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How to Add an Outdoor Bar

outdoor bar - pottery barn bar

Set up an outdoor bar to make the most of the summer. Pieces like the Abbott Brown Ultimate Bar can make it super simple. Image courtesy of Pottery Barn.

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Summer is about to kick our outdoor time up a notch. And you know what that means: drinks al fresco. And yes, sure, you probably have a few bars and restaurants nearby that would happily serve you drinks on their patio — for a price. But why not shrink the expense of enjoying your beverage en plein air (and worrying about parking or a ride) by setting up your own outdoor bar? Want to seize the summer? Use this guide to set up an outdoor bar you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Find your spot

First things first, you need to pick out a place for your bar. Ideally, it should be somewhere where both sun and shade are available. That could mean adding a patio umbrella or two, or it could mean positioning your bar under a tree, awning or pergola. You want to give yourself options to keep drinks in the shade but be able to enjoy the sun’s warmth if you want it.

Then, look for level ground. Drinks spill. It’s important to have somewhere flat to set up your bar to keep things as stable as possible.

Stock your outdoor bar

Now, let’s get into the fun stuff! Setting up your outdoor bar can transform your outdoor space, give you extra room for entertaining and help you grab some extra vitamin D and fresh air during the temperate months. But you’ll only use it if it’s got what you need to quickly and easily fix yourself a drink. Here’s what you should gather for a well-stocked bar.

outdoor bar - wayfair bar cart

A simple but sturdy bar cart, like the Bucksport Bar Serving Cart, could be all you need to get your bar started. Image courtesy of Wayfair.

Serving surface

First, you’re going to need a place to put everything. You can buy a weather-resistant bar (like these options from Wayfair) if you want to really set yourself up for success, but a simple serving cart can do the trick. Ultimately, you just want somewhere you can put a few bottles and pitchers without anything toppling over.

Weather-safe storage space

That said, you do need to consider where you’ll put everything when you’re not using your outdoor bar. And, sure, you could lug it all out from inside, but you’re much more likely to use your bar on a regular basis if it’s easy. A small, weather-safe cabinet could be all you need to keep any breakables or spillable items protected when your bar isn’t in use.

Cold storage

No one wants a lukewarm beverage. Make sure you have a place where you can keep things cold and where you can grab ice. That could be a mini fridge, cooler or even just a bucket that you stock with ice when you’re using your bar. If you go with the cooler or bucket route, consider adding an ice bucket into the mix so you can easily grab clean ice when you’re making a cocktail.

outdoor bar - acrylic glass anthropologie

Stemless and in break-resistant acrylic, the Valencia Wine Glasses are perfect for outdoor use. Image courtesy of Anthropologie.

Break-resistant barware

Even if your outdoor bar is mere feet from your house, it’s still exposed to the elements. Wind can wreck even the best-laid plans, especially when glass is involved. Consider plastic or metal cups to give your barware some durability (and save yourself the hassle of trying to sweep up broken glass from uneven outdoor surfaces). Moscow mule mugs — like these ones from Crate & Barrel, which come in metal finishes well beyond the standard copper — can be a stylish and long-lasting addition to your bar.

Seating

To really make the most of your bar, you’re going to want to be able to get comfortable. Whether you add bar stools around a high-top table, Adirondack chairs or a couple of benches, adding some thoughtful seating touches can make all the difference. Outdoor pillows and a few throw blankets (Mexican blankets are ideal for their warmth and durability) can extend the hours of use for your outdoor bar well into the evening. If your outdoor bar is fairly exposed, choose a weather-safe storage space that can fit a basket of these comfort-adding touches to protect them and keep them clean.

Lighting and more

Speaking of evening enjoyment of your bar, don’t forget lighting. There are tons of solar options that prevent you from needing to have electricity at your bar. Citronella candles can add a nice ambient glow and keep pests away. You’ve got options, but don’t forget to think about how your bar will transition from day to night. Because, sure, we all love socializing during the day on a summer weekend, but the bulk of your bar’s use will probably fall later in the day.

Now that you’ve started setting the ambiance, we’ve got some more tips to help you make your outdoor bar feel like it’s set in an oasis.

outdoor bar - west elm bar

With a built-in ice compartment, the Portside Outdoor Bar Cart can make entertaining extremely easy. Image courtesy of West Elm.

Serve it up

It’s time for the fun part! You’ve put in the work to get your bar dialed in. Now, you can kick back and enjoy it. If you’re hosting friends or family, make entertaining extra easy on yourself by taking a few steps to prepare.

  • If you don’t have a fridge at your outdoor bar, get drinks on ice a couple of hours before people arrive. Even if you do, make sure you have clean ice accessible for cocktails. Pair it with a scoop or tongs for easy serving.
  • Consider making a large pitcher of a signature cocktail to minimize the amount of bartending you’ll have to do. Then, offer wine, beer and hard alcohol with staple mixers like soda water, tonic, lemons and limes and you’re all set!
  • If you have outdoor candles, set a reminder to light them on your phone to go off ten minutes before people arrive.
  • Drape blankets over your seating so people know they’re free to use.

Then, kick back and enjoy! One of the best things about an outdoor bar is how easy it makes hosting — and cleanup. Someone makes a mess? No worries. You can just hose everything dn later.

Cheers to the summer!


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