Bask in the sun. Kick off your shoes. And grab a beach towel.
Honestly, there's nothing quite like relaxing with an ice-cold drink on a beautiful summer day. And here in the upper Midwest, I think we appreciate the sunshine even more since it's always so fleeting. (We'll be back to scraping the frost off our car windshields within a few short months, so even as a fair-skinned redhead, I try not to complain when it's over 100°F. Just hand me the 75 SPF sunscreen, and it's all good.)
How do you make the most of the warm weather before it's gone? Here are a few fun tips and hints to help you literally "drink it all in" this summer.
8 Helpful Hints to Keep Your Cool
- Improvise your own cocktail shaker. No fancy cocktail shaker on hand? No worries! Just fill a Mason jar with ice pour in your ingredients, screw on the lid and give it a shake.
For cocktails that require straining, you can just hold the lid a little askew while you pour. (Or if you're the handy type, drill holes into an extra replacement lid and keep it on hand as a strainer!)
- Get creative with garnishes. Fresh fruit and herbs are in season, so make the most of them all summer long!
Some of my personal favorites are pineapple wedges, sliced lemons or limes, fresh mint or basil leaves, and maraschino cherries. You can even stack fruits on small wooden skewers or cocktail picks to create colorful combinations.
- Add a splash of color. If you're serving white or yellow cocktails, pour in a little grenadine (or the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries) and let it settle at the bottom for a layered "sunrise" effect. Or stir it all together for pretty-in-pink creations, like this beauty:
I made Pineapple Margarita Mix with coconut rum, then poured it over ice, and stirred in a splash of cream and grenadine. (SO GOOD. Seriously, it's like a little island getaway in a glass.)
- Make your own Moscow Mules. Light and crisp, mules are all the rage this year, and it's actually really easy to make your own, whether you're hosting a little party or you just want to unwind on the patio after a long day.
Try this refreshing recipe, served in a couple of ice-cold mugs: Orange Moscow Mules.
- Impress guests by rimming your glasses. Not only do they add a fancy finish, but rimmers can enhance the flavors of your favorite drinks, too.
Obviously, coarse salt is the classic finishing touch for margaritas. But that's just the beginning! Use sugar for strawberry daiquiris or lemon drop martinis. Experiment with graham cracker crumbs or shaved white chocolate for lime drinks. Or try cinnamon-sugar for peach or pineapple cocktails. The possibilities are endless.
- Raise the glass(ware). Personally, I love using glass jars for cocktails in the summer, since they are bottom-heavy and won't tip over in the breeze. And the lids can come in handy if there are bugs in the backyard! Stemless wine glasses work nicely, too. But don't be afraid to experiment with different shapes and sizes.
- Keep a few freezer drinks handy. Always entertaining at the last minute? Keep a couple Tastefully Simple drink buckets in your freezer, so you'll always be ready. All you'll need to do is scoop and serve. (Blackberry Mojito Mix and Orange-Beer Margarita Mix are my favorites this season. You can top 'em with champagne or tonic water if you like a little fizz or need to stretch them further for a full crowd, too!)
- Don't forget the basics. Help your guests stay hydrated, and make sure you have a non-alcoholic option, too, like iced tea or lemonade. We typically fill a couple of galvanized steel tubs with ice, and then stock them with plenty of bottled water, beer and a couple bottles of white wine like Moscato.
Above all, just have fun with it! Remember, you don't have to be a bartender to make really simple – and really delicious – cocktails at home. And there are plenty of patio-perfect days of summer left ahead of us.
So forget last call. This party is just getting started.