Summer Entertaining: Cocktail Hour on the Porch


We asked some team members to share how they pull off summer entertaining with panache instead of panic. Jennifer shared her tips for hosting a last-minute dinner party. Now, it’s Elizabeth’s turn. A Content Administrator by day and a budding hostess by night, she’s got a collection of tiny umbrellas and highball glasses that would shame your grandma.  When the temperatures climb and the fireflies twinkle, I can’t resist the siren call of the back-porch cocktail hour. Mixology is having its day in the sun, and my Pimm’s cup runneth over with possibilites. Here are sure-fire ways to use the bounty of summer to make a great drink and have your place be the place to be for happy hour.

Fresh herbs add unique flavor to drinks. I love smashing basil into a glass with sugar and topping with bourbon and lemon for a tasty twist on the traditional Mint Julep. Try tarragon, verbena, lemon balm, oregano (yes), parsley (yes!) and of course mint, muddled with your favorite liquor or just accenting the glass. Let fruit be your base for sweet-tart improvements on traditionally syrupy sips.  Smash seasonal melons, berries, and cherries in whatever combo you like. Mangoes, pineapple and guava are natural picks for sweeter spirits like rum and tequila.

For mixing, I like to provide lots of sparkling water for people to add to cocktails and wine. A little shimmering dilution helps the heat of the summer. Try coconut milk (or coconut water opens in a new tab!) for tropical flair. Don’t forget your blender — drinkable ice is your friend.

Sparkling wine cocktails are a good way to stretch your bottle and introduce new flavors. Try this Wine Tea Punch with Summer Fruit opens in a new tab. And our Top Ten Wines of Summer opens in a new tab taste great and are all under $15, so they won’t put a crimp in your vacation budget.Beer lovers: Pick up some crispy IPA’s, light pilsners or summery white beers and garnish with citrus. Going south of the border? Try a squeeze of lime and just a dash of salt (and cayenne!) for a tasty michelada.

Be sure to provide plenty of stylish booze-free options for designated drivers and those seeking refreshment without the buzz. I like to serve a variety of juices, old-school sodas, and a big, beautiful glass vase of water garnished with cucumber slices. You could also put out some Honeydew Green Tea opens in a new tab or Strawberry-Lemon Soda opens in a new tab.

Don’t forget to nibble! Light snacks opens in a new tab like dips, spreads, veggies and cut fruit are refreshing options for hotter temps. Music! Set a dreamy samba feel with Diana Krall’s Quiet Nights opens in a new tab, or go nostalgic with Hall and Oates (yes, I said it).

Get that sailing club vibe with the Beach Boys, or swing romantic-o with the Vicki Christina Barcelona soundtrack opens in a new tab. Have fun with lighting – chili pepper lights and thrift store lanterns can add glowing charm to your gathering. Turn cocktail hour into movie hour! If you’ve got (major, lottery-winning) bucks to blow, I love this backyard projector kit opens in a new tab. Add a few seats, wait for dark, and let the magic unfold. How do you celebrate summer’s finest hour?

Explore More