Nothing says summer entertaining like an array of stunning drinks in a rainbow of colors. Whether they are blends of alcohol or perky soft beverages, for maximum impact, pour these smart cocktails or juicy concoctions into crystal pitchers, punch bowls or just the right glass.
To get the party started on a high note, begin serving these refreshing beauties the minute your guests arrive.
Your best strategy is to pick one or two drinks to showcase. Most guests will be dazzled the vitality of its color and will gladly accept a glass when offered. But provide a selection of other beverages, both soft and hard, for those people who prefer something else (or need to drive home).
Deciding which beverage to serve is determined by the theme of the occasion. A casual afternoon barbecue in the yard calls for something different than a candlelight dinner party on the veranda -- namely, root beer with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream vs. a cold pitcher of Italian sangria.
Don't underestimate the power of liquid refreshments. They not only set the tone of the party, but are the essence of hospitality. Think how many hotels greet guests with a glass of something zesty and thirst-quenching.
With so much luscious produce available right now, it's the perfect time for everything from a fresh-fruit spritzer to a whopping cocktail -- garnished, of course, with a handful of berries or sprig of mint.
Pomegranate Iced Tea
4 tea bags (Orange Pekoe and Pekoe-cut black tea)
4 cups pomegranate juice
8 tsps. sugar or 4 packets of artificial sweetener, or to taste
Boil about 2 cups of water and pour into a Pyrex measurer. Submerge the tea bags in water and stir. Cool to room temperature.
Add enough cold water to the mixture to equal 4 cups.
Pour tea into a large pitcher.
Add the pomegranate juice, and sugar or artificial sweetener. Stir well to combine.
Refrigerate until serving.
Spoon in enough ice cubes to add an extra chill. Pour into tall glasses.
1 can (12 oz.) root beer, chilled
2 large scoops of vanilla ice-cream or frozen yogurt
Divide the contents of the root beer can into 2 beer mugs.
Top each glass with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or yogurt.
Soft or Spiked Smoothies
1 banana, cut into 6 chunks
6 strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and cut in half
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup ginger ale or champagne
6 ice cubes
Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Mix on the frappe setting or the blender's highest setting, until you no longer hear the ice cubes knocking around and the contents are delightfully pink and frothy.
Pour into champagne coups or red-wine glasses.
Recipe yields about 3 cups, and serves 3 to 4 people.
1 cup cantaloupe
1 peach, pitted and skinned
1 apricot, pitted and skinned
1 nectarine, pitted and skinned
6 strawberries, hulled
1 bottle of sparkling wine, chilled
Dice fruit into bite-sized pieces. Place fruit in a large pitcher. Pour the sparkling wine over top.
Stir and pour immediately into red-wine glasses. With a long-handled spoon, distribute fruit into the glasses.
1 bottle (32 oz.) raspberry juice
1 bottle champagne
Fill champagne flutes halfway with raspberry juice. Gently pour the champagne over the raspberry juice to close to the top of the glass. Stop pouring for a second if champagne bubbles threaten to spill over the rim.
Rum and Pineapple
6 cans (6 oz. each) pineapple juice
6 shots of dark rum
Pour 1 can of pineapple juice into a tall glass.
Add 1 shot of rum and stir.
Add 3 to 4 ice cubes. Repeat with all six cans.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: email@example.com .