Here’s how to throw a pool party that will have you and your guests raving until next summer, when it happens all over again. The key? Make it a brunch affair—no kids allowed.
It’s all about simple décor with pops of color.
Beyond a shimmering pool and pretty patio furniture, use brightly colored melamine plates, cloth napkins and acrylic stemware for a sophisticated summertime look. Present your bites on wooden cutting boards, large platters and colored bowls to create a simple, yet striking buffet. Fresh-cut flowers on the tables add an additional pop of color, as will laying out your coolest beach towels.
Make it a buffet.
Beat the heat (and avoid getting stuck in the kitchen) by presenting courses via a self-serve station. Start with small bowls of salty snacks for early arrivals. When more than half of your guests have arrived, bring out the charcuterie and cheese boards. Next up is gazpacho and green salad, topped with cherry tomatoes. Hold the sandwich bar until everyone has had a dip in the pool. Wrap things up with colorful and delicious macarons from your favorite bakery.
• A charcuterie platter with French ham, salami, soppressata, prosciutto, pâté or terrine, Dijon mustard and chutney
• Various small bowls of olives
• A cheese board with brie or Camembert, goat, blue, gouda and Parmigiano Reggiano
• Sliced ciabatta, focaccia and baguettes for DIY sandwiches
• French butter and extra-virgin olive oil
• A tossed green salad topped with cherry tomatoes and gazpacho (recipe below)
• A bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado platter
• Fruit salad
• Popsicles (homemade gets extra points)
• Coffee and tea
A cold soup that can be prepared ahead of time is perfect for a poolside meal.
½ loaf stale French bread
4 cloves garlic
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
8 pounds local tomatoes (8–12 tomatoes), seeded and cut into large chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into large pieces
1 Italian frying pepper, cut into large pieces
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut into large pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 medium Spanish onion, cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup Sherry vinegar
Chopped tomato, for garnish
Chopped green bell pepper, for garnish
Chopped Spanish onion, for garnish
Break the bread into big chunks with hands. Soak in water for 10 minutes. Squeeze excess water out of bread. Transfer bread to food processor. Add garlic and oil. Process until smooth. Add tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, salt and cumin. Process until smooth. Add vinegar and process for 30 seconds. Blend in 1–2 cups cold water, depending on your desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, divide into 12 small bowls or mugs. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, green pepper and onion. Serves 12.
3 pounds bacon
4 medium avocados, peeled and sliced
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
12 Romaine lettuce leaves, washed
6 ciabatta rolls
1 loaf Pullman Style white bread, cut into 12 thick slices
Wasabi mayonnaise (see below)
Sriracha mayonnaise (see below)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
For the wasabi mayonnaise
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon powdered wasabi
Whisk wasabi into mayonnaise. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
For the sriracha mayonnaise
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Whisk sriracha into mayonnaise. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
In large skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon in small batches. Drain on paper towel-lined baking trays.
Place bacon, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, rolls and bread on large serving platters. Scoop mayonnaises into two separate small bowls. Provide tongs, serving utensils, knives and spreaders, as well as salt and pepper. Serves 12.
Not surprisingly, you should serve a variety of drinks.
Greet your guests with the tasty Lillet-based cocktail, Spring Mountain Sipper (recipe below). It’s low in alcohol and high in flavor.
Poolside, set up ice-filled tubs filled with Champagne, Burgundy and rosé. For those hardcore red drinkers, chill some Napa Cab to pair with a bacon-heavy sandwich. As for bubbly, there are lots of Champagnes that won’t break the bank, but for a more affordable alternative, go with Cava. And when it comes to rosé, pick one from Provençe.
Poolside Summer Cocktail: Spring Mountain Sipper
1 750-ml bottle Lillet Rouge
1 750-ml bottle Lorina sparkling French lemonade
2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 lime, sliced into wheels
1 orange, sliced into wheels
1 lemon, sliced into wheels
In 64-ounce glass pitcher, add Lillet Rouge, lemonade and orange juice. Mix well with wooden spoon. Add chipped ice to pitcher until nearly full. Fill 12 glasses with ice. Garnish each glass with slice of lime, orange and lemon. Serves 12.
Other do’s and don’ts from the experts:
Few people throw a pool party like Liz Marston and her husband, Jamie Leahy, proprietors of Marston Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. They’re famous for their Sunday Champagne brunches, and it doesn’t hurt that they have the perfect backdrop for the affair. Their pool is perched atop Spring Mountain, overlooking St. Helena. We tapped them for their top tips.
On wine: “Nothing complements an afternoon poolside better than Champagne! Gosset, Billecart-Salmon and Agrapart are staples in our ice chest. For our guests that prefer still wines to bubbles, we provide a range of options besides our MFV Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Albion. We always pull a few bottles from the cellar featuring our friends in the Napa Valley—Corra, Fait-Main, Hourglass, Keever, Realm, to name a few— alongside white Burgundy and Provençal rosé.”
On food: “We enjoy simple fare from our local purveyors in St. Helena. We begin with a cheese board and a variety of ham and salami from Sunshine Market and freshly baked Acme bread. Our homemade gazpacho is also perfect for warmer afternoons. Recently, we featured a build-your-own “BLTA” bar for our guests and a selection of breads and prepared salads from Model Bakery.”
On activities: “A game of bocce or horseshoes is always fun, but the best tip we’ve found to keep guests active and engaged is to keep popping Champagne. Amazing how they will gravitate towards the sound of a Champagne cork!”