We recently hosted a big summer party and housewarming barbecue, and although we asked everyone to bring a bottle of wine, we wanted to at least offer guests refreshing welcome drinks on arrival – as well as have a selection of festive cocktails available throughout the day (and as a back-up in case the wine ran out!).
The last thing you want to have to do at your own party (where you’re already running around like a headless chicken, constantly greeting guests, introducing people or saying goodbyes, as well as keeping an eye on the oven and food supply) is to also run around keeping glasses topped up – it would be a never-ending job and will just turn you into a stressed host!
Instead, we invested in four Kilner Drinks Dispensers from Lakeland; two 8-litre dispensers and two 5-litre dispensers, and they were a total LIFE SAVER. Seriously, I can’t recommend them enough!! We filled one large one with Pimms & Lemonade (using the Jeeves Pimms equivalent from Lidl, a much cheaper alternative and you really can’t tell the difference, especially with pretty fruit thrown in), and one with a white wine Sangria (just cheap white wine mixed with sparkling lemonade and chopped fruit, easy peasy!), then a smaller one with a grapefruit Paloma cocktail, and the last one with a blackberry and thyme cocktail.
We had no idea how popular they would be, but these clever drinks dispensers and cocktails kept the party going all day and night! I only had to top them up twice throughout the day, and the cocktails proved much more popular than the wine.. So much, in fact, that none of the bottles even got opened and we were left with a net gain of 37 bottles of wine and champagne. Reason enough to throw another party soon! 😉
The cocktail station also became a sort of gathering spot for thirsty guests, and it unintentionally became a bit of a focal-point of the party!
To set up the perfect cocktail station, you’ll need plenty of drinking cups and glasses – we got plastic disposable but very pretty cocktail glasses and wine glasses from Tiger, along with some pretty straws and tumblers too! You’ll also need some bowls or serving boards with chopped fruit (apples, oranges, peaches, lemons and limes work great, along with some fresh mint and strawberries!) – and don’t forget to have plenty of ice too!
We ordered all our food and drink online (so much easier than schlepping it all the way home yourself), including ten bags of ice – but when it all arrived we obviously didn’t have enough freezer space for all the ice! Doh! So probably best to go out and get some ice on the day of the party instead, or risk having to empty out all the food in your freezer out of panic!
Right. Now for the recipes! The grapefruit palomas and the blackberry & thyme cocktails were definitely the most popular. Here’s how to make them…
To make grapefruit paloma cocktails, you will need:
- 1 x 750ml bottle of clear tequila
- 10 x 750ml bottles of grapefruit soda – I used the Schweppes sparkling grapefruit and blood orange (750ml bottles) although you could also use grapefruit cordial (I used the Fruit & Barley Pink Grapefruit Squash) with fizzy lemonade
- 6 x limes
1. Pour the grapefruit soda into the drinks dispenser and top with a generous pour of tequila, then squeeze in the juice of 6 limes. Top with plenty of ice and lime wedges.
2. When the drinks dispenser is half empty (or half full?), just top it up with some more grapefruit soda or the grapefruit cordial and lemonade, along with a glug of tequila.
* Sometimes the tap would seem to get clogged up and would stop pouring, but all it needs is a little shake for the cocktail to mix again and any residue at the bottom to mix back in! Sam applies for the below cocktail.
To make the blackberry & thyme cocktails, you will need:
- Half a cup of honey
- 2 and a half cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
- at least 1 punnet of blackberries (I picked mine from our field so had a whole basket of them!)
- at least 10 sprigs of thyme (but no more than 20)
- 10 x bottles of fizzy lemonade
- 1 x bottle of vodka
1. Heat the honey with the lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the honey is dissolved.
2. Add half of the blackberries and the thyme, and let it simmer for a few minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into a drinks dispenser (don’t worry about the sprigs of thyme as they look really pretty in the jar and won’t come out of the tap anyway), then top with fizzy lemonade and a generous glug of vodka, along with some ice and some more of the blackberries. Serve in cocktail glasses with ice and blackberries!
4. When the drinks dispenser is half full, just top it up with some more lemonade, ice and vodka, as the blackberries and thyme will continue to infuse it.
For the Pimms & lemonade; pour in a couple bottles of Pimms (or the Jeeves stuff mentioned earlier) into a drinks dispenser along with some fizzy lemonade – you’ll want roughly 3 parts lemonade to 1 part Pimms as a rule of thumb. It’s normal for it to froth like crazy, just wait for the froth to die down, then add more lemonade! Top with ice, fresh mint, chopped strawberries, apple and orange slices.