Hot Haute Parties
By Gretta Monahan
Whether or not you had the day off on July Fourth this week, there’s no denying one thing: Grilling season—and casual party season—is just getting started. Heck, we’ve got at least two solid months of outdoor revelry ahead of us. So starting with this weekend (or whenever your next day off is… ) let’s extend the spirit of Independence Day with some easygoing, chic and creative outdoor entertaining. Fire up the grill and get this party started!
The best thing about such informal shindigs is that they can easily be announced last-minute, and no one expects them to be perfect—which actually makes for more fun. So because of that, it’s far more important to throw out some unusual touches that are less concerned with impressing your friends than simply making them laugh and smile. Here are a few no-fail ideas for doing that….
Drinks: This is, pretty obviously, the magic element to almost any party. But in the summer, you don’t have to take it seriously (i.e., guests can check their wine snobbery at the patio door). As everyone arrives, just make sure to hand them a glass of something immediately. Besides the usual suspects beer and wine, the easiest way to do that is to pour from a pitcher of premade punch (my newest favorite combo is grapefruit juice, tequila, and seltzer water, garnished with orange slices).
Lighting: It’s key to setting the mood, but the fantastic thing about outdoor parties is that there’s not much to do. During the day, just make sure there’s some shade— for the food to sit under, and for guests who want to stay out of the sun. At night, it’s all about the candlelight. It’s soft glow is universally flattering, and inexpensive. Extra bonus points if you’re smart enough to get citronella candles that keep the mosquitoes as bay, too.
Music: The one thing you actually have to plan in advance: a playlist. All of that is if you want full control over the tunes. (If not, there’s always Spotify.) Make sure the music isn’t so loud that it drowns out conversation, but is loud enough to keep the energy up.
The food: Focus a menu on more than just burgers and dogs. Make it an all-seafood menu (clams and tuna skewers are just as much of a cinch to throw on the grill as beef), for example. Or hone in on an international cuisine. One friend of mine just offered a spread at her pool party of modern Middle Eastern-influenced grilled delicacies—chile-spiced beef and tomato kebabs, Moroccan swordfish, avocado fatoush salad, among others—and it was a delicious departure from the usual.
Unexpected, interactive entertainment: One friend of mine just threw a cocktail patio party with two hired caricaturists circulating, sketching the guests quickly— they all loved it, had a blast taking turns mugging for the artists, and then took the works home to remember the party. Another pal had a dunk tank—not for everyone, but on a sweltering summer day, it provided way more fun than your average pool party.