Summer Set-Up: 3 Elegant Ways to Impress at Your Next Soiree
Amanda S. Gluck, aka Fashionable Hostess, dishes on her best-kept secrets.
Summer is a season when you often find yourself entertaining guests at a moment's notice. (Sunny weather is always cause for celebration, if you ask us.) So having everything on-hand is key: dishes, flatware, glassware, linens, seating, and serving staples.
But number one on your to-do list? Host the most memorable soirées of the season.
In this guide, we provide the ultimate hostess plan start to finish: starting with cocktails at the bar cart to snacking self-serve style and, lastly, lounging at the dining table for an effortlessly elegant meal. Amanda S. Gluck aka the Fashionable Hostess shares her party-planning secrets for effortless fun-because it's summer and the living is easy (and so should entertaining).
The Bar Cart
For Gluck, the party starts with "a signature cocktail or wine that complements the meal. Whether its a light white wine to compliment the fish or something bubbly to welcome and toast guests, I like to have something special selected for the gathering." She says that whether your drink of choice is wine, whiskey, or a punchy sangria, there are two hostess must-haves for any home bar: pro-level tools and a set of gorgeous glassware. A good barware kit will come the basics: a bottle opener, jigger (to measure your liquor), stirring spoon (especially for your martinis and Manhattans), and coil strainer. Look for a pair of tongs (for plucking out ice cubes) and a pairing knife (to slice and dice garnishes).
As any good hostess will tell you-Gluck, for one-a signature drink starts with good glassware. Select glassware that will complement your drink being served on the cart. For instance, short glasses are best for liquor that's served neat or on the rocks. Heavy-bottomed glasses are good for muddling (think old-fashioneds and Negronis). And tall glasses pair with drinks that are either bubbly (think a summery spritz) or a lot of juice in them (like a mojito). In the summertime, a classic white wine or trendy rosé is best served in a tulip-shaped stemmed glass. Why stemmed, and why is this especially important in the summer? It keeps your hands from warming the glass, and thus, warming the drink.
Remember to fill an ice bucket and replenish it regularly. (Oh, and a tip for iced drinks? Provide big, dense cubes-they will stay cold longer without becoming watery.) Other than that, let the guests self-pour and play bartender for one another. You can always opt for her summertime go-to: "Popsicle drinks! Ice cold and refreshing, fun to eat, and incredibly Instagram friendly!"
The Server Table
Summertime offers such a colorful bounty of stone fruit, garden vegetables, and berries. Our opinion? Let the menu double as décor: Look for the freshest ingredients, prepare easy no-cook appetizers, and collect serveware pieces-tiered stands, handcarved bowls, gilded salad cutlery-that make everything display-worthy. (Who doesn't love an edible centerpiece?)
On Gluck's summer spread, you'll always find a cheese board loaded with her preferred bites: gigante beans, peppadew red peppers, stuffed olives, and what she calls, "fanned" fruit. The latter is both for form and function: it helps to slow down the oxidization of the fruit while providing a finished display to the board. "I will say," she says, "I do enjoy a little apple or pear slice on top of my cheese to add a hint of sweetness!"
A serving tray can be fitted with tasty hors d'oeuvre or bubbling flutes for a congratulatory toasts, and then toted (by you, the hostess) among the guests for their leisurely grazing. Choose one that is lightweight and handles easily. Gluck's go-to tray has a caned design with openwork details.
The Dining Table
Enter the pivotal moment of the party: where guests are seated, appetites are indulged, and the real memories are made. This time is fleeting so set yourselves up for chilling and chatting: You can opt for low seating around a table with tufted seat cushions and breezy, lightweight throws. This keeps the affair cool and casual. Also: "I love beautiful umbrellas for shade and decor," Gluck says. "I chose blue and white striped ones from Frontgate, which give my backyard a true resort feel."
On the table itself, and especially when dining al fresco, choose dinnerware that will withstand the elements. (Read: nothing too prone to shattering or precious.) Melamine plates make a durable and stylish choice. A cake stand at the center of the table adds a dimension of height and can display all manner of things: a bundle of vases or votives, condiments and spices, or a scrumptious summery dessert.
Don't neglect the smaller details. For Gluck, her summer soirées always include gold flatware and linen napkins. She elaborates that this type of tonal on-trend flatware works beyond the summer season ("all year round!") and "your napkin is a great way to add color or personality to the display."
Feeling inspired? Watch how to personalize a centerpiece for your table: