Last week, we shared how to step up your summer libation game by growing a cocktail herb garden. Now, let’s turn to keeping your guests in good spirits. A well-stocked outdoor bar is key especially if that entails a small, social distanced gathering in the backyard of your Saratoga, Campbell, or Los Altos home.
If you have a large outdoor space, you may be able to design an incredible, permanent wet bar area but even cozier yards can fit a rolling bar cart, one that can be moved inside, repurposed or stored away when you are not entertaining.
Essential Outdoor Bar Tools
Every good mixologist needs the proper tools. This list covers the basic bar essentials you should have on hand to create just about any cocktail or drink desired.
- Ice bucket and tongs
- Shaker and strainer
- Bottle opener
- Bar towel
Other handy items include trash and recycling receptacles, napkins, toothpicks and a larger container for chilling beer, wine, champagne, juices, waters, tonics, mixers and/or sodas as needed. Be sure to offer a variety of options for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages. An herb-infused ice tea or lemonade is always light and refreshing.
There is appropriate glassware for every drink but, if your space is limited, there is nothing wrong with getting creative with your cocktails AND their containers. Mix and match colors, styles, and sizes. Or, stick with one classic style, especially if you’ve chosen to serve a signature cocktail.
Basic drink ware includes:
- White wine glasses
- Red wine glasses
- Beer mugs or steins
- Highball glasses
- Old fashioned glasses
- Champagne flutes
- Martini glasses
Spirits to Stock in Your Outdoor Bar
The classic spirits are incredibly versatile and are used to create a whole host of delicious liquid libations. Be sure to have these four basics available:
If you have any infused spirits you may have created from the bounty of your herb garden, they are most certainly worthy of a place on your bar cart. For those with more space or who want to offer more variety, add in bourbon, whiskey, scotch and vermouth. Bitters are also important for a number of cocktails.
These classic cocktails never go out of style:
- Vodka: Cosmo, Lemon Drop, Bloody Mary, Vodka & Tonic, Martini
- Gin: Gin & Tonic, Martini, Tom Collins
- Tequila: Margarita, Bloody Maria, Tequila Mojito
- Rum: Mojito, Daiquiri, Dark & Stormy
- Scotch: Scotch & Soda, Rob Roy, Old Fashioned
- Whiskey: Whiskey Cola, Whiskey Ginger, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour
- Bourbon: Manhattan, Bourbon Fizz, Old Fashioned
- Vermouth: Martini, Rob Roy, Manhattan
Simple syrups (made with herbs from your cocktail garden), tonics, soda water, juices, nectars and other mixers elevate your cocktail experience. Try to keep it simple, maybe offering a few that will pare well with the food on hand or are tried and true favorites.
Here is where your lovely herbs will shine! Have a variety of sprigs on hand to muddle in drinks or add as garnishes. These decorative ornamentation complement and enhance the flavors in a drink by stimulating the senses. Other popular garnishes will be the perfect finish to your cocktail creation.
- Fresh herbs and botanicals
- Lemon and lime (slices, wedges, or twists)
- Cocktail onions
- Sugar cubes
Whether enjoying an evening cocktail alone or with a select few guests, the first place to begin in a well-appointed outdoor bar or bar cart.
Cheers, Salude, Cin cin, Santé, to summer in Silicon Valley.