Summer's end is notoriously sad: you could fill volumes with the poems and song lyrics that lament its finish. After all, the adventurous campouts, all-out barbecues and moments of relaxation can be the memories that sustain you through the cold months. So, while the coming autumn may not solicit too many smiles, an end-of-summer party definitely will! Invite family and friends over for one last backyard hurrah over lobster rolls, burgers and drinks — with a salad or two thrown in for good measure, of course — and then bask in a late sunset with a twilight game of tic-tac-toe on the grass. When the moon is out, enjoy a nightcap by the glow of DIY tiki torches. Summer will come to an end, but with a celebration like this, it will go out in style.
Set the Scene and Prep for Shorter Days
Whether tiki torches are part of your summer tradition or not, they set the perfect scene for a fair-weather farewell. Make wine bottle tiki torches to delight your guests from day to night. And you can keep these around, too: they'll get your backyard ready for shorter days when you'll need more lights and bug repellant.
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Keep the Drinks and Supplies in One (Backyard) Spot
When your goal is to celebrate the end of summer, you want to spend as much time as possible outside, soaking in every drop of sunshine. It won't do, then, to be running inside the house every five minute to refill your guests' drinks. Learn how to build an outdoor bar to keep all of your supplies within easy reach while you're outdoors.
Make it a Real Summer Party With an Outdoor Game
The best summer parties have everyone playing games that remind them of childhood. Stock your party with a classic and creative outdoor version of tic-tac-toe. You can also put board games out for those who would like to play in groups.
Get Fancy, Even With Simple Appetizers
When it comes to appetizers, you can go casual or fancy. But for a summer party, you just want to make sure that your appetizer of choice fulfills two requirements: it needs to be easy and cold. For a fancy appetizer that will impress guests, but still keep it simple and cool, try making lobster sliders on brioche buns.
End the Season With a Classic Summer Wine
When it comes to summer beverages, there are some classics that everyone can get behind. Make a wine spritzer any way you and your guests want it — it's a recipe that's refreshing, fruity and wonderfully customizable. Leave the ingredients out after the initial round and let your guests choose between club soda and sprite, red wine and white wine and whether or not to add fruit.
Or Go Crazy With Some Special Slushies
If you don't feel like a classic drink, go crazy with slushies. Learn how to make a watermelon vodka slushy, a blackberry bourbon slushy and a peach white wine slushy. They're really the only three boozy slushy recipes you need to know, and your guests will be grateful.
Turn Mango Into a Tasty Side Dish
Who doesn't love mango in the summer? A peanut mango salad is a great and unique combo of sweet and savory, cooling you off while refreshing your taste buds for the grilled main dish. It's the perfect side for a warm summer evening.
Keep Your Main Dish Classically Summer
For your end-of-summer party, you'll want to make a main dish that's so intrinsically summer, your party would seem incomplete without it. Make some juicy and savory brioche burgers for a slightly fancier version of the classic grilled meal, and your spin on a must-have may become the new favorite.
But Get Creative With Your Salads
So the main dish was a classic, but your side dishes don't have to be. Incorporate all of your end-of-summer veggies to make a delicious panzanella salad that will show off summer's best natural flavors. As a bonus, most of this salad's ingredients let you use the grill that's been so good to you all summer.
Choose Just How You'll Throw Cheese into the Mix
No party is complete without cheese. Learn how to cook halloumi cheese and do with it what you please. You can throw it into one of the tasty salads you've already made, offer it up to your guests as they assemble their burgers, or leave it out as an appetizer or untraditional dessert.
Keep Dessert Simple, Creamy and Cold
What's creamy, refreshing and easy to make for a summer dessert? This no-churn berry ice cream recipe uses ingredients you probably already have at home and can be made in a small food processor or blender. And it's the deliciously perfect finish to a celebratory end-of-summer party. Until next year.