Hamburgers and hot dogs can send shivers down the spine of any fashionista. But celebrity party planner Colin Cowie says that outdoor entertaining can be posh and painless with just a few simple steps.
The key, Cowie says, "is treating the outdoors like the indoors." Think of your property as a room. The grass is the floor. The trees and flowers are the wallpaper.
Survey The Grounds
Walk around the backyard. Are there areas of the grass that didn't get enough water? Did you forget to plant flowers in the back corner? Lay out the space strategically. After setting up three separate areas -- one for serving, one for dining and one for lounging -- look around. Enhance areas that feel sparse with wood or ceramic planters overflowing with impatiens or azaleas. Still feel like there's not enough color? Take a trip to Target or Home Goods and buy extra-large colorful pillows to throw on the grass. A casual group will be happy to find extra seating on the ground. Added bonus: bright patterns will look great in the photos!
Divide And Conquer
"Take a basic menu from drab to fab by creating stations," Cowie recommends. Start with a gazpacho bar that features bowls of toppings like chopped tomato, cucumber, onion and bell pepper. "For the hot dog bar, select at least four or five types of specialty sausages. At the hamburger bar, include interesting sides like caramelized onions." Extra lawn space? Add a salad station. Small bowls of different vegetables will make your health-conscious guests grateful. Just avoid mayo-drenched salads. If it's a hot day, they won't stay.
Keep Glasses Full
No extra money for a bartender? Not a problem. "Set yourself up for success by serving drinks in large chilled beverage servers, which hold up to 30 servings each," advises Cowie. Steer clear of extra soda that will never be consumed. Instead choose one or two signature cocktails, lemongrass iced tea, lemonade and a few kinds of soda. Always have extra bottles of juice, vodka and gin on hand for the no-nonsense drinkers. "Fill a zinc tub with a wide selection of microbrew beers," Cowie adds. "And make sure to set out garnishes like lemon, lime, orange, jalapeno, ginger and lemongrass."
Rise To The Occasion
Dining outdoors doesn't have to mean a polo and pleated shorts. "Though black and white can conjure up images of formality, you can have fun with the combo outdoors by embracing a fun or whimsical print," Cowie says. Placing tons of hurricane candles on a mirrored surface "will also add a big dose of glamour." But the ultimate way to make the party memorable is asking guests to arrive dressed in black and white to match the theme. Whether sleek, sexy or sophisticated, the outfits will blend beautifully.
Not sure how to create a signature cocktail? Alex Straus, a mixologist for Akvinta USA, shares three of his favorites.
7 red grapes muddled
1.5 oz dry white chardonnay
.75 oz lemon juice
2 large bar spoons of sugar
1.5 oz Akvinta vodka
Put all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Pour into a Collins glass and serve.
2 oz Akvinta vodka
2 oz Rioja red wine
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz brandy
.5 oz orange liqueur
Mix all ingredients with ice and garnish with a sliced orange and lemon wheels.
2 oz. Akvinta vodka
1 oz. orange juice
.75 oz. ginger liqueur
.5 oz. lemon
Shake with ice and double strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger and enjoy!