Your How-To Guide for everything Picnics and Picnic-Inspired Cocktails
I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t plan enough picnics during my downtime, and I really have no excuse for it. Picnics are a lovely way to enjoy time with loved ones and friends, get some much needed fresh air and sunshine, while imbibing on a beverage or two. I hope this how-to guide will inspire you this summer to bask in mother nature, and to step up your game with some picnic-inspired cocktails!
This article is broken down by the following categories:
- Make A List and Check it Twice
- What to Avoid
- Prep Work
- Storage and Transportation
- Picnic Inspired Cocktails
- Clean Up
If there is one thing that I live by since starting this entrepreneur adventure, is my dependency on lists. For those who know me well, I pretty much have the memory span of a goldfish. Ideas are constantly flowing, and if I don’t write it down, Liquid Culture would never be where it’s at today.
Once you have your concept and theme down for the Picnic, make sure to create a list of what you need. Have it on the fridge the day prior, with a pen quickly at hand in case something comes up that you didn’t think about. For example, napkins! Something that’s readily handy at home, but often forgotten on a trip away.
Here’s an example of what a list I would create:
Food and Drinks:
- Food – Example Cold Wraps
- Cut Fruit
- Garnishes for Cocktails
Set Up and Miscellaneous:
- Small Bag for Garbage
- Hand Sanitizer
- Ziploc Freezer Bag
- Mosquito Repellent
- Reusable Cups (Tossware used here)
- Wine Opener **Even when you aren’t bringing wine, you’d be surprised where this comes in handy
Some items are just best enjoyed in the comfort of your home or at a restaurant, because no one wants a massive cleanup during a time of peaceful relaxation. I breakdown some of the common errors when it comes to packing food and drinks.
- Heavily Sauced – As much as I love Ribs, and sloppy joes, it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t have a massive towel and shower to clean up after yourself. The same could be said with sandwiches. Too much mayo or ketchup will just drench the bread and I truly don’t think there is nothing worse than soggy bread.
- As a side note, as much as I LOVE tomatoes, they can quickly sog up a sandwich. If you can’t live without it, than definitely keep it in a separate container.
- Warm Food – Parks don’t come with microwaves, and the whole point of a picnic means you’re not going to be having a massive BBQ set up. So buy a burger and be okay with that fact that it will be cool and soggy, or do yourself a favour and create something that is easy to handle and deliciously cool.
- Bone-in Chicken – Where are you going to throw the bones? Okay maybe if you have a dog with you. Is that still a thing?
- Salad with Dressing – Just as much as I hate soggy sandwiches, I hate overly dressed and soggy wilted greens. Keep it separate in a container, or pick up one of the cute dressing packages that you can find in most grocers.
- In terms of Pasta Salad, well I would just keep the pasta salad at home. The window can be short when it comes to pasta salads, so just be safe and leave it at home.
- Juleps – As much as I love Juleps, they are a time consuming and ice sensitive cocktail to create. What I mean by ice sensitive, is that it is best served over crushed ice, which in terms of transportation makes it difficult on a hot day. It will quickly melt, and you won’t have much ice at all. So save yourself the heartache and leave the juleps at home.
- Ice Packs – They utilize very precious space in your picnic basket or cooler without having any added benefit. Instead place the ice you want to use for your cocktails in a large Ziploc Freezer Bag. Make sure to place it in two bags, just in case the initial ziploc bag full of ice opens up and you have soggy sandwiches. For larger coolers, I do recommend 1 to 2 small ice packs just in case.
- Prep, Prep, Prep – The more ingredients you can throw into a batch/punch bowl, the much EASIER it will be to transport. Make sure to pay close attention to the instructions in the Picnic Inspired Cocktails Section.
This is incredibly important, because the more you get done at home, the less mess, stress and hassle you’ll have on your picnic. I’ve broken down what needs to get done in a 2 hour – 1 week basis so you’re completely prepared!
48 Hours – 1 Week Prior
- Make sure you have a basket and blanket!
- Keep an eye out for weather
- Pick out your Picnic Site
- Make your list and theme for the picnic. This gives you a chance to plan this out before you head over the grocery store and grab everything you need
- Creating Ice – I would definitely have some extra ice on hand, so get your chef on and make some homemade ice. Instructional video here. For the punch recipe listed below, I would have some extra large squared ice cubes for the cocktail
2 – 24 Hours Prior
- Start prepping your meal. Get your sandwiches and cut fruit done just an hour before, so you can clean up and organize your basket in time.
- Garnishes – Cut your garnishes while getting your meal prepped. To keep your mint nice and fresh, make sure to keep it wrapped up in a slightly damp paper towel in a plastic bag
- Get your ice organized and placed into two plastic bags
- If you’re making a punch drink, than you will want to get this started! Make sure to follow the instructions listed in the Picnic Inspired Cocktails section.
- Check your list and then check it again!
I can’t stress enough how important Ice is to bartenders. Now shame on me….my ice cubes aren’t clear. Well, when I get a place that’s bigger than 2 feet, maybe I’ll invest into another freezer, but until then, my kitchen freezer will do just fine.
