully with more comfort. Plus, the pockets are situated in a way that we can access tools easily, whether it be a pen, bar tweezers, a wine key or a notepad.”
4. Tilit Brooklyn Apron
The general manager of cocktail bar Jane Jane in Washington, D.C., Jean Paul Sabatier, is obsessed with Tilit aprons. He loves their durability, comfort, style and function. The extra-long fit (40 inches long) provides full coverage and they are crafted from machine-washable cotton denim. Each minimalist apron features a single slanted chest pocket and an extra-large lower pocket, plus adjustable straps that allow the wearer to customize the fit.
“The company is committed to sustainability, so you can feel good about supporting a company that cares about the environment,” he adds.
5. Mercer Culinary Metro Edge Server Apron
The Mercer Culinary Metro Edge Server apron is ideal for durability, thanks to its canvas construction and fully adjustable leather straps with sturdy metal hooks and grommets.
“This apron is perfect because it has two good-sized pockets across the bottom, in addition to the pockets on the top, which are great for credit cards, pens or tweezers,” says Hailey Knight, beverage director of Charleston’s Félix Cocktails et Cuisine, who has worn this apron for four years. “The fabric is lightweight and soft, plus the straps are crisscrossed so it doesn’t weigh on your neck.”
6. Rasso Workwear Bar Apron
This handmade apron by Greek company Rasso is made from a specially processed canvas and features a fashionable leather chest pocket that can be personalized with a logo or name. It ties with detachable leather suspenders and a waistband, allowing for comfort and the best fit.
Kelly Verardo, the bar programs director for the Altamarea Group in New York City, likes the “upper tong/spoon pocket, the divided pockets for a wine key and pens, the pocket on the right for a notepad and the ring to hold a polishing rag because bartenders need more pockets than those typically found on chefs’ aprons.”
7. MentalSyndicate Waxed Canvas and Leather Apron
When Swan was searching for the perfect aprons for The Hope Farm’s farm-to-table restaurant’s bartenders, he settled on these. The handcrafted waxed canvas and leather numbers have adjustable straps for the perfect fit.
“These bar aprons from Mental Syndicate tick both of [the] boxes for us. They are pricier than most of their competitors, but well-built aprons like these will last for years,” he says. “The investment makes sense.”
8. Dutchdeluxes Suspender Style Apron
This handsome leather apron comes in three colors and features adjustable crossback suspender-style straps and two large pockets, for a more minimalist look.
“I like that this apron is a crossback—it proves to be more comfortable when working but it also has waist straps if you want to give it more form,” says Jaclyn Lerner, the design director of New York City’s Boqueria. “I also love the look of the full-grain leather. The riveted straps hold up nicely and the apron itself is treated with a dirt-repellent coating that makes cleaning it a breeze.”
9. Reluctant Trading Chef Apron
Hand-loomed in India, this high-quality apron is simple, yet functional and attractive—all at an excellent price point. It’s made from a 200-thread-count cotton canvas that’s machine washable and has two large pockets below the waist and two small pockets at the top. The neck strap is fully adjustable and the waist strap is long enough to tie in back or front.
Terence Shapcott, cocktail manager of Chicago fine dining spot Claudia says this is his go-to apron. “It has a classic elegant bib design. I enjoy the durable, but still lighter-weight, cotton canvas, and the number and size of pockets is perfect for storage.”
10. Hedley & Bennet Crossback Apron
This stalwart apron from woman-owned Los Angeles brand Hedley & Bennet was recommended by so many in the industry for its durability, style and functionality. The lifetime-guaranteed, American-made crossback style with multiple pockets has 100% cotton webbing, brass hardware and double-reinforced stitching. Plus, it’s machine washable.
“Since my early times in Los Angeles, all the best kitchens were rocking Hedley & Bennett,” says Manny Nieves, the beverage director at the Delphi Hotel in Los Angeles. “The aprons are stylish and functional. I can rock the same Hedley apron prepping out milk punch in the kitchen as well as wear it to a formal tasting with ownership and investors.”
William “Wildcat” Greenwell, the co-owner of Mister Mao in New Orleans agrees. “While the price of the Hedley & Bennet apron might be expensive, it really is worth the money,” he says. “It stands up to any spills, is super durable, and is breathable, which is important behind the bar in New Orleans.”
How Often Should You Clean an Apron?
This depends on the material and how often you use it. Since aprons may come into close contact with food, it’s a good idea to at least spot clean or wipe it down after light use. If it’s made of untreated cotton and you have some big spills, you can machine wash it after each use.
What Is the Best Material for a Bartender Apron?
There are a few typical bartending apron materials.
Cotton materials like canvas, twill or denim are common. Cotton can usually be washed in a washing machine, making it super easy to clean, but it can get worn down after repeated use.
Waxed canvas helps repel liquids, but if it does get really dirty, you can’t put it in the washing machine.
Leather looks stylish and can be comfortable, but is also can be hard to clean.
Both waxed canvas and leather are extremely durable and can get a nice patina with age. They will typically last a long time.
What Style Straps Are Best for a Bartender Apron?
Many people prefer crossback straps because it provides a more even weight distribution and won’t pull or rub on the neck. But some people favor separate neck and waist straps so that they can be individually adjusted—often providing a better fit.