A cooler and a case of White Claw are great and all, but if you really want to take your backyard parties to the next level (even if it’s a socially distant party of one), it’s time to upgrade to an outdoor bar. It’s an easy way to turn your lawn into a lounge area, setting a laid-back vibe that can help you transition from workday to weekend mode as quickly as you can pull out a can opener. Whether you’re more of the buy-it or DIY-it type—and if your backyard space is virtually nonexistent—we’ve got you covered. These outdoor bar ideas are just the staycation you’ve been craving.
1. Set Up a Balcony Bar
Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an outdoor bar. Powder-coated steel brackets help this narrow bar top stay secure against balcony railings, creating just the right amount of counter space to enjoy happy hour al fresco. All you have to do is choose which stain you’d like the wood to be—natural cedar or espresso brown—and pick out your ideal bar stools. (Space-saving pro tip: Opt for a folding style you can hang on the wall when the bar’s not in use.)
2. Entertain Drop-Ins with a Drop-Down Bar
When space is at a premium, you can’t go wrong with a drop-down bar. The wooden cubby can hold glassware, a shaker, booze and mixers, and when the door is pulled down, you have a handy counter for playing bartender. If you’re not into the rustic style, go semi-DIY with this bar by painting the wood and adding a little peel-and-stick wallpaper to the inside of the shelves for a flourish of personality every time you open it up.
3. Take Your Bar Cart Outdoors
Another easy option: Set up an outdoor bar cart. You can roll it out to wherever people are gathering, then roll it out of the way when you need a little more space to host your “Ja Ja Ding Dong” Eurovision sing along. Or, you know, whatever it is cool people do during cookouts.
4. Make Use of Awkward Spaces with a Folding Bar
Even an inflatable pool suddenly feels a little chicer when it’s positioned near this curved Acacia wood bar. It’s got an understated tropical vibe, and it contains six storage shelves and three bottle rack shelves, so you can go full-on mixologist with this setup. And, when it gets too cold to enjoy a drink outdoors, you can fold it up and wheel it away.
5. Entertain a Lot? Commit to a Full Bar Already
Oh, so you live in an area where it doesn’t snow? And you’re known for closing the day out with a handcrafted cocktail, which you prefer to enjoy poolside? First, we’re jealous. Second, you might as well invest in a full bar—you’d truly get your money’s worth out of it. West Elm’s Outdoor Grand Bar is made out of moisture-resistant mahogany and eucalyptus (so it won’t warp halfway through its first summer in your yard) and includes adjustable shelves, a bottle rack, bottle opener and an integrated stainless steel ice and drink bucket.
6. Build a Pallet Bar
If you prefer the satisfaction of making something yourself (and are looking to spend less than $1,600 on your bar), try building one out of wood pallets. This design, from Brit.co, is simple enough that you don’t need expert—or even intermediate—level woodworking skills to master it. But it still looks pretty damn glorious in the end.
7. Or Go All Out with a Full DIY Tiki Bar
If you’re ready for a more advanced project—paved deck, rope-covered beams and all—check out The House House’s DIY Treekee Bar. Named after the tree in their yard that inspired the design, this pallet bar will make you feel like you’re on vacation. Even if you’re a block away from the interstate.
8. Choose a Multi-Tasking Side Table
You already have your lounge area set up, and you don’t want to make your bar the focal point of your yard. We hear you. That’s where this side table comes in handy—it has a built-in cooler, so you can grab drinks as you need them. Granted, this isn’t the ideal setup for people who like to enjoy a from-scratch piña colada poolside, but if you’re down with an IPA or a can of rosé, this is all you need.
9. Roll Out with a Cooler Trolley
Consider this a bar cart that saves you from making trips indoors to the fridge. This 80-quart rattan trolley features a built-in cooler, so you can store more than 100 cans—or 50-plus bottles—at a time. The lid flips open, creating extra counter space, in case you’re mixing drinks, and one side acts as a cutting board. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a glass rack under the cooler for housing wine glasses, a bottle opener and cap-catch tray (so caps don’t wind up all over your deck) and a storage tray for holding plates and food.
10. Create a ‘Beverage Bunker’
If you dreamed of having a bookshelf that led to a hidden lair room as a kid, let us introduce you to your grown-up obsession: a Biersafe, aka an underground cooler. “It costs ZERO dollars to operate, using the ground’s thermodynamics to keep beverages chilled,” designer Jasmine Roth wrote on her blog, after installing one in a house she completed for a family in California. But that’s not all: “It can be hidden underneath a flower pot. Which is awesome.” Agreed.
11. Make the Most of a Bare Wall
You know how a lot of homes feature a window over the sink looking out onto the backyard or patio? Place this bar just under that window outside. That way, you can open the window and easily hand over drinks. Bonus: The counter extends a mere 15 ¼ inches—and the chairs tuck underneath—so it can fit in even the narrowest spaces.
12. Go Pro Level with a Concrete-Topped Bar
Let’s be real: This bar doesn’t come cheap. But it’s built to last. A concrete counter can really weather the elements—and looks great as it ages—and the base is made out of sustainably harvested acacia wood (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, BTW). Adjustable levelers on the bottom mean that it’ll keep your drink steady even if your deck’s uneven.