A summer garden party takes planning - and we’re not just talking about who to invite and what to wear.
A truly successful summer soiree focuses on creating a mood. A mood to make sure guests feel relaxed, at ease and that your event is the talk of the season. A key consideration - and one that we’d argue to be the defining factor of any successful garden party - is what to serve your guests to drink.
Below we highlight five failsafe ways to ensure that your drinks are talked about for months to come, and for all the right reasons.
Too often the party host is far too preoccupied with making sure that guests are satisfied; that their glasses are constantly topped up and that any specific tastes catered for.
Rule number one of any drinks party is to make sure that you can also enjoy it.
The easiest way to do this is with a little pre-party preparation and clever shortcuts. Large batch cocktails are any drinks-party host’s best friend. Most can be made well in advance, with finishing touches added moments before guests arrive.
Try a Watermelon Rose Sangria - made with rosé wine, vodka, orange liqueur, orange juice and served with ice, strawberries, watermelon chunks, orange wheels and lime wedges in a large glass pitcher ready for pouring.
Alternatively, for an easier option still, let the experts do the hard work and purchase pre-mixed bottled cocktails to simply pour into glass drinks dispensers for guests to help themselves. Looks good, tastes great. We recommend Mac and Wild’s Bonnie Brae - a summer whisky spritz.
Keeping with the theme of simple, easy, stress-free hosting, we love the idea of a “serve yourself gin bar”. This can be the party centrepiece too - perhaps displayed on a bar cart, or neatly laid out on a side table with bowls full of potential gin ‘trimmings’.
The self-serve option gives your guests the ability to make a gin-based drink just as they like it, as well as being a fun, talking point and providing entertainment. Plus, itt couldn’t be easier to do.
Buy in various different mixers (Fever-Tree do a few different bottle sizes) including Tonics, Soda Water and Ginger Ale plus something more out there such as Double Dutch’s Pomegranate and Basil soft drink. Place some of these on display and keep the others nearby to easily replenish.
Choose a few different gins too, with different flavour profiles to encourage sociable experimentation. As well as traditional juniper-led gins such as Sipsmith’s London Dry Gin and Portobello Road No.171, we’d also include the excellent Rhubarb Gin from Warner Edwards - a great alternative to straight up gin and mixes superbly with Fever-Tree ginger ale.
As for the garnishes, freeze a load of lime and lemon wedges, grapefruit slices and orange peels a day before and then pop these out for guests to help themselves, simply replenishing from the freezer once they’ve ran out.
Be sure to have a communal ice bucket too and this way, rather than worrying about the emptiness of all of your guests' glasses, you only need eyes on one area to top up when stock is looking low.
THE RIGHT WINE
When it comes to wines, we’d again argue to keep it simple.
Fewer people opt for red wine when it’s warm, and if cocktails are on offer fewer still will opt for wine at all. That said, if it’s an early start, a glass of something with a lower ABV is often the drink of choice.
We recommend serving a set of complementary wines. The range from Maison Williams Chase are beautifully bottled and look pretty side by side with whites perhaps showcased in a chic Wine Cooler.
If you just serve one wine, rosé makes an excellent summer party drink and we think that a sparkling option is just the thing to welcome guests with and to enjoy as an aperitif. Chase sparkling rosé is the ultimate choice; fluffy bubbles and notes of strawberry cheesecake make it a summer favourite and real crowd-pleaser.
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
Be sure to serve something a little bit interesting and unique, but don’t bring it out until there is a slight lull...
There are so many talented craft distillers at the moment and it’s a lot more fun to enjoy and discover a new drink with friends. Do a little research on new releases and potential options that you think your guests will love. Perhaps a bottle of 100% agave tequila (strictly for sipping, not shotting) or 808 whisky which is a much lighter, entry-level alternative to smokey single malts which might not be to everyone’s tastes.
The craft rum category is also seeing real growth with people rediscovering the summer holiday favourite The Cuba Libre - or to you and I, rum and coke with a hefty wedge of lime. Try it with The Duppy Share or Scottish newcomer Dark Matter. If you’d like, and again doubling up as an entertainment option, purchase a few new releases and have guests guess what they might be.
FOR THE NON-DRINKERS
Finally, don’t forget about those guests who might not be drinking. Designated drivers, pregnant friends or tee-total invitees deserve something better than a mixer minus its alcoholic counterpart.
Seedlip is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic drink and made in a similar manner to gin with botanicals. Non-drinkers can mix with tonic or lime and soda to join the theatrics of the gin bar or if there are only a few attendees, mix them up mock martinis. So much better than another glass of sparkling water and again, cuts down on your hosting duties if they’re able to help themselves alongside those who are drinking.
So whilst on paper a summer party might seem like the ideal occasion for buying in a selection of red and white wines and to test your hand at mixing up margaritas for everyone (including paper umbrellas), we’d suggest that with a little preparation that you too can actually enjoy the party - not just your guests.