Context. The Public European Southern Observatory Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO) began as a public spectroscopic survey in April 2012. PESSTO classifies transients from publicly available sources and wide-field surveys, and selects science targets for detailed spectroscopic and photometric follow-up. PESSTO runs for nine months of the year, January - April and August - December inclusive, and typically has allocations of 10 nights per month. Aims. We describe the data reduction strategy and data products that are publicly available through the ESO archive as the Spectroscopic Survey data release 1 (SSDR1). Methods. PESSTO uses the New Technology Telescope with the instruments EFOSC2 and SOFI to provide optical and NIR spectroscopy and imaging. We target supernovae and optical transients brighter than 20.5(m) for classification. Science targets are selected for follow-up based on the PESSTO science goal of extending knowledge of the extremes of the supernova population. We use standard EFOSC2 set-ups providing spectra with resolutions of 13-18 angstrom between 3345-9995 angstrom. A subset of the brighter science targets are selected for SOFI spectroscopy with the blue and red grisms (0.935-2.53 mu m and resolutions 23-33 angstrom) and imaging with broadband JHK(s) filters. Results. This first data release (SSDR1) contains flux calibrated spectra from the first year (April 2012-2013). A total of 221 confirmed supernovae were classified, and we released calibrated optical spectra and classifications publicly within 24 h of the data being taken (via WISeREP). The data in SSDR1 replace those released spectra. They have more reliable and quantifiable flux calibrations, correction for telluric absorption, and are made available in standard ESO Phase 3 formats. We estimate the absolute accuracy of the flux calibrations for EFOSC2 across the whole survey in SSDR1 to be typically similar to 15%, although a number of spectra will have less reliable absolute flux calibration because of weather and slit losses. Acquisition images for each spectrum are available which, in principle, can allow the user to refine the absolute flux calibration. The standard NIR reduction process does not produce high accuracy absolute spectrophotometry but synthetic photometry with accompanying JHKs imaging can improve this. Whenever possible, reduced SOFI images are provided to allow this. Conclusions. Future data releases will focus on improving the automated flux calibration of the data products. The rapid turnaround between discovery and classification and access to reliable pipeline processed data products has allowed early science papers in the first few months of the survey.