Other than the fact your party is all about bidding summer adieu in style, we think the focus should also be on celebrating the bounty of this short but sweet season. One of the best things about summer is the abundance of gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables at their peak as the season winds down – from ripe red tomatoes to perfect peaches to bright leafy greens. The purpose of this party will be to fete all of the fabulous farmers-market fare you can get your hands on. Oh, and enjoy it all with good friends and family (and cocktail in hand).
An end-of-summer soir ée needs to be colorful. We suggest displaying some of your brightly hued market finds in large wooden bowls, rustic baskets and even tall glass vases. Every surface should breathe summer, and there's no better way to do that than with the perfect produce, fresh flowers and gorgeous greens you have at your fingertips.
Summer cocktail options are endless, but we're particularly partial to tipples that lean more toward the herbaceous side. Fresh herbs are a summer staple, so if you can incorporate them into a few signature sips, your guests are sure to be impressed.
Lime and mint water: Muddle fresh mint leaves and several slices of lime in the bottom of a large glass pitcher. Fill with half still water and half sparkling water and add more slices of lime. Serve over ice with or without vodka.
Bourbon-ade: Muddle fresh basil leaves or mint leaves in the bottom of a rocks glass (a juice glass works too). Add crushed ice, one ounce bourbon, top with lemonade (freshly made or store bought) and stir.
Sparkling sangria: Fill a large glass pitcher with slices of lemon, melon balls and berries of your choice (raspberries and blueberries work well). Pour in one bottle of dry white wine and macerate some of the fruit to get the juices flowing. Add a bottle of sparking water, a splash of Cointreau and top with a few more handfuls of fruit. Serve over ice.
With all that summer bounty around, you might as well enjoy it. Keep things simple because the freshest ingredients don't need a lot of muss or fuss to taste great. It's a good idea to make a few substantial salads because you can make them ahead of time, and they're a great way to highlight the ingredients.
A simple pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta, sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and lightly dressed with good-quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh, cracked pepper is easy and delicious.
Quinoa topped with chopped, grilled vegetables (mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, eggplant) and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil is another simple way to sample summer's delicious goods.
Supplement your summery salads with grilled chicken or fish and a simple dessert of fresh fruit topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Or if your guests (or you) have a particularly sweet tooth, make up a batch of ice cream sandwiches – just place a scoop of your favorite flavor between two store-bought cookies and pop in the freezer until it's time for dessert.
Pick up some Chinese food containers (craft stores usually carry them) and make sure guests take home leftovers. Summer treats are only around for a short time so they might as well be enjoyed! You can also offer your smaller herb pots as fun, usable favors when guests start to depart. Another fun idea: Print out small recipe cards of one of your herb-centric beverages. Tie the cards to your herb-pot favors with twine or ribbon so guests can use their new gift to make their own summery, herba-licious drinks.
Most important, have fun! This is your last hurrah before next summer.
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