What to Bring?

Easy alternatives to showing up with beer. Though that’s good, too.


Written by Kate Barnett.

While drinks are almost always a welcomed addition to a cookout, I’m stepping it up this year. The reason is twofold: on one hand it’s fun to play grown up and bring an exciting treat, on the other it’s often much less expensive than a couple bottles of wine. Here are a few favorites that come off disproportionately thoughtful, compared to the effort they require to make. And yes, some of which are still boozy.

Prosciutto e melone. An easy classic. Grab a melon, some prosciutto and toothpicks. Cut up the melon, wrap in prosciutto and secure. Done.

Deviled eggs.  Boil eggs, cut ’em in half, scoop out the yolk and mix in mayo and a bit of mustard, plus salt and pepper to taste. Scoop back into the egg halves and sprinkle with cayenne. Surprisingly tasty.

Endive, blue cheese and grapes. Look! It’s (almost) red, white and blue! Separate endive spears and put a piece of blue cheese and half a red grape (or garnish of your choice) at the bottom of each spear. Voila. Great combination of flavors, and looks particularly classy.

Sangria. The trick here is ginger ale, brandy, and a few hours for the flavors to mix. Mix a bottle of wine (cheap Syrah or Rioja works well), a couple shots of brandy, a couple shots of triple sec, a healthy splash of orange juice, fruit (I’m partial to whole crunchy grapes, orange and lemon slices and pieces of whatever fruit’s around), and a cup or two of ginger ale. Add a spoonful of sugar, if you’re so inclined. Don’t worry about exact measurements, and try to use whatever you have on hand. The ingredients could easily cost $50, or $15. If you don’t have brandy or triple sec, just buy nips at the liquor store. The longer this sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Perfect Margaritas. Not particularly easy to transport, or inexpensive, but so much better than buying margarita mix. 1 part tequila, 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice, 1 part Triple Sec. Add ice and blend. Dip the rim of your glass in the mixture followed by margarita salt, fill and enjoy. Squeezing limes can be a nuisance  but it makes a huge difference in taste, so if  you have a juicer, use it.

While these are  pretty fail-safe, if something goes terribly wrong you can always grab a six-pack of Hoegaarden and be on your merry way. If you have any suggestions to add, please share — the larger my arsenal of lazy recipes, the better.

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  • Carolina

    All tipes of different bread- normal, dark, pizza bread etc. although I am in Italy so that might be easier an cheapper to find than nyc
    Or what about boiled corn ? Heavy to transport but yum and cheap

    • Kate Barnett

      Ooh! Good call! I usually do corn on the grill, wrapped in tin foil with a little butter and some fresh rosemary. soooo good.

  • rhiarhia

    Roll a log of goat cheese in chopped dried cranberries, nuts and basil. Serve on a plate surrounded with crackers.

    • Jurgita

      agree, there is nothing better and easier than big plate of different cheese with dry fruits and nuts 🙂 and no chance to fail… But not really a cheap option


  • maud.schellekens
  • Deviled eggs are so good!


  • Gosh…as a fake kitchen chef you all better bring it with the deviled eggs. Put some Shrimp in there, or Crabmeat. haha am i’m being too fancy?

    • Kate Barnett

      if you’ve got the ambition, do it up! i put a little relish in sometimes, too. but even plain i love them. and there’s something wonderfully kitschy about deviled eggs.

  • Elisa Taviti

    I’m addicted in prosciutto e melone! 😀
    It’s my summer dish!!!

    Elisa – My Fantabulous World

  • B

    All good tips, but that Sangria needs a new name. Sangria is not made with ginger ale nor brandy. Red wine is the only alcoholic ingredient…Just saying.

    • Be Mediterranean

      FAIL. Sangría is nearly always made with spirits, usually brandy or cognac, but sometimes vodka, gin or triple sec. It goes down easy but goes to straight to your head, making it extremely popular with the tourists here in Spain. What’s just plain insulting is placing the words “cheap Syrah” alongside “Rioja”. No one in their right mind would waste a fine Rioja on a Sangria! I personally like the choice of Ginger Ale, an ingredient that’s difficult to find in Spain, but combines well with the cinnamon sticks that are usually added here. And don’t forget to add peaches, never absent from an authentic Spanish Sangria.

      • Kate Barnett

        great to get a local’s advice! i should have just said that the subtleties of a good bottle can get lost in sangria, so don’t worry about spending too much. my friend just introduced me to my new favorite white, albariño. almost included that as it’s own point; as a person who usually drinks red it’s such an interesting spanish white.


    Try adding cinamon to the sangría. it is really good and the real Spanish touch

  • Broke And Beautiful

    At my house, “sangria” means a jug of Carlo Rossi with frozen fruit floating in it for a few hours, baking in the sun.

    Yours sounds better. (Ish.)

  • You make these sound too easy…I have a suspicious feeling that once I’m in the kitchen, everything will go wrong. 😛


    • Kate Barnett

      they are this easy! i promise!

    • Leandra Medine

      I’m kind of with you even though I’VE SEEN KATE MAKE THE MAGIC in short periods of time

  • Melinda

    Good ideas! Always keen to hit ‘refresh’ on the lazy recipes section. My go-to: watermelon, feta, and black olive salad. Raises lots of eyebrows, but the bowl always ends up empty.


  • mmm the devil eggs sounds good and really easy x

  • 谢谢分享,网站不错!也欢迎您来访!

  • Belén Cavas Hernández

    mmmmm, at this time i can´t read this things.

    New outfit on the blog.


  • Cassandra Too

    Just in time for one of the gathering I have to attend tomorrow! 😀

    with love, Cassandra

  • kerrin

    amen to the eggs. cranberry rolls of the whole foods variety are also a sure-fire homer. x


  • Lauren at adorn la femme

    The melon and prosciutto is always a sure home run! Something I discovered even easier is blue cheese spread on gourmet ginger snaps~so surprisingly relish!! Ssshh- But don’t tell Martha Stewart cuz it takes so little time!!

    Hope your 4th of July was a great kick start to a fabulous summer!! <3

    Lauren at adorn la femme

  • Cams

    Sangria has done me well as a solid fallback to bring with me. I don’t even drink, I just love the smell and look of it, but I have never had any complaints when I make it! Thanks for the other suggestions though. It is nice to have some more fall backs. I will be trying the prosciutto e melon for sure. Thanks again!

  • Bannef

    I did the beer thing this time, but last year a friend brought potato salad and completely saved the day. It was our first 4th of July away from home, and none of us had ever grilled before – the food took longer than it should and I had been drinking in the sun on an empty stomach for way too long. I’m not usually a potato salad fan, but it’s great for preventing alcohol poisoning.

  • Sophie L.

    For quick and easy dessert check out No Bake Makery: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1455525138/ref=redir_mdp_mobile

    All cute treats that you don’t need the oven for. Perfect for summer!

  • Alexis

    I love bringing a large quinoa salad with hearts of palm, craisins, corn, chicpeas and broccoli slaw. It’s easy to make, healthy, gluten-free…good for all! Just add olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Or…crostinis with goat cheese and fig!