5 Drink-Inspired Memorial Day Party Ideas

For most of us, the Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff event for welcoming summer. And whether you're planning a family get-together, a gathering of close friends, or a neighborhood bash, it's a great time to get creative with the drinks that you're serving by throwing a theme party.

Here are five possibilities to get you thinking.


1. Stage a Who-Makes-the-Best-Sangria Party

Sangria is a universal party drink that connects all generations — an eclectic blend of wine, sparkling water or soda, fruits and fruit juices, and a slug or two of booze served over ice. The possibilities are as limitless as a Master Card commercial, so have each guest or guest couple create their own version to bring to the party. Then have a taste-off and crown the winner with a show of raised glasses.

Click here for the Basic Sangria recipe.


2. Celebrate with Local Wines

Every state has at least one local winery — whether the wine is made with grapes or with other fruits such as apples (across the northeast) or pineapples (Hawaii) — so choose a good selection of wineries and styles if you have several vineyards in your area. Most regions produce sweet and dry wines, and often sparkling wine, so make sure you have options for everyone.


For a more upscale get-together, have cocktails made only with Champagne or other sparkling wines, such as cava from Spain (try Freixenet brut) or an American sparkling wine (Gruet from New Mexico is yummy and widely available). For starters, you can whip up mimosas (bubbly and orange juice), bellinis (with pear juice), and kir royales (a few drops of crème de cassis). If you want to be more creative, raid the liqueur cabinet for other flavors, adding just a few drops added to each glass of sparkling — strawberry, ginger, butterscotch, even mocha.

Click here for the Champagne Cocktail recipe.

4. Search Out an Array of Artisan Beers

Start with those made in your area. Even brew pubs that don't bottle their beers have growlers for take-away sale. Depending on availability, mix in seasonal beers, IPAs, wheat brews, and the darker stouts and porters. Then throw in some regional beers such as Sierra Nevada that are sold somewhat broadly. A favorite of mine is Anchor Steam from San Francisco — one of the original artisan breweries — that I love downing at the San Francisco airport after a week of wine drinking in Napa and Sonoma. Some of the most creative beers are made by Dogfish Head in Delaware, while those from Samuel Adams in Boston are always solid and available. Want to search around a bit? Look for Victory from Pennsylvania.


Hosts often complain that they are too busy to enjoy their own party, so why not just assemble the fixin's and let your guests do the mixin'? White spirits — vodka, gin and tequila — are the most popular basic ingredients for cocktails, but also include the brown liquors such as rums and blended whiskies (Scotch and/or American). Next, assemble some fruit juices and mixes (bloody mary, orange juice, lemon juice), white and red Vermouth, bitters, and garnishes such as lemons, limes, olives, cocktail onions and celery. For variety, get some of the exotic ginger and pomegranate liqueurs for mixing, a few different flavored vodkas from Van Gogh and the "cukey" gin, Hendrick's. For guests with poor memories or no creative impulses, strategically place a copy of the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide at the end of your bar.

Click here for the Tequini recipe.