There's nothing quite like spending an evening just hanging out with your friends. These days, getting the chance to just kick back with a glass of wine and some adult conversation is right up there with bungee jumping as far as soul-bending thrill rides go. I love my child, of course. But there are only so many conversations one can have about the sanctity of buttered macaroni before going slightly crazy.
So, when an opportunity arises to remove my mama hat and spend a night just as Mary, I'm all over it. A backyard bonfire is a perfect way to enjoy such an evening. It's an easy party to put together, and can be made to accommodate just a handful of friends or a rowdy crowd with ease. You don't need much in the way of preparation to throw a great bonfire. Really, a small fire, some good friends, and an everyday wine, like JaM Cabernet, is all you need to have a great night.
To make your bonfire even more special, you can try adding some of my favorite finishing touches. A few small luxuries, like gourmet bonfire snacks, cozy throw blankets, and festive lighting can kick your casual little party up a notch, making it feel like a proper celebration.
Need help finding the perfect wine for your backyard bonfire? Enter your zip code in the JaMCellars Wine Finder to locate a retailer near you.
A little mood music wouldn't hurt either. Click here for more ideas and to download a summer chilling playlist from JaM Cellars.
Setting the Mood
Mason Jar Lanterns: Help guests make their way from the back door to the bonfire by placing some jars with tealights around the yard. Any glass jars you have hanging around in the kitchen will do. Just pop a small candle or led light into each jar before setting them outside.
Seating: Provide plenty of seating to surround the fire. Benches, logs, Adirondack chairs, or folding chairs are all great choices.
Music Basket: We like to keep a small basket stocked with tambourines, maracas, and harmonicas for random musical outbreaks. This basket usually resides in our living room right next to the guitar and ukelele, but all three are usually carted outside in the event of a bonfire.
Throw Blankets: It can get chilly during a backyard bonfire. Try draping a few throw blankets over the seats before your party begins. Guests can wrap themselves up and get cozy later on.
Party Trays: Give guests a special place to set down their wine glasses and snacks by placing small serving trays in between seats. If you don't have any serving trays on hand, try using cutting boards or wooden crates instead.
Bug Spray: Make sure to have plenty of bug spray available to keep guests from getting nibbled while they enjoy the party.
JaM Cabernet: An excellent choice for a backyard bonfire, JaM Cab is made in the tradition of great California winemaking—rich, bold and luscious. This easy-drinking Cabernet is bold and fruity, with notes of fresh berries, plums, and vanilla. JaM Cab also happens to be one of the best Cabernets available for under $20 a bottle!
Craft Beer: Stock a cooler with your favorite craft beers to satisfy the brew lovers.
Soft Drinks: Don't forget that not everyone partakes in wine or beer. Throw some bottled water, sparkling water, and even a few choice soda pops in the cooler to make sure you have something on hand for everyone.
The following goodies can be prepared ahead of time using your broiler or barbecue. Or, let your guests try their hand at cooking over the bonfire instead. Just make sure that you and your guests take extra care to cook their treats safely. Use extra long skewers or roasting sticks and exercise caution with hot skewers and freshly roasted food!
Blistered Italian Peppers: Sweet Italian peppers are just the right size for popping on a skewer and roasting over an open flame. Prep your peppers by placing 2 or 3 onto a skewer, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt and pepper.
Brown Sugar Pineapple Spears: Roasted pineapple is made even more delicious with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Chile Lime Mango: Peel and slice fresh mango into chunks before sprinkling it with chile powder, salt, and lime juice. For an extra kick, add a touch of cayenne or chipotle!
Gourmet S'More Baskets: Classic s'mores will always have a place in my heart, but why not dress this classic up a bit now that the kids have gone to bed? Make your s'mores more gourmet by providing artisan or handmade marshmallows* and a variety of chocolate options. Try dark chocolate bars mixed with toffee, fruit, cayenne, or caramel, or something really unique - like a peanut or almond butter cup! Pack the s'more ingredients in small baskets to make assembly quick and easy.
*My Bourbon Cherry Marshmallows would be amazing in a s'more. Get the recipe here.
How do you like to spend a relaxed evening with friends? Share your favorite bonfire or party night ideas in the comments below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.