Now some of the ways I tackle how I handle and transport the ice is by using large Ziploc Freezer Bags to store my large cubes. I even go the extra mile of double bagging it to make sure nothing spills out and protects my other items. This Ziploc acts as my ‘Ice pack’ so it eliminates that need and extra weight and space. The best part about it is that hopefully all the ice is used up by the time the picnic is over and viola, your basket is 10x lighter.
Something to be mindful of, if you have a germ-o-phobe in your group, make sure to have an extra pair of cups or a scoop to grab the ice. Last thing you want is your date to feel horrified that you used your hands (that have been out in public) to pick up their ice for the cocktail.
SPACE IS KEY
No one wants dishes after a picnic. You just want to kind of forget about it and relax for the entire afternoon. So do yourself a favour, and create some space by eliminating foods that need plates! In some cases if you really want a salad, prepare it in individual reusable containers.
DISPOSABLE AND STACKABLE CUPS
It’s unbelievable what products are out there that can truly accommodate to your every need and desire. Take Tossware for example. This company provides stackable, BPA free, high quality, plastic cups for any occasion. They even have plastic DECANTERS! Their line up includes wine cups, flutes, beer cups, lids, detachable stemware and so, SO much more. These products come in handy in so many ways, so make sure to check out here for options on their website! As a side note for my Toronto friends, I have seen Tossware in the Longo’s by the Air Canada Centre. If you notice them anywhere else, make sure to leave a comment below!
BATTLE BETWEEN COOLER AND BASKETS
Now I’ve definitely seen interesting package options when it comes to picnics. As cute as the standard weaved baskets are, they can be limited in their use. For me I’m all about practicality, so if it is there just to look cute, I won’t get it. But I do have a few options, when it comes to picking your picnic set up.
Basket + Wine and Cheese Carry On
If you have the extra hand and are looking for a way to still include a cute weaved basket, I would definitely go this route. It keeps all the food and set up separate, but still having a small insulated bag for your cocktails, beer and wine! Featured here is a product from ‘Picnic at Ascot’ that typically carries a bottle of wine, but I found this easily carried my Drop Cap Glass bottles with my punch! This option is great, because most of your food and perishable items won’t be held here, and nothing makes me more paranoid than soggy or split on sandwiches. I grew up mastering the art of making sure no water or juice damage lay upon my food EVER AGAIN.
This is the most efficient system to use if you want an all-in-one, practical basket. One of the reasons I absolutely love this product is because if you’re like most Torontonians in a 600 or less sq ft apartment, space is limited, and a cute, weaved basket can’t exactly be thrown anywhere. This amazing product from Picnic at Ascot is COLLAPSIBLE! So this really comes in handy when storage is limited. The product is very durable and has a handy pocket on the outside of the basket. To find this product, make sure to order online at Indigo here.
If you’re planning to have more than 4 people, a rolling cooler may have to be the way to go. Just make sure that you have a hand to carry all this The biggest thing to note here is to make sure that you have a ton of ice, and a little handle or cup to scoop the ice!
Alright! We are finally on to the tasty, delicious part of the article: Your cocktail options! I’ve set up 4 different ways to create delicious, EASY drinks for your day out in the park.
Big Punch! (Good for 4 to 6 people)
This method is incredibly easy to throw together, and calls for little effort when it comes to pouring a delicious tasting beverage at your picnic. You’ll notice that I have a few punches recipes already featured on Liquid Culture, but I wanted to make a special picnic edition for this article!
So with that in mind, I created a refreshing Aperol, Sherry and Mango Punch that will sure refresh any palette. For more details on this recipe, follow here.
Fig and Earl Grey Iced Tea Cooler
This Iced Tea turned out to be my favourite creation, and the best part about it, is the fact that it’s non-alcoholic option to accommodate those with you! Of course, you can add a spirit or two. In this case, gin was paired with this Fig and Earl Grey Iced Tea. It’s unreal, and make sure to follow the link to get the details!
Simple Combos with fresh fruits and herbs!
Want to keep things simple? Combine your Gin + Tonics with some added fruits slices and/or herbs. Spice up your Vodka Sodas with speciality large Ice Cubes. Make sure to keep this in mind a few days prior so that your ice is all set up!
I love me some syrup, just because it can really dress up a cocktail for me. So take this as you would with the simple combinations that are mentioned in option 3. Create a Gin and Tonic with a splash of a syrup! One of my favourites that I use on my water, cocktails, and pretty much ANYTHING is the Strawberry, Rhubarb Cardamom Syrup. Place this into a simple bottle or Squeeze bottle with cap (last thing you want is a syrupy mess in your bag) and you’ll love what this brings to the table!
This part is extremely simple. Make sure to have a small garbage bag ready in hand, and to do your part in making sure mother nature is as clean as possible. I’ll tend to empty out the ice as well. Less weight, and I’m sure the grass won’t mind some water. Or you can use the melted ice to rinse out your disposable cups!
I’d also like to take a moment to mention the straw-less movement. I’m doing my very best to be more sustainable and responsible with my cocktails, and one small step is eliminating straws or using metal, reusable straws. If you’re going to need straws for this trip, then make sure to keep this in mind! For more information, make sure to follow Strawless Ocean and their initiative.