Summer is prime time for entertaining – the perfect part of the year to get together with family and friends and enjoy a little warm weather and sunshine. Accessories for a backyard gathering range from a cooler and a grill next to a picnic table all the way to complete, elaborate outdoor kitchens and everywhere in between. But while a big cooler full of beer and ice will suffice, it’s also much easier than you might think to dress up your deck and really start entertaining with an outdoor bar.
As with any type of outdoor furniture, outdoor bars can (and should) be vastly different based on the climate you live in and how and how often you entertain. That said, at its most basic, an outdoor bar should have space to store drinks or mixers, a flat surface to serve them on, and preferably somewhere to store your glasses and any other hardware you need to throw a party properly. Even a fairly basic set up like the one above creates not only a very polished look, but an organized workspace and a simple and easy way to serve drinks.
The size of the outdoor bar you want will vary based on how much equipment you have to store and how many people you’ll be serving at once. This bar is only slightly longer than the straight rectangular one above, but the curved shape allows for more seating, and (I think) offers a more polished appearance. The simple footrest and extended counter make the setup a little more comfortable for your guests, while also affording a flat work surface that’s separate from the main bartop.
For a more elaborate spread, consider integrating a bar into a larger outdoor kitchen design. A simple replacement for more conventional outdoor seating, installing a bar and bar stools can help separate an outdoor kitchen from the rest of your outdoor space while also creating a more intimate atmosphere. With bar seating directly facing the outdoor kitchen, it’s easy to visit with a small group of friends while you’re preparing food or drinks. This is also a great setup for those who host larger parties, as it makes it a no-brainer to play bartender to a large crowd.
For a more casual poolside setting, though, you might not want a formal outdoor bar at all. Even so, there are still better options than the conventional big red cooler, and certainly better looking ones. For your next party, stash the bulk of your drinks in a larger cooler, but serve them in a decorative ice bucket or beverage tub. I particularly like this one from Zuo Modern, which has a metal-lined bannister for ice and drinks, and a small shelf for garnishes (or just in case).
It’s important to remember that outdoor bars aren’t the same as indoor bar buffets. While the designs bear more than a passing resemblance, ones destined to live indoors are usually made of wood or metal. Outdoor bars are designed with the elements in mind, often made of coated aluminum, synthetic resin, and glass, and can typically be left outside year round in most climates. That said, if you aren’t comfortable leaving it out year round and don’t have space to store it – or simply don’t have space for a full bar and additional seating – it’s worth considering opting for a simple bistro table and bar stools. These can seat up to four for drinks or two for a meal, and give some of that swanky bar appeal while taking up much less space than a traditional patio dining set.
What has you considering an outdoor bar? Are you looking to build a permanent space, or just a way to dress up your drinks when serving the occasional guest?