The summer season is the easiest time of the year to gather friends and family and entertain. The days are longer, a little more relaxed and we are surrounded by the bounty of the gardens yielding copious varieties of produce. I would like to share some of my favorite tried and true ideas for entertaining in these warm summer months so this post begins the first in a series on summer entertaining.
There are endless elements that are synonymous with summer that you can draw from when hosting a summer gathering… herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, greens, and so much more. As mentioned above, the availability of fresh produce, not trucked in from other areas of the world but grown on surrounding farms, is plentiful. Take a walk through a local farmers market and you will witness it firsthand. Included in the local harvests is the abundance of fresh herbs, for example. They light up the flavors of your meal, plus they’re awful pretty to work with too. So throughout the remainder of the summer, I will be focusing my posts on utilizing what is all around us… in our gardens, our backyards, our farmer’s markets, our local shops and even in our own homes to turn your summer entertaining into memorable gatherings with delicious food, pretty decor and some other neat ideas. Follow along!
One item that is typical American fare when hosting a morning gathering is the Bloody Mary, essentially a vegetable garden in a glass. To step it up a notch, I love using homemade infused vodka in my Bloody Mary and serving alongside a DIY Bloody Mary bar! Perfect for using up any extra garden veggies you have lying around during the summer months. To create a vodka infused recipe, I took from a variety of recipes I found and blended them together to create the recipe below:
Pepper and Vegetable Infused Bloody Mary Mix
1 Glass Bottle (I used our glass beverage containers that we carry in the barn, but you could use any wide mouthed glass bottle or pitcher)
Thinly sliced cucumbers lengthwise from one small cucumber
4 or 5 red chili peppers (more or less to taste)
Lemon rind of one lemon
2 tsp of peppercorns
6 garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
Handful of green onions
Handful of fresh dill
5 or 6 small baby peppers
- Rinse the bottle that you will be infusing your vodka in well. Let dry completely.
- Wash all vegetables and herbs to be infused. This will help in keeping your vodka clear.
- Add all ingredients above to washed and dried bottle and pour 1 bottle of vodka into bottle.
- Let sit for at least 24 hours in a clean dry place and then serve alongside your tomato juice mixture. (use within 2 weeks)
Voila, it is that easy… and pretty! When you serve your infused vodka alongside your tomato juice concoction, doesn’t this look a lot prettier than the bottle alone?
To create the Bloody Mary Bar below, I infused the vodka a couple of days earlier and then gathered up the rest of the ingredients to be served alongside the vodka. To make it all pretty, I displayed them in a variety of glass containers, silver serving bowls and plates. I pulled all of the pieces from my kitchen and used some of them in different ways than typically used. For example, the peppered bacon I displayed in a rectangular glass vase as well as the green beans and pickled green beans. I used a ball jar for the celery, a beer glass for the green onions and silver espresso saucers for the flavored salts to salt the rim of the glasses with.
Some ideas for the accoutrements to serve at your Bloody Mary are the following:
Mini pickles, such as gherkins
A variety of olives, stuffed and otherwise
Dill and other fresh herbs
Fresh mozzarella balls
Candied or peppered bacon
You can essentially serve anything in the bar that you would like to top your Bloody Mary with. I love to serve drinks with a salted or sugared rim, depending on the drink. For the Bloody Mary bar, I recommend serving with a spicy seasoned salt. Many gourmet grocery stores carry them as well as kitchen stores, speciality stores and I have even found them at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods. Just make sure that when you are serving the drinks, you use a lime slice to rub around the rim of the glass, thus moistening it enough to then dip the glass upside down into the plate holding the salts, before you fill your glass with ice! Lemon slices work well also.
As for the Bloody Mary Mix itself, there are a couple of ways to go in that direction. There are several premixed varieties that are very good. Just watch the sodium content if that is something you need to be concerned about. Many premixed varieties are quite high in that regard. We like to make our own and my hubby is quite a pro at mixing up a mean batch of Bloody Marys! He adds to the low salt variety of V8, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, crushed garlic, celery seed, and a little dijon mustard. Either option is great!
Make sure to put long skewers out at your Bloody Mary bar for your guests will need something to thread their toppings onto to then serve in their drink.
Cheers to a summer season filled with memorable gatherings with people in your life who you have been wanting to spend more time with. Time seems to be a little bit more available during the summer. That might be a figment of our imagination but whatever it is, grab it… for it is fleeting!