Chic Summer Soirees

A summer night is the perfect backdrop for throwing a sweet, simple party. Remember three main ingredients—the Mood, the food, and the drink—and don’t get fussy. Take our tips to relax, enjoy, and look brilliant. You’re welcome.

The Mood


Create the right mood—by paying for postage. Throwing a great party necessitates paper invitations. You’re competing with weddings and softball tournaments, so send them early. “I would mail them about a month out,” says Jenni Undis, owner of Lunalux stationery store in Minneapolis. “And anticipate following up with people who don’t RSVP.” Choose invites that signal the type of dress and party to expect, whether that’s vintage postcards, preppy Crane papers, or embossed print-your-owns from Target. ¶ Follow through on mood-setting with your outdoor space. Start with lighting. We all look best in low light, so scatter votives, tealights, and taper candles. Switch those Christmas lights back on (we won’t let on that you never took them down), and add drama with lanterns. Pair outdoor furniture with a few key indoor pieces, and group them in small niches . Toss a tablecloth over anything less-than-partyworthy and add flowers. Don’t forget music. See? It’s that simple.


A paper invitation is a big clue to guests that you are serious about planning a special night just for them.
Jenni Undis
Owner, Lunalux

The Goods

Make it easy. Set the mood by focusing on just a few elements.

1. Paisley tray by Two’s Company, Patina, $11. 2. Fresh flowers. Hit up the farmer’s market for a wow factor under $20. 3. Every good party has a soundtrack. Soul singers are crowd pleasers, and sound best on scratchy vinyl. Crosely Traveler Portable Record player, Target, $73.

The Drink


Take it from a bartender: “If you’re having people over, it’s always better to do one thing really well, rather than many things sort of right,” says Steve Oravecz, former bar manager at Barrio in Lowertown St. Paul. ¶ Beverages are important: Make an impact with one signature drink, and your party will become the stuff of legends. The secret is that you use just a couple of ingredients, and pre-make your mix. Store-bought mixes will always taste mediocre. Your drink will pop with fresh fruit and herbs. ¶ We suggest celebrating the summer solstice with margaritas. Since you’re not shelling out for several types of liquor, choose at least a silver-level tequila. “Good booze does matter,” says Oravecz. “Cheap tequila tastes cheap. You’ll feel a lot better the next day if you buy good stuff.” ¶ But don’t forget to offer a non-alcoholic version, too. Lastly, make sure to measure, and shake your drinks with lots of ice.


The best way to salt a rim: Dip the glass in Rose’s Lime Juice, then roll in Kosher salt.
Steve Oravecz
Former bar manager, Barrio Lowertown

The Recipe

Pink Grapefruit Margarita

Don’t get stuck behind the bar all night—pre-make your own margarita mix. Then all you have to do is shake and pour, drink and mingle.

The Mix
Makes 10 cups.
3 cups sweet and sour
3 cups fresh pink grapefruit juice
2 cups Cointreau or orange liqueur
2 cups Aperol (an Italian apertif similar to Campari)

The Finish
Pour a generous shot of tequila and 6 to 8 ounces mix over ice in shaker. Shake hard. Serve. A 750-ml. bottle of tequila will yield approximately 15 margaritas.

Nonalchoholic Sparkling Margarita
Pour 6 ounces sweet and sour over ice in a shaker. Shake. Pour into a 12-ounce glass with a salted rim. Fill glass halfway with mix. Add club soda to top off the glass. For a sweeter drink, add a splash of grenadine.

The Goods

Stock your bar with the right equipment.

1. Bar tools are a must for concocting drinks. Michael Graves Target bar tools set, $18. 2. Garnish drinks with swizzle sticks with a harmonica (to play when guests are ready for another round), Swank Retro, $18. 3. Keep ice on hand for guests. Wooden apple ice bucket, Swank Retro, $24.

Photo by Jeff Johnson
Styled by Susan Hammes

The Food


When it comes to your party menu, skip the sit-down dinner: Either whip up a few hors d’oeuvres—or order out. ¶Chowgirls Killer Catering owner Amy Brown says, “Focus on light, seasonal dishes using local ingredients for a fresh, non-fussy feel.” For do-it-yourself hors d’oeuvres, plan for six to eight pieces per guest. One easy option is to hit the Farmer’s Market and pick up local, seasonal veggies and grill them up. This lends a pastoral feel to even the most urban party, says Brown. ¶ A cheese board is another low-maintenance, sophisticated option. Surdyk’s cheese shop manager Mary Richter suggests a spread with a soft-ripened cheese, such as Camembert; semi-soft cheese, such as taleggio; and a harder cheese, such as cheddar. Consider a mix of cow, goat, and sheep’s cheese, and plan on two ounces per person. Garnish with olives, salumi, almonds, and bread that will stand up to the cheese. ¶ Of course, hiring a caterer allows you to take larger part in the “eat, drink, be merry” trifecta. Bon appetit!


The best outdoor dishes aren’t served piping hot or ice cold. Think salads: pasta, potato, and greens with farmer’s market finds.
Amy Brown
Owner, Chowgirls

Grilled Vegetables with citrus vinaigrette and saffron-aioli dip. To make your own, brush vegetables with olive oil, salt, or a favorite vinaigrette, and grill until lightly charred.

The Goods

Have plenty of prep-and-serve tools on hand.

1. Small plates make serving guests a snap. Patina, $5 each. 2. Sharp knives make quick work of prepping veggies. Silvermark stainless steel knives, Patina, $38. 3. Use this end-grain chopping board to prep—and as a serving piece. Crate & Barrel, $45.

Chic Summer Soirees

Resources for above

Here’s where to get the goods.

Menswear provided by Elsworth Menswear, Highland Bank Court Building, 811 LaSalle Ave., Ste. 205A, Mpls., 612-339-0763,

Women’s clothing provided by Bloomingdale’s, Mall of America, 952-883-2500,

Furniture provided by Soleil Brule, Gaviidae Common, 555 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-339-0062,
Day bed, $525
Shell pillow, $135
Alpaca pillow, $148
Bohemian chair, $1,800
Hand-painted glassware, $16 each
Short jade vase, $385
Tall jade vase, $525
Metal tray, $42
Tibetan lamb ottoman, $630
Vintage sari ottoman, $375
Silver trays with stands (stands not shown) $250–$345

Embroidered pillows by Karma Living, $38–$48. Patina,

Food provided by: Chowgirls Killer Catering, 612-203-0786,; Surdyk’s Cheese Shop, 303 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-379-9757,

Home assorted serving pieces $2–$20,

Dublin glasses $9 each, from Crate & Barrel,

Vintage barware from Swank Retro, 1910 University Ave., St. Paul, 651-646-5777,