Chill Out! These Are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool During Outdoor Gatherings This Summer
Picture this: It's finally summer and you're hosting your first outdoor gathering of the year now that friends and family are vaccinated. The grill is hot, the snack table is fully loaded, and the guests are arriving with their famous potluck dishes in hand. There's only one thing missing from this very good time, and that's icy cold beverages. Read on for expert tips on how to chill drinks—and keep them cold—all afternoon long.
Ace the Setup
Since using the refrigerator can be tricky given the distance—not to mention the sheer volume of drinks that entertaining requires—it's ideal to have a station set up wherever the main gathering is happening. Choose a shady spot for an outdoor drink station whenever possible so you won't have to contend with direct sunlight melting the ice too fast (and turning your glorious summer punch into a lukewarm tea). Keep a basic cooler underneath the drinks table to store backup beverages. For the top of your table, however, make the presentation pop with something like a water-tight beverage bucket. Fill it up with ice and arrange bottles of wine and jars of pre-mixed cocktails and mocktails inside just before the party starts.
If you're running behind on prep and the drinks are at room temperature (heaven forbid!), take this advice from pro bartender Shannon Mustipher and supercharge your ice bucket with salt. Mustipher, who is a spirits educator, consultant, and author of the bestselling book Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails ($18.99, amazon.com), uses this method for her own parties at home to rapidly chill wine or any bottled beverage: "Fill an ice bucket halfway with equal parts ice and water, and add one cup of sea salt—the bigger the surface area of the flakes the better. This will cause the water to drop in temperature rapidly, chilling the bottle in 20 to 30 minutes."
On the Rocks
Ice is essential for entertaining no matter the season, but it's extra crucial outdoors in warm weather. For ice that will be going into someone's glass, you can keep drinks cold and deliciously undiluted by playing with flavored cubes. Mustipher endorses this trick, and considers frozen cubes of pineapple and passionfruit juice some of her personal favorites. She says frozen cubes of coconut water is her top choice for rum and whiskey cocktails.
An expert on rum-based cocktails, Mustipher has a knack for keeping those slushy, refreshing iced concoctions as potent as the moment they were made in a blender. Her secret? Swap a portion of the ice for frozen pieces of fruit instead. "You can use less ice and thus cut down on the overall dilution of the drink, all while pumping up the flavor of the cocktail. Mango, dragon fruit, berries, and pineapple chunks all work great here."