There’s a lot of pressure surrounding summer barbecue season. “I’ll be grilling meats and veggies,” my friends will often say. “You can bring a dish to share!” Sounds easy enough, sure, but once you factor in the fluctuating amount of people who might be there (it’s never exactly how many you expect), dietary restrictions, the level of cheffiness you want to bring to your dish, how the weather will affect whatever you make, the best containers for even bringing the dish over—well, it gets to be a lot. So instead of turning the backyard hang into a chore, just keep it simple with a crowd-pleasing combo: fruit and alcohol.
The first time I had this simple but delectable treat was at a Fourth of July party. “Be careful of the fruit,” a friend warned me, so naturally I had to check it out. An Igloo cooler was filled to the brim with watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, and peaches, swelling with vodka. Not a fan of vodka at the time, I was skeptical of how good this could actually be (and was still reeling from the “dangerous” disclaimer from my friend). But after one bite I realized that the natural fruit juices were the perfect built-in mixer to tame the boozy heat, and after an evening of imbibing I discovered that eating your cocktail provides some much-needed sustenance as you’re indulging.
Fruit, and fruity cocktails, are already a staple for warm-weather gatherings. With these concoctions you’re able to bring the two together in a refreshing, bite-sized treat and fill your cup with water instead to stay hydrated throughout the day. Even if you’d still rather sip your alcohol than chew on it, these infused fruits can also be frozen and dropped into soda water, lemonade, or another juice of your choice (maybe one of Trader Joe’s delicious offerings?) to create a slow-release cocktail with a boozy garnish.
For an extra fruity kick, use the husk of your watermelon or pineapple as the vessel in which to infuse the fruit—you also get a built-in, Pinterest-like centerpiece for the buffet table. And of course, you could always just dump an entire bottle of vodka straight into a whole watermelon like our friends on TikTok.
This is also a great way to get a stealthy buzz. If you’re heading to a park or a beach where they don’t allow glass bottles or other containers with alcohol, simply pack up a container of alcohol-infused fruit (just don’t rat me out if you get caught).
If you’re heading to a gathering where you’re not aware of every guest’s lifestyle, be sure to also bring along a clearly marked helping of non-alcoholic fruit as well. Even without spirits, a bowl of fruit is a welcome addition to any barbecue and will serve both sober and underage attendees well.
While vodka is certainly a classic option to pair with any fruit, we can get a little more creative than that. And you’ll want to stick with fruits that have a little heft—sliced-up citrus or very ripe kiwis will quickly turn to mush. Try these combinations for a twist on the familiar:
- Cherries and bourbon. Get the best part of an Old Fashioned without the fuss.
- Peaches and sparkling wine/champagne. It’s basically a bite-sized Bellini.
- Pineapple and ouzo. A Greek-inspired treat.
- Strawberries and tequila. Mini-margarita, anyone?
- Watermelon and beer. All the best backyard barbecue flavors in one bite.
The sky’s the limit—let us know what combos you try at your next summer food gathering. And as always, eat your fruit responsibly.