9 Finger Food Tips for Summer Cocktail Parties & Outdoor Events

Summer is the perfect season for hosting catered events. With long days and warm weather, there’s no better way to bring people together than over delicious food and drinks. 

But planning the ultimate catered event can be tricky!

From finger foods to full-blown grazing stations, our top 9 catering tips will help you plan a crowd-pleasing cocktail party menu.

1. Serve a VARIETY OF 5-7 finger foods

For summer events, variety is the way to go. An example would be a variety of 1-2 kinds of hors d’oeuvres, and the rest of the finger food could be cold.

This combination of hot and cold bites allows guests to sample different flavors and textures.  Plus, a warmer weather gathering will lean towards wanting bright, fresh dishes. 

2. Include a mix of protein and carbohydrates

When it comes to catering an event, having a balanced menu is key. Making sure your event includes a good balance of protein, carbs, fruits, and vegetables will keep guests feeling satisfied. Consider adding proteins such as grilled chicken, steak, and fresh fish to the menu. 

Balance the menu out with “carbier” hors d’oeuvres like mini grilled cheese, risotto cakes, and bruschettas. 

A varied menu will keep your guests interested and excited about what’s coming next. Also, a mix of both proteins and carbs will ensure that there’s something for everyone at the event! 

3. Serve at least ONE item vegan or gluten-free!

No matter the event, it’s always important to have a range of finger food options available for guests. If you’re looking for vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free hors d’oeuvres, most caterers should have plenty of these options on their menus. 

Some popular vegan finger foods are vegetable skewers, falafel bites, and veggie spring rolls. For added flavor, offer a variety of dips to go alongside the dishes.

4. Stick to Lighter Fare

While 1-2 hot items are solid menu choices to have, sticking to lighter party foods won’t weigh your guests down. Options like Caprese Skewers and tuna tartare on fried wontons or cucumbers are popular summer items. This allows the guests to try fun and easy, bite-sized dishes, while not being confined to a set meal.

5. Include 1-2 GRILLED hors d’oeuvres

Try using quick-cooking proteins so you don’t have to spend too much time on the grill. Fish, and seafood grill more quickly than items like chicken and steak. Serving grilled food on skewers, like bbq shrimp & veggies, work well for summer events. Skewered hors d’oeuvres are easy to eat while mingling and holding a drink. 

6. Include a GRAZING TABLE 

A grazing table is a great way to keep your summer event trendy and fun. You can have an array of artisanal cheeses, seasonal fruits, veggies, nuts, and a variety of dips for guests to nosh on throughout the party. It’s also an effortless way to provide a photogenic, tasty spread. The best part? No cooking is required!

7. Serve a refreshing SALAD in individual cups

In addition to your grazing table and appetizers, why not surprise your guests by serving salads in individual cups? 

Grainy salads like quinoa with grilled zucchini stand up well in warm weather and aren’t too heavy. This makes it easy for everyone to mingle and enjoy their food at the same time! It’s a great way to add a refreshing, portable twist to your summer party.

8. Try GRILLING FRUIT for dessert

To continue the outdoorsy, grilling theme, try grilling fruit. Whether you’re using a grill outside or an indoor one, you can really enhance the flavor of fruits like pineapples, peaches, and apples by grilling them. 

Peaches with ice cream (served in mini cups) or grilled pineapple skewers drizzled with rum sauce are amazing options for the dessert menu.

9. Serve a SEASONAL COCKTAIL to set a festive mood 

Serving a seasonal cocktail at your next catered gathering is a great way to set the festive mood. Cocktails like spiked lemonade, margaritas, and sangria make party planning a breeze because they can be made ahead of time and held in pitchers so guests can serve themselves.

For an added dazzle, try adding fun garnishes like slices of citrus, olives, and berries to your drinks. Make sure to provide plenty of non-alcoholic options as well!

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to plan the event of the summer! 

Contact us to plan your next catered event. Whether you’re planning an intimate gathering or a full-blown party, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s make this summer one to remember!


Sweet Basil Catering