The dog days of summer are the perfect time to indulge in deliciously cool cocktails. Of course, half the fun of cocktail hour is the drama and production surrounding the mixing of the drink. From creating your own Mad Men–worthy lair to creative updates for a vintage bar cart and more, there’s sure to be something in these 16 fresh ideas to spruce up your summer bar that will suit your style and inspire your next party. Cheers!
Create an authentic look for your Mad Men–inspired bar with vintage glassware. Sources like eBay, Craigslist, thrift shops and yard sales can all turn up great examples of midcentury modern glassware and bar tools, often for less than new pieces would cost.
Play up a midcentury feel with loungeworthy furniture. If you really want that Mad Men look, don’t stop with the bar. Complete the room with a swooping chaise longue or a sleek sofa, Danish teak chairs and a low credenza.
Add a creative touch with chalkboard paint. With a swipe of chalkboard paint (in classic black or any color you fancy), you can draw attention to your bar tray. For a party, you could even write the evening’s signature drink recipe directly on the wall.
Choose rattan for a fresh, summery look. Wicker, rattan and other natural materials call to mind tropical drinks and leisurely summer days. Play up the mood with an abundance of green plants and fresh herbs—perfect for adding to your favorite summery drinks.
Anchor your bar with large-scale accessories. Sometimes bottles and glasses can look a little dinky all on their own, and small accessories can get lost in a sea of same-size items. Instead, focus on adding just a few big, bold pieces that draw the eye. Try an oversize lamp, tall hurricanes, an interesting vase or a stack of big art books.
Gussy up your bar area with a portrait. Didn’t get that family heirloom painting of Uncle Ernest? No problem. It’s fun (and a great conversation starter) to hang a vintage portrait of an unknown person.
Use any surface to house a pop-up bar. If you don’t want a permanent bar setup, you can still make your own pop-up bar just for parties. Make it fun by adding unique accessories like a galvanized pail as an ice bucket, burlap wine bottle covers, and coupe-style champagne glasses for an old-fashioned look.
Incorporate the bar into the kitchen. Do your guests always end up in the kitchen? If so, take the hint and set up your bar where your guests can be right in the heart of things. Use open shelving or set a bar tray on the counter.
Scour vintage shops for a fun bargain find. Just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean you must deny yourself the joys of having your very own bar cart. Keep an eye out at yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores for vintage carts, and keep an open mind as well—a luggage rack with a tray on top, a tea cart or a rolling hospital cart can make a great bar.
Treat your thrift shop find to an easy DIY update. If that thrifted bar cart needs a little extra TLC, don’t despair. Give it a coat of fresh paint and cover damaged areas with patterned wallpaper, oilcloth or even pretty wrapping paper.
Cover the wall with pattern. If your bar cart is tucked into a forgotten corner or a tiny nook, call attention to the spot with a patterned wallpaper, textured grass cloth or beautiful textile hung from the ceiling.
No room for a full cart? Place a bar tray on a credenza or tuck it among the stacks on your bookcase for a speakeasy feel.
Take it outside. Create a quick outdoor bar by mounting a thick shelf on brackets and pulling up a few stools. Finish the area with potted plants, an outdoor lantern and artwork that can withstand the elements.
Create your own pass-through window. If your kitchen window opens onto a deck or patio, why not turn it into your own private bar? A counter and stools tucked right up to the window make it easy to pass drinks and snacks right from the kitchen.
Make a destination bar without leaving home. Have a gardening shed or other outbuilding? Deck it out with a place to perch, stock it with your favorite drink-making supplies and invite a few friends over, and you will soon forget it was you who mixed that cocktail!
Already thinking of fall? Park your bar cart in the library, and you’ll be ready for cozy sips when the first leaves come down.