Raise the Bar

Why go out for cocktails? Set up service on Saturday afternoon  and play bartender Saturday night. With these ideas, friends might even leave you a tip.
Produced by Lacey N. Howard

Convert a potting bench into a chic drink stand with just a few coats of paint, some tin, a galvanized bucket, and casters. Dedicate a few hours to this project and you'll soon be hosting friends at a surfside cocktail party.

  • Be merry. Paint your bar a bright, sea-inspired hue. Corrugated tin forms a backsplash, simulating nearby waves while reflecting the afternoon sun.
  • Make it versatile. On top, an opening accommodates a bucket-turned-cooler. A hook keeps towels handy. Casters roll the party from pool deck to porch.
  • Play dress-up. Add design elements to make your bar one-of-a-kind. A skirt made from outdoor upholstery fabric boasts shipshape grommets and hangs from expandable café rods, concealing storage space. To add to the coastal look, choose chrome and galvanized finishes for bowls, bar stools, curtain rods, buckets, and hooks.
  • Have fun. Festive glassware and kitschy trimmings―napkins with comical verses or colorful designs, fish-topped swizzle sticks, and all-important drink umbrellas―keep the mood light.

Tools of the Trade
Senior Editor Julia Rutland shares her bar essentials.

Glassware: old-fashioneds, highballs, martinis, and wineglasses. Margarita and pint glasses are optional. For margaritas, just use old-fashioneds, Julia says. And most people drink beer right out of the bottle. If safety is a concern, she suggests using plastic versions for the beach and poolside.

Accoutrements: wine opener, bottle opener, citrus juicer, long-handled spoon for muddling and stirring, cutting board, knife, cocktail shaker, ice bucket and tongs, jigger, and a book of concoctions. Bartenders are only as good as their tools, Julia says. And the most important tools are good recipes.

Mixers and Garnishes: ginger ale, sparkling water, vermouth, superfine sugar, salt, cranberry juice, grenadine, Tabasco, bitters, Worcestershire sauce, olives, cocktail onions, cherries, mint, lemons, and limes