It’s summertime, people. The living—and your party menu—should be easy, so stick to cookout standards, like burgers and dogs. Save the flair for the fun stuff—desserts and drinks. But don’t get fussy: Think make-ahead ice cream parfaits and “lazy” versions of classic cocktails that can be mixed by the pitcher.
Nothing says “party” like math, right? Here’s an easy way to add up how much to buy and make.
For the Food Per guest, you need:
1½ servings of any burger, hot dog, or sandwich
1½ cups total for side dishes (pasta salad, coleslaw, potato salad—you can mix it up)
For every 25 people:
2 big platters of cut-up fruit or vegetable crudités. (Picture the size of a vegetable-and-dip tray from the grocery store.) Scatter a few bowls of chips around for good measure.
For the Drinks Per guest, you need:
1½ alcoholic drinks per hour
For every 25 people:
2 gallons of lemonade or iced tea, if you’re also serving alcohol
If you’re going barless, then bump up the number to 4 gallons of alcohol-free drinks for every 25 people.
2 of 6Jonny Valiant
4 Rules for a Safe Buffet
It’s all fun and games—until someone gets E. coli. Take the guesswork out of serving a germ-free spread.
Don’t leave food out all day. In 85-degree weather, about two hours is the maximum for everything except the chips, says Faith Critzer, an assistant professor of food science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Unless a dish is kept refrigerator-cold or piping hot, harmful bacteria can quickly spread.
Put salads on ice. You can keep them nice and fresh by putting the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water.
Be careful with raw meat. Don’t put cooked burgers back on the platter where the raw patties were. And have a second pair of tongs to use once meat is cooked.
Serve more vinegar-based salads. “Vinegar is acidic, which is good for preventing bacteria,” says Critzer. It’s not that mayonnaise is the enemy. “It’s also acidic,” says Critzer, “but that benefit is lost as soon as you mix in potatoes or pasta.”
3 of 6paperhouseonline.com
A Glass With Class
It’s a shame to pour a pretty, grown-up cocktail into a plastic cup that says “keg party.” For a more sophisticated option, try a translucent (or frosted) shatterproof tumbler, says Calder Clark, an event designer in Charleston, South Carolina. “They’re sturdy, great-looking, and inexpensive if you buy them in bulk.” They’re also dishwasher-safe, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can have them personalized with your name or—wait for it—monogram. For lemonade and mixed drinks, a 12-ounce cup works. (Find them at paperhouseonline.com. Plain 12-ounce cups start at $57.50 for 50.)
How to handle the ice situation, according to Denise Gee, the author of the cocktail book Porch Parties (amazon.com, $17).
For pitcher drinks and mixed drinks: 1 to 1½ pounds of ice per person. Double this amount if the temperature will top 80 degrees.
For chilling beer and soda: At least four 10-pound bags for each large (40- to 60-quart) tub or cooler.
Is your plastic cooler an eyesore? A galvanized bucket is more fun and will still keep the ice icy, says Gee. She also likes to use planter boxes, plugged with wine corks (trimmed to fit if necessary) or lined with plastic, and a curvy trowel for the scoop.
6 of 6Joyce Lee
The Parfait Easy Dessert
Assemble these frozen sundaes the morning of the party, then let them chill on a tray in the freezer.