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1-2-3 Summer Entertaining: What to Have on Hand

06/28/2018 Jerrica Kowcheck

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Sunny days are just ahead, and so is chilling out at low-pressure summer picnics and parties. “Summer entertaining feels more casual,” says Annette Joseph, stylist and author of Picture Perfect Parties, as well as the new book, “Cocktail Italiano: the Definitive Guide to Aperitivo: Drinks, Nibbles, and Tales of the Italian Riviera.”

“With less pressure, you can be more creative,” Joseph says – such as a spontaneous retro-themed party featuring onion dip, potato chips and Manhattan cocktails (of course). In other words, it’s easier to gather together friends and family – without losing your cool.

One such creative idea? Joseph suggests the idea of the Friday-night aperitivo: invite friends, neighbors and even coworkers to a weekly open house at your abode, every Friday, all summer. There, guests will enjoy informal drinks and a nosh. “Sometimes you’ll have forty people, sometimes you’ll have four,” Joseph says. Have a prepped cocktail, wine and soft drinks on hand, along with simple nibbles that share well, such as a frittata (made on Thursday night) and hummus and crackers. If not many people show up – lucky you, you’ve got the weekend’s meals planned.

A little prep work in advance and stocking up on essentials helps last-minute get-togethers go a little smoother. Here’s how to stock up:

For impromptu gatherings, purchase easy-prep charcuterie items that stay fresh all summer long, such as hard cheeses, prosciutto, and olives. “Stock your pantry with things that can be cracked open at the drop of a hat,” Joseph says, such as artisan crackers, mixed nuts, and jarred specialty spreads, such as olive tapenade or truffle honey.

At the start of summer, stash cocktail fixings. Store gin, vodka and tequila in the freezer, along with bottles of rosé in the fridge, Joseph says. While at the liquor store, pick up Campari and bourbon as well. Pack your freezer with ice for drinks, along with frequently-used mixers: soda water, limes and lemons, bitters and syrups. Even lemonade (spiked for the adults) can be whipped up quickly from a freezer-stored quality can. One wise move is to memorize a signature cocktail, or easy mixed drink that most people will like, and keep ingredients for that cocktail at the ready. For example, a Negroni or Aperol Spritz (Prosecco, Aperol, soda water).

A spur-of-the-moment weekend bash can be easily arranged with a paperless post or evite. Invitations are “so easy now,” Joseph says – a party invite can be prepared and sent within a few minutes. And to serve all those guests, party stores can supply a closet or plastic bin with necessities for spontaneous hangouts: cocktail napkins, paper towels, paper plates, plastic cups and utensils. Don’t forget to whip up a quick summer playlist, too.

For families, head to the store for items that will make every guest feel welcome and special, from four to 40. That might mean cool pool toys for sporty kids, craft projects for artsy kids or board games for competitive kids. “I’m old-school, and like to see kids interacting with their hands, and not just on their phones,” Joseph says. So when spring rolls around, restock fun stuff that can be used many ways such as balloons (for water balloon fights or balloon volleyball), lawn games such as bocce ball or cornhole, and summer-friendly picks such as sparklers and sprinklers.

She suggests Oriental Trading Company as a great place to order fun summer items like tiny beach balls, paper garlands and café lights.

Store kid-friendly foods like hot dogs and buns in the freezer, to maintain freshness and ensure last-minute access – even adults won’t turn their nose up at a fresh-grilled frank.

Even if you’re short on chips and dip, vanilla ice cream “will take care of any bad thing,” Joseph says, when dealing with drop-by visitors. Kids can enjoy strawberry sauce or chocolate syrup, while adults love coffee on top (affogato, in Italian). Keep maraschino cherries and sprinkles on hand to make dessert an extra-special treat, and chill out.

The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent those of PennyMac Loan Services, LLC and its employees.