At Outer, hosting a great party is par for the course. From our Neighborhood Showrooms to our own headquarters, we’re all about creating a space to gather, feast, and have a great time.
Of course, hosting an event with all of your nearest and dearest can quickly turn into a nail-biting feat of organization and culinary chaos. Good news: it doesn’t have to be!
Designing and catering a fabulous, memorable get together in your backyard can be enjoyable for your guests and you, as long as you keep some key principles in mind. We hit up some beloved Los Angeles food and drink experts to find out their secret to hosting an amazing, stress-free night. Here’s what they had to say.
The party starts before it starts
Vibe is everything. That’s due in large part to the ambient sounds of a solid playlist and good mood lighting.
“We Love Buena Vista Social Club's "De Camino a La Vereda" or Ibrahim Ferrer's "Bruca Manigua" for setting the mood,” says Sarah Hendrix, co-founder of catering company Lady & Larder.
Curate a lengthy playlist that won’t repeat itself after an hour or two, or download one off Soundcloud or Spotify. Also, be sure to charge up your phone and/or bluetooth speaker well before the party begins.
As for lighting, consider hanging up a few strands of string lights — which give off a great muted glow — to keep the party visible past sunset.
Give guests something to eat when they arrive
Hendrix, a master architect of cheese and meat boards, offers her expertise on building a party pleasing appetizer spread: Think seasonally. Fresh fruits, summer vegetables, citrus, and zest all scream summer.
“Heirloom melons and tons of stone fruit — nectarines and peaches.” says Hendrix, “With sweet summer fruit we like to pair salty firm cheeses like Bandaged Bismark from Crown Finish Caves or Special Select Dry Jack from Vella Cheese Company.”
Creamy, soft cheeses are also great for pairing. Right now, Hendrix is loving Cowgirl Creamery's summer seasonal triple cream called Pierce Pt. “It’s dusted in a beautiful mixture of field flowers, chamomile, calendula and Thai basil.”
Merce Muse, culinary creative director at Tastemade, suggests employing a versatile seasoning to pre-dinner snacks: “Come summer, I’m all about Tajin, the salty, spicy, sour condiment. Sprinkled over fruit, on some popcorn, with some cucumbers, yum! For an easy dish, I love to sprinkle it on some sliced chayote along with some flaky salt and lime. (Chayote is trending this year.)” Tajin also serves as a great salt rim to margaritas or citrus-y beverages.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
“It’s great to be prepped and prepared so that when your guests arrive, you’re actually calm enough to be able to share the duties,” says Muse.
Keep it easy. You’re not asking them to man a coat check all night, but let them light the candles, help set the table, or put out the last few bowls of garnishes.
“It feels great to host,” she says, “but even better to create something with your friends, so let them feel like they’re a part of it.”
Make the bar easily self serve
We asked John Gakuru of Sweet&Chilli, a specialist drinks agency known for creating memorable beverage experiences, how to create a seamless at-home bar.
You’ll need counter space; an insulated ice well or outdoor chest for ice; a separate cooler or refrigerator for juices; mixers and other ingredients; and space for glassware. Gakuru suggests acrylic cups. They won’t break and become a danger to your barefoot guests. Plus, they’re more eco-friendly than single-use plastics.
Beyond that, you’ll need a stock of spirit and liquor staples that make for a few simple, delicious drinks and plenty of ice.
Ice is critical. “Your freezer does not make good ice,” says Gakuru, “Your local liquor store or gas station has okay ice, but if you really want to get it right, look up a local ice supplier who sells Koldraft ice. This is what bars use and so should you!”
Finally, Gakuru urges everyone to stop using cocktails mixes, which are full of artificial flavors and ingredients.
“If you want the taste of strawberry, use strawberries! Apple juice comes from inside an actual apple. Lemons and limes are full of lemon and lime juice. Buy the real fruit. Fresh is best. Always.”
Make things in batches
“There are some wonderful drinks you can easily make at home in what we call ‘large format’ or ‘group serves’. Just like cooking, you can make them and store them in the fridge. Then just chuck ice in when your guests arrive.”
Gakuru’s favorite is a Negroni, which is “beautiful as an aperitif”, and incredibly simple to make.
1 cup gin (Gakuru recos Tanqueray No. TEN)
1 cup sweet vermouth (like Carpano Antica Formula)
1 cup Campari
Mix all three into a pitcher and store in the fridge. When guests arrive, add six orange wedges (a whole orange sliced into wedges), fill the pitcher with cubed ice, stir, and then pour over a glass of ice and serve with another orange wedge.
Note: A Negroni can be quite strong for some. Temper it by adding sparkling water or prosecco to taste.
With ice, more is more, says Gakuru. “You need it for dilution and temperature. The colder you get your Negroni, the longer it will last.”
Muse suggests mixing up a lemonade infused with some lemongrass, ginger, and a stir of honey—delightful on its own or as a mixer for cocktails.
Rely on the season’s strengths
“Summer has such beautiful, colorful produce,” says Muse, “so let those elements shine and do the hard work for you.”
Her favorite meals are ones where there’s a bit of everything, and people can mix and match as they like. A few colorful produce-forward salads, some cheese, some bread, and then a protein or two. Also a bright summer sauce like a salsa verde (chopped fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper) is great so people can dress up their own plates.
Remember what really matters
“The guest list!” says Hendrix, of the most important element of any event, “It’s all about human connection and spending time with your favorite people.”
While hosting can be stressful, it’s important to keep in mind: It’s a party. Even if you burn the sausages or run out of lemons, it’s not the end of the world. With the right people, music, lighting, and comfortable seating—you’ll have the essential components for fun.
“I love to have people over and I always want to make it seem and actually feel effortless so my guests feel comfortable (and so I’ll actually want to do it again!),” says Muse, “Sometimes, when it becomes an ordeal, you think twice about extending an invitation to friends… I always want to make sure it’s breezy and yummy and fun, but not ‘a thing.’”
Above all: relax, be present, enjoy your company, and relish in the fact that it’s summer, you’re outside, and that means you’re exactly where you need to be.