Take it Outside: How to Set Up A Chic Outdoor Bar

Here's how to create the perfect outdoor design for your space

Whether you have a small postage-sized patio, expansive deck, or rolling lawn, setting up a stylish outdoor bar is easier than you think. First, take a good look at your space. Pick a spot that is covered by a big tree or in a corner under an awning or trellis. You can also pick up an inexpensive outdoor canopy from a home improvement store to give you and your guests cover from the sun and summer rain.

Bars come in all shapes and sizes. Choose a lighter, rolling cart if it needs to be put away between gatherings. (We’re loving brightly colored retro bar carts.) Or go with a larger more permanent fixture if it’s protected. Checkout big box stores like Costco or BJ’s for stand-alone pieces, which are inexpensive and easy to transport. Seating is key, and can range from fun folding chairs to teak or wicker outdoor chairs and loveseats. Pillows and cushions add a pop of color and also double as extra seating when you have unexpected guests. Lanterns and twinkle lights strung in trees, across patio banisters, and overhead on a canopy or trellis all set the night aglow.

Stocking the Bar:
Buckets, galvanized or plastic, are great filled with ice for soft drinks, wine, and beer. Keep spirits to the basics- vodka, rum, tequila, and gin. Stock a variety of mixers, seltzer, and juices that will keep. Topical fruit nectars like mango, passionfruit, and guava, mixed with a spirit and topped with seltzer, can be an instant hit. Trying mixing abig signature cocktail , set it out in a dispenser and it becomes a self-serve bar. This allows you to mixone big cocktail instead of many so you can mingle and enjoy the party. I’ve included a few of my summer favorites below. The more colorful, the better.

Be sure to have plenty of glasses (good quality plastic) on hand, stock up on bargains from stores like Homegoods and Target. Mix and match for an eclectic look, and have some bowls and small platters on hand as well for snacks and lite bites. Other bar essentials include: ice bucket and tongs, cocktail shaker, fun napkins, bottle openers, and bar towels. Don’t forget a trash receptacle, recycling bin, and bug spray.

Music is a must so don’t forget to create your perfect playlist.

Most importantly, mix a cocktail, chill and enjoy.

Adapted from It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere by Colleen Mullaney, Sixth & Spring publishers.

Serves 8
16 oz. dark rum
12 oz. Apricot brandy
8 oz. Passionfruit juice
8oz. Orange juice
8 oz. Pineapple juice
2 oz. Grenadine
Maraschino cherries and pineapple slices for garnish, if desired 

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or drinks dispenser filled with ice. Serve.

Nantucket Lemonade
Adapted from Punch by Colleen Mullaney, Chronicle publishers.

Serves 12
5 cups lemonade
2 cups cranberry juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 cups vodka
2 cups chilled ginger-ale
Frozen cranberries and lemon wheels for garnish if desired 

Combine lemonade, cranberry juice, lime juice, and vodka in an ice filled drinks dispenser or large pitcher. Just before serving pour in the ginger ale. Garnish with cranberries and lemon wheels if desired, and serve.

Need some design inspiration? These picks will motivate you to start staging your perfect outdoor space.

Palmetto All-Weather Wicker Bar Console, $299 at PotteryBarn.com

Threshold Conservatory 10’ x 10’ Gazebo, $499 at Target.com

9’ Aluminum Patio Umbrella, $93.99 at Target.com

Malta Lantern, $27-$199 at PotteryBarn.com

Assorted Jonathan Adler Melamine Plates, Bowls and Glasses, $9-$48 at JonathanAdler.com

Acrylic Cocktail Swizzle Sticks, $12.95 at Pier1.com

Assorted Outdoor Pillows, $17-$25 at Pier1.com

Threshold 2-Piece Outdoor Decorative Pillow Set, $29.98 at Target.com

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