After spending most of the year inside, few things are as welcomed as the arrival of summer and the promise of fresh air in the great outdoors. Whether it’s a weekend by the lake or cottage, or an escape from the screen to the comforts of your balcony, it’s al fresco dining season.
Be it a table for one or shared with guests, which these days might be your family, here are five ways to jazz up the table for your next plein-air socially distanced social.
Always have a refreshing drink in hand
The ultimate companion for scorching summer days (and sunburnt evenings) are Georgian Bay Spirit Co.’s award-winning canned cocktails, which combine the best of natural flavours and craft spirits. Excellent on their own or used as a mixer, its line-up of ready-to-sip cocktails can also be enjoyed with something scrumptious.
Try the top-selling Original Gin Smash with burgers or ribs or the zingy double-gold recognized citrus and mint-infused Vodka Smash with a brisket sandwich or fish tacos. Then there’s brunch-friendly and fruity Strawberry Smashed Soda to go with your eggs of choice, while southern-style Smashed Tea thrives at backyard hangs with chicken wings and fully-loaded nachos.
Graze versus feeding
Few things match up to the delicious pairing of a cold cocktail and some flame-kissed barbecue during summer, however, some days you might not feel like firing up the grill or eating anything too heavy. That’s where snacks come in.
For small groups, there’s picnic-friendly crudité or platters of deli meats and cheeses, but for something unconventional, try topping crackers or cucumber slices with creamy spreadable cheeses and herbs, smoked fish or fruit preserves. The bite-sized canapés are simple to prepare and present well, especially when washed down with a Raspberry Rhubarb Vodka Smash, which cuts through the cheese’s richness. Opt out of ruffle chips and dip, choosing snack-tastic kale or vegetable chips to go hand-in-hand with a Lime Smashed Soda.
Small plates with big flavours
From dim sum to tapas and meze, building a meal out of small plates offer variety, and is an engaging and flavourful experience even for small groups. For a drink pairing, consider a food-friendly cocktail like the Smashed Sodas, working wonderfully with the cacophony of flavours. Served on the rocks or chilled and sipped from the can, it’s an ideal match with Mexican-influenced bites like steak asada tacos and mango and charred jalapeno shrimp ceviche, but also with fragrant vegetable samosas, crispy mozzarella risotto cakes with marinara dipping sauce or punchy jalapeno poppers.
Keep things seasonal and light
It’s hot—we get it—but there’s no need to sacrifice flavour just because you feel like eating and imbibing a little lighter. Those looking for versatile options will find the Half Smashes, with all the taste and only 100 calories compared to the traditional Smash, a great match for an afternoon on the patio or at virtual cocktail hour.
A summer-fresh blend of peach lime and mint, the Peach Half Smash is amazing paired with Baja shrimp salad, homemade fish tacos or even smoked brisket. Try it also with fresh salad rolls filled with sweet melon and prosciutto, delectable lobster, mango and avocado, or shrimp and cucumber with Thai sweet chili sauce or peanut sauce.
Meanwhile, the zippy yuzu, lime and rosemary found in the Citrus Half Smash is a perfect foil to spicy maki rolls, lettuce cups or vegetarian dumplings. With qualities that help cut through the savouriness of fried goodies such as arancini and its ooey-gooey melted cheese centre, the cocktail also complements the fruity notes of crispy coconut shrimp.
Set the scene
Maybe you haven’t had guests in more than a year, and maybe your backyard’s a little more unkempt because of that. It’s not too late to dust of those hosting chops and give your outdoor space the spruce it needs to look a little more inviting. Although you’ll never go wrong with fairy lights and plants, try taking your ambiance to even cozier levels with colourful blankets, accented pillows and rugs and even paper lanterns. If all else fails, consider your outdoor gathering a success as-is, so long as you have the three main ingredients: good company, food and tasty cocktails.