It all starts with a captivating cocktail.
Midsummer evenings lend themselves to a dreaminess that’s enhanced by the joy of an al fresco party. While outdoor entertaining can be as simple as hanging up a few strands of lights and throwing on a random playlist, a bit of planning will ensure your event is ultra stylish and actually fun for you, too (nobody wants to break out into a panic sweat minutes before guests arrive).
For tips on hosting a relaxed gathering with an undeniable wow factor, we turned to Brenna Gilbert, founder and CEO of modern party planning company Feste. Read on for Gilbert’s advice, plus details on tasty custom cocktails from Diplomático’s Rum that’ll tie it all together.
1. Serve signature, summery cocktails
The secret to hosting a distinctive get together is paying attention to the details. A specialty drink created with a high quality base will undoubtedly elevate a gathering from your typical pool party to an affair to remember. One of our favorites—a watermelon negroni—takes just a few minutes to prepare, but tastes luxurious. This twist on the classic cocktail features Diplomático Mantuano rum, a consciously distilled, versatile spirit made with locally sourced ingredients, that takes the tipple up a few notches. Thanks to its notes of dried plum and vanilla, it pairs perfectly with any apertif, but also balances out punches and sweeter tiki drinks, if that’s the vibe you’re going for. Garnish with a watermelon ball for a photogenic touch.
For another addition to your bar cart, serve a Diplomático Derby Cocktail. It comes together with just three ingredients, including honey, grapefruit juice, and Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva’s dark aged rum, which adds body to this simple, yet deceptively complex-tasting beverage.
Add ingredients into an ice filled shaker and shake together to combine/chill. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.
You don’t have to stick to your plastic cups and disposable linens. Instead, take your vintage lowballs out of hiding to serve your negronis, “and don’t be afraid to drag those china plates to your backyard picnic,” Gilbert says. Sure, this will make cleanup a bit more of a pain, but it’ll also elevate your gathering.
3. Remember that lighting is everything
It’s the same rule that applies to indoor dinner parties. Once the sun goes down, don’t underestimate the power of candles. “Consider large displays of dripping candelabras or an assortment of mixed tapers at your cookout.” Or, opt for small tealight candles on the table, “and rely on a nearby firepit to give loud, crackling Patagonian vibes,” Gilbert advises.
4. Scare off bugs (not guests)
Nothing disrupts outdoor dining like mosquitos, but Gilbert has an eco-friendly fix for that. “I like to use fragrant herbs on the table to scare them away,” she shares. “Nobody likes the smell of citronella, but people love the smell of lavender, basil, and rosemary. Try mixing a few cut sprigs into your arrangements to keep bugs away.” Better yet? “Place huge potted herbs around your dining area with soft incense tucked in.”
5. Keep the food family-style
In the long, lingering light of summer, Gilbert loves the informality of big platters, easy dishes, and sharing. Keep it simple and focused on seasonal vegetables from your farmer’s market, “and make it fun for your guests by adding multiple portions of sides, condiments, and your favorite dishes,” she says. And set things up so you are free to relax and mingle. “No host wants to be trapped in the hot kitchen while guests are outside, so I like to center the entertaining around grilling outdoors. Encourage guests to grab their Diplomático Watermelon Negroni or Derby drink, and cook with you over a wood fire.”
“You know people are dying to break out those sundresses and summer whites. Give them a reason with a theme!” Gilbert advises. She suggests: Talk nauti(cal) to me. And for when the sun goes down? “I like to keep some extra throws and oversized fisherman cardigans on hand for late nights,” she says.
7. Play games
“You’ve got to give them something to do that’s more than just mingling,” Gilbert says. “A backyard summer night party feels slightly forbidden. It has the same vibe as a high school house party—is someone going to ask us to be quiet? Are we misbehaving in someone else’s home? Lean into it.” Consider a rowdy badminton match or play up the European summer mood by kicking off a game of Bocce ball, which, like the negroni has origins in Italy.