I thought of a few summer, cost-effective tips I have for hosting friends and family at your house for dinner + drinks. Here are some simple tricks that can add to a lovely evening:
Signature cocktail. I like to have a pitcher of iced tea, a carafe of water, and a signature cocktail poured and ready to go on a bar cart or tray, so guests don't have to feel awkward asking for drink options when they arrive. Better yet, they won't need to go rummaging through your refrigerator. See this previous post for my signature cocktail of choice this summer, the Moscow Mule.
Skip the appetizers. For a smaller gathering, I don't always feel like spending the money on a bunch of appetizers and filling everyone up before dinner. It's nice though to give guests something small to munch on while you get things prepared. My new go-to is a bowl of rainier cherries. They always seem to be a favorite in the summer, since they are seasonal and not everyone buys them for their house. My husband is not a big cherry guy, but I found him devouring a bowl recently saying, "wow these are amazing." Put a few bowls out, on a coffee table or serving tray along with a bowl of mixed nuts and after-dinner mints, and you won't miss the appetizers. Make sure you have cocktail napkins nearby for easy disposal of cherry pits. Or you can also pit them yourself beforehand, especially if kids are going to be around, with this tool that I have and love.
Dinner drink change-up. After guests have enjoyed a signature cocktail, I like to offer something else when we sit down to eat. I typically have the usual wine, beer, and lemonade on hand, but my husband has introduced me to his own twist on a delicious summer drink…Sangria. I have to say he is a master Sangria-maker, so he has allowed me to include his recipe below for all to enjoy. It looks super summery and festive, and you can make it quickly and easily by the glass or pitcher. I'm pretty confident it will be a hit at your next gathering!
Dessert. Being a dessert lover I can never skip it, especially when I am hosting. It can be a bit of a downer, though, when you prepare or buy a decadent dessert, and everyone passes on it. Instead of a heavy dessert in the summer, I offer something lighter like a bowl of sorbet or ice cream (regular and dairy-free options like this, for people who can't tolerate dairy, like myself). Dress it up with some berries, chocolate syrup, or coconut flakes and people won't be able to say no. Also, if there are kids around, they will enjoy a little without getting a major tummy ache!
Coffee + Tea. Have a pot of coffee brewed in advance for those who love a little decaf with dessert. Or for your non-dessert takers, offer some tea instead. Fill a mason jar full of different tea bags and pass it around. I personally enjoy a nice cup of tea on a summer evening, so when I am entertaining I use a few labeled mason jars, one for caffeinated black teas, one for green and detox teas, and one for caffeine-free and calming teas. I place them on the table after dinner and let my guests choose.
Decor. Don't want to spend money on flowers but want the house and tablescape to look fresh and nice? I'm all about foraging. It's free, unique, and awesome. Forage for some beautiful greens in your yard. I love using my magnolia tree branches, and sprigs of fern from my front planters. Arrange them in little julep votives or smaller vases so guests can see one another when seated at the table. For a fancier occasion, cut them up and incorporate them into the place setting for a nice touch.
Here is my husband's superb Sangria recipe (serving size is per glass) :
- fill half of the glass with red or white wine (Postulate chardonnay or merlot boxed wine has become a favorite, available at Trader Joe's. 1 box= 2 bottles of wine, it's super cheap, convenient size for storing, it doesn't go bad, and it's delicious)
- 1/4 cup - 1/3 cup of plain sparkling water
- few ice cubes
- squeeze a wedge of lime juice into glass
- squeeze a wedge of lemon juice into glass
- add a fresh wedge of lime and lemon
- add a couple of frozen raspberries and strawberries
- top off with a fresh blackberry
- sip and enjoy, and refill of course!