Our affinity for cocktails is an interest we explored quite readily through 2020. This year, we get to hone our cocktail hour technique by sharing our new-found knowledge with friends—a pleasure that endures since we’ve all learned a few tricks about keeping things casual and living happily in the moment. It’s time to bring in some color, strike up the playlist, and party like it’s 2021. A laid-back celebration dedicated to the art of the mixed drink is just about the best place to get started. Here’s how we do it.
1. Keep It Colorful
Enough of the blues and greys of the cold-weather months! Color spells summertime. Whether you bring it in with multi-hued outdoor glassware, fresh flowers in every nook, or the festive glow of candlelight in the evening, adding a splash of sunny shades and glimmering light is one of the best ways to make your party feel like a celebration. We like to have at least one special, festive thing in terms of outdoor decor. Maybe it’s these gorgeous highball glasses suited to al fresco drinking. (Yes, you can throw them in the dishwasher!), or a stack of melamine appetizer plates next to the cheese board. Mix one of those good pieces in with some stuff from the dollar store, and you’ve got an icebreaker for guests: “How cute is this?!”
2. Consider the Bar Cart
Why not take the bar cart outside? If the weather is fair and it’s not going to roll down a hill, you could make it look plenty festive on the lawn with some votive or electric candles. Most of our carts are made with pretty durable material. For a bigger party, it’s wise to have a variety of drinks corners for folks; there will be conversation clusters around them.
3. Tunes and Snacks
Passed appetizers and canapes are for buttoned-up celebrations. Summertime is for sandals and shared plates. An amply stocked appetizer board is your easiest ticket to hands-off entertaining. Assemble a few boards in advance, then arrange them in strategic locations to encourage conversation—a coffee table flanked with comfy chairs or a table next to the bar. We’ve got absolutely killer assortments of charcuterie or cheese. You can also make your own simple themed tapas or appetizer board. Or hit the grocery store; shrimp cocktail rings are sold everywhere for a reason. And do have tunes! Check out this cocktail party playlist on Spotify.
4. The Drinks
With drinks, wherever possible, make it a largely hands-off experience. Big batch cocktails set the tone for a casual shindig everyone can enjoy. Think: watermelon tequila punch freely flowing from our watermelon tap kit. A big punch with a giant ice ring, ready for a crowd. Everything else can be DIY. Wine and beer in a well-packed cooler. Seltzer, pre-sliced garnishes like lemon and lime wheels, candied ginger, lemon zest spirals, and really good cherries. We’re gaga for summer drinks generally, but here are a few favorites we can’t get enough of right now.
If it’s hot, there must be punch, and carrot-ginger tequila punch delivers a cooling sense of virtuousness we love. Carrots are in season all summer long, and when four cups of its juice are the base of a punch, well… it sure doesn’t feel like a cocktail so much as something you need. So break out your juicer, because you’ll also need lime and orange juices, plus two tablespoons of freshly grated peeled ginger for this slightly spicy, eye-opening concoction.
If you want to go full-blown tapas theme, be our guests. Be sure there’s plenty of sangria if you do. Our rosé sangria with citrus and raspberries can adapt to your favorite summer fruits, whether that’s a juicy peach or nectarine or something else in-season near you. (Most varieties of rosé are enormously flexible with summer fruits.)
Agua fresca! Agua fresca! Be kind to the non-boozers at your party and have at least one exciting n/a option for them. This watermelon agua fresca more than delivers, but we have seven recipes from which to choose. Some of them even incorporate booze, so you can take it or leave it depending on your crowd.
Mix the base of this fruity margarita in advance, then leave it in iced down carafes next to the blender on your bar cart or patio table. Instant DIY margarita bar! Make it even easier by adding some purchased mixers to the margarita station. Go for the classic lime and agave, or bend the perimeters of what was once recognized as a margarita with flavors like watermelon, mango and pineapple. Or, don’t confuse your guests with choices and go instead for the perfect summertime combo of fruity mixer with flavored rimming salt. Try mango with red chile salt or strawberry-watermelon with lime salt.
Hope to have a solid crew to start things off right as the party gets going? Tell folks the first four guests get a special pineapple-basil freeze, after which you’re putting away the darn blender! It’s a way to be sure the doorbell is ringing at 5 on the nose.