How to host a backyard summer Camp Cocktail soirée

Give a nod to nostalgia by throwing an elevated summer camp-inspired cocktail party right in your own backyard — scene, set up and signature cocktails included.

This content is powered by: VinePairWords by: Katherine Alex Beaven

Remember summer breaks? The time of year when we counted down to longer days, warmer weather and endless possibilities. Nothing embodied the season quite like summer camp: the great outdoors, time with friends and spontaneous adventures. Relive those memories — and make new ones — with this easy, how-to hosting guide to bring back the magic of summer right in your backyard. Gather around the (camp)fire with good friends, great cocktails and soak up the best of summertime. 

Give your bar a summer camp glow up

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A summer camp theme doesn’t mean you have to opt for bare-bones basics. When setting up your bar, incorporate camp-invoking cocktail essentials like forest green tumblers, a sunset orange pitcher and a gorgeous wood-set collection of bar tools. Decorate your bar with jars of local flowers and foliage, incorporate organic materials like linen napkins and rattan baskets for garnishes and opt for a color palette inspired by a walk in the woods: warm-toned neutrals, moss greens and pops of wildflower-worthy color. Set up comfy seating areas on the sun-warmed grass with floor pillows, blankets and snack-filled picnic baskets — think elevated pillow fort. If you can’t swing an actual fire pit, there are plenty of tabletop fireplace options or even super cute (not to mention super safe) LED options. For a top-notch touch, you can even pitch a tent and fill it with props like a compass and explorer’s hat for some serious photo opps. 

Serve a signature cocktail

Behind every great party is a slammin’ signature cocktail. Recreate the ultimate summer staple with boozy Don Julio Limonada, served straight on a popsicle stick or upside down in a glass of tequila-spiked lemonade — perhaps with a sprinkle of chili lime salt for a fun, fiery kick. Or spike the traditional summer camp punch by breaking out a fresh-mixed batch of Crown Royal Deluxe Raspberry Collins made with fresh summer berries. Once the sun goes down and the stars come out, turn the ultimate campfire classic into the perfect after-dinner drink with DIY Baileys S’mores Tinis.

Create an elevated campfire menu

Start your camp cocktail menu off with a few afternoon snack-inspired finger foods. Rather than fishing a few cheese crackers out of a lunch box, opt for serving savory charcuterie on stylish wooden boards; use a bubbling pot of cheese fondue to elevate the traditional crudité offering and serve grilled fresh fruit kebabs. When it comes to entrees, angus beef sliders on brioche buns, bratwurst sausages and fire-grilled artisan pizzas are easy ways to kick your campfire fare up a few notches. At dusk, lead everyone over to the “craft-tivity” table where dessert is a delectable DIY s’mores bar with premium chocolate and tons of toppings. 

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It’s all fun and games

What’s summer camp without a bit of friendly competition? Forget capture the flag and opt for activities your guests can play without spilling their drinks. For a no-brainer game, fill a classy ice bucket with mini marshmallows and have people guess the exact number for a cocktail-themed prize. For some serious nostalgia, set up a friendship bracelet or key chain-making station complete with guides. Group puzzles, board games and team cornhole tournaments are a great way to get people mingling during the day, while a backyard movie screening under the stars is a fun and memorable way to wind down the evening. 


Add little details to bring on the memories

Nothing nudges nostalgia like good attention to detail. Small nods to summer camp, campfires and the great outdoors will make a big impact on your guests. Adding a little extra oomph can be as easy as setting out a jar of colorful crazy straws or adding a flannel table runner to your bar. Put out a few Mason jar cocktail shakers — the ones you don’t use for drinks can be used for capturing fireflies. If you can’t make a fire pit work, lean into the camp vibes with hand-held lanterns and campfire-scented candles. Serve cocktails over star-shaped ice that mimics the glimmering stars above and keep canned drinks and mixers chilled in a cooler next to your outdoor bar set-up.  

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Close it out with a bang

Give your camp cocktail soirée a proper sendoff with glittering sparklers (or, if you can, set off a few firecrackers). Your party may be over, but this new twist on summer camp may just become a new tradition.  


See you next summer! 


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