This article is compliments of our friends at Stella Artois and was originally published on June 30, 2017. It was updated on July 1, 2018.
This year marks the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Which means that there have already been 241 occasions to trot out the familiar old bells, whistles, and celebrations. There are some 4th of July rituals we certainly couldn’t do without (fireworks!), but let’s just say that there are others that are starting to look as old as the founding fathers. Which is why this year, we fully advocate stepping up your game and throwing a barbecue bash that’s truly revolutionary.
Planning a party that will elevate spirits higher than a soaring eagle may sound like no easy feat. But as Jesse Tombs, managing partner at Alison Events, suggests, creating an event to remember is all about “customization: order custom disposable plates, napkins and cups to give the event a cohesive feel,” he says. Also, “specialty cocktails are a festive way to get any party started.” In the spirit of letting your individual freedom and flair ring, Jesse and Chowhound are proud to present 12 tips for getting in the spirit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as you’re cooking and entertaining this Fourth.
1. Keep the color scheme patriotic.
“At my last July 4th party, I used burgundy, ivory, and indigo for an unexpected, more elevated color story,” Jesse says. “I asked guests to dress in this color palette to further the theme.” You can even apply this rule to the food, with recipes like our BLT burgers, featuring crispy red bacon, blue cheese, and a chicken patty (because chicken, of course, is the original white meat). Get our Blue Cheese Chicken BLT Burgers recipe.
2. Start your food preparations ahead of time.
No one wants to be stuck in the kitchen or at the grill as their guests eat. The evening is really for mixing and mingling, not tinkering with the meat. A slow cooker can be your secret weapon, allowing you to get things cooking before anyone even passes through the front door Get our Slow Cooker Bourbon Ribs recipe, which is as simple as setting the machine to high and letting time do its thing.
3. Go both traditional and modern.
A barbecue may not be the place to show off your molecular gastronomy skills, but it is a great occasion to go a little off the beaten path, recipe-wise. Jesse recommends foods that are “traditional Americana classics with a twist.” Our kimchi potato salad is the perfect example of a recipe that toes the line of old-fashioned and unexpected. It’s got enough of that familiar mayonnaise-y taste while also introducing spicy, fermented flavors and a dash of scallion and sesame. Get our Kimchi Potato Salad recipe.
4. Prepare for summer weather.
July 4th may be smack dab in the middle of summer, but that doesn’t mean that Mother Nature has to get in the way. “Have a cooler with lots of bottled water,” Jesse recommends, “or set-up a water station with infused waters. That always gets people hydrating!” You can also “create a basket with sunscreen, bug spray, and paper fans.”
5. Use double stick tape to wrap tumbler glasses with unique patterns.
You can use wrapping paper, origami, or your own hand-drawn designs (bonus points if they’re red, white, and blue). Not only will they look pretty, your guests won’t have any mix-ups after the drinks start flowing.
6. Label the dishes.
Take brown butcher or parchment paper and write the names of all of the dishes around the set plates. You can also include helpful notes like how the well meat is cooked or whether a recipe contains ingredients that one of your guests might be looking to avoid.
7. Create easy mood lighting.
Transform bistro lights into outdoor mood lighting by taking some nice-looking paper, cutting a hole in the center, and sticking the individual lights inside. You’ll not only elevate the ambiance, they’ll be the second-most talked about lights of the night (after the ones in the sky).
8. Place diced fruit or fresh herbs in ice cube trays and then fill them with water and freeze.
This works especially well with summer items like berries, stone fruits, basil, and mint. Not only will these cubes be an artful conversation piece, they’re a necessity for keeping the cool at any sweltering summer party.
9. Use herbs for unwanted guests.
Hardy herbs like rosemary and sage don’t only add flavor to food, they also double up as natural bug repellents. Place a few sprigs on the grill or in a fire pit to keep away pesky mosquitoes, then feel free to use the remainder of the bunch in your recipes.
10. Consider seafood.
Now this is a show-stopper. Whole grilled fish is actually easier to grill than fillets, which can get stuck on the grill in bits. And man, does it look impressive when you stuff it also. Or you can grill some shrimp kabobs or do a bright seafood ceviche. Get our Whole Grilled Bass with Olives, Lemons, and Artichokes recipe.
11. Keep your cutlery eco-friendly.
Jesse recommends bamboo utensils because “they are compostable but have a wooden, handmade feel and they look great with any decor direction. You can also go to your local restaurant supply store and find interesting to-go products that you can’t find in your grocery store, like corn husk boat plates and bamboo plates and bowls.” And the best part of it all? “No dishes!”
12. Make clean-up a part of the decor.
With a few subtle hints, you can keep things tidy and lessen your post-party workload. Place a few waste containers as well as tubs for holding dirty dishes/utensils around the space. They can even be cute: lined wicker baskets, galvanized steel buckets, or aluminum pails can all double up as nifty receptacles. Jesse also suggests enlisting the help of your most scrupulous BFFs: “I always ask one or two people to help me throughout the night/day to clean up and tidy.”