(BPT) - The weather is warm and that means entertaining season has arrived. This year, elevate your gatherings with some unique twists. From serving fresh fare to creating cozy corners in outdoor spaces, you'll transform your parties from average to amazing in a snap.
Mother Nature provides the perfect backdrop for al fresco entertaining - you just have to add a few touches of color. Move potted plants into entertaining spaces for instant summer ambience. Alternatively, buy a few bunches of colorful carnations or daisies - both very affordable - and separate them into a variety of empty wine bottles for accessible elegance.
Marvelous Mason jars
Mason jars are endlessly versatile, particularly for outdoor summer gatherings. Use large jars to hold silverware and napkins securely on the buffet. Small jars are perfect for serving individual portions of appetizers. For example, start with Simply Organic dip mixes - the basis of a wholesome summer snack you can feel good about serving. Layer some into the bottom of the jars and add in a few veggie spears like carrots, celery and zucchini. Voila - an instantly adorable munch-and-go snack option.
When the sun goes down the fun shouldn't stop. Add a twinkle to your patio by grabbing the white string of lights from your holiday stash. A few strings overhead will set the ideal mood for after-dark entertaining. Finish by adding luminaries to tabletops and walkways for a beautiful glow. All you need is sand, paper bags and a few tea lights.
Guests will want to kick back and mingle, so encourage conversation by setting up seating that lets them relax. Cluster chairs together in groups of three or five while maintaining open spaces for walking. Bring some plush pillows outside to create a cozy feeling that invites party attendees to get comfortable and stay awhile.
Grilled goodies and fresh fare should dominate your summer entertaining menu. Think outside the box to put clever new twists on familiar foods. For a tasty dessert that will have everyone raving, skewer fresh fruit like pineapple, peaches, bananas and figs and lightly sprinkle with salt. Then, grill the skewers to bring out the incredible rich, sweet flavors of the fruit. Serve alone or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Signature summer drinks
Lemonade and sweet tea have their rightful place in the summer entertaining drink rotation, but if you really want to make an impression, create a signature drink just for your event. Have fun experimenting with fresh fruit and distinctive spices to create fantastic flavor. According to the spice experts at Simply Organic, Cardamom - a rich, intensely aromatic spice - is trending right now and a perfect pair for your summer drink menu. Try this cardamom-spiced cocktail recipe at your next gathering:
Cardamom Moscow Mule
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 2 Moscow Mules
1 cup water
1 cup organic white sugar
1 teaspoon Simply Organic Cardamom (use 1/2 teaspoon for a milder cardamom taste)
2 ounces vodka (potato vodka if GMOs are a concern)
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1-2 bottles ginger beer
For the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in the sugar and cardamom until dissolved. When the sugar is fully dissolved, remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to fully cool before use. Optional for a smooth syrup: Once cool, strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve to remove any grit from the cardamom. This syrup may be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge.
For the drink: In a copper mug filled halfway with crushed ice, add the vodka, cooled simple cardamom syrup and lime juice. Stir. Top with ginger beer and garnish with mint leaves and a lime wedge.