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Written by Teresa Ristow

Backyard Bars: How to achieve the happy hour atmosphere at home

After a long day of work, or working from home, the summer sun beckons us outside to unwind and relax. There’s hardly a better way to end a day than with an outdoor setup that makes summer cocktails, chilled white wines and frosty beers as easy as ever to serve up for yourself or guests of honor. When picturing your outdoor happy hour hub, first decide whether to go big with a full kitchen and barbecue setup, or aim small with a standalone bar cart, party lights or fun dining table accents. Regardless of scale, adding some backyard bar décor will make an evening on the patio as lively and fun as one at your favorite Central Oregon watering hole.

photo jake moss designs (jakemossdesigns.com)
Drink Trays – Use a stylish tray to load up on drinks and snacks, cutting down trips inside for refills.

Give it a shot

Not sure how to turn your patio or backyard into a welcoming space for drinks and entertaining? Start small with a stylish drink tray and ice bucket. Drink trays with handles allow a host to bring out a pitcher or several beverages at once, to offer choices or refills to guests. The tray can also carry extra items like coasters, napkins or a charcuterie board and keep everything together in one tidy spot on the patio table. Super insulated buckets like those from Corkcicle are big enough to stash a couple bottles of wine or several beers and the ice can stay cold for as long as 48 hours.

Set The Table! Elevate happy hour drinks and dining with reusable outdoor dishes and cutlery.

Decorative details

When it comes to serving up food and drinks outside, ditch the throw-away goods and instead opt for reusable plates, cups and utensils like bamboo plates, reusable plastic wine tumblers and colorful serving bowls. Liven up the table with napkins and coasters in bright, summer-inspired colors, woven placemats using organic materials or by relocating a vibrant potted plant to the center of the table. With small touches and minimal effort, the atmosphere can be easily enlivened.

Light the night

Nightfall always seems to come by surprise, so be prepared to keep the fun going with decorative lights to keep your outdoor spaces inviting. Black Edison-style string lights can be strung along fences and walls, or through the air from the roof. Try a set of large lanterns or a trio of candles on the table to keep all areas bright. Opt for a big citronella jar candle to keep the mosquitos away from everyone without having to break out the bug spray.

Raising the bar

Ready to go all out? A full backyard bar setup could include a fridge and sink built into a permanent structure, with a roof to provide shade. Construction and design can be as elaborate as any room in the house, or a simpler structure might use corrugated metal and wood, without full plumbing and electricity. Once the structure is set, build upon the outdoor bar space with stools or chairs for sitting at the bar, a circle of patio chairs around a firepit nearby or a rattan or wicker couch and coffee table for lounging once you have a drink. Park yourself behind the bar for the night to act as host or hostess, or designate friends to trade off mixing drinks.

When it comes to creating space for entertaining outside your home, the goal is to fashion a fun and inviting atmosphere, where people enjoy themselves and hosting is easy. Happy hour at home is less expensive than ordering out, so go ahead and justify the extra touches to make your outdoor space as fun and refreshing as you want.

photo jake moss designs (jakemossdesigns.com)

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in July 2020.

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