Summer technically ends on September 22. But for most of us, Labor Day is the line in the sand between barbecues, boating, lazy alfresco afternoons … and three months of pumpkin spice everything. That means the tail end of tomato season. Peak strawberries’ swan song. And maybe even a begrudging hiatus from the beach.
So with that in mind, we’re taking full advantage of this holiday weekend to wrest every last bit of summer from its scant 72 hours. Here, seven tips to throwing the ultimate Labor Day bash, whether you’re heading 100 miles to the coast or 100 feet to your own backyard.
1. Up Your Grill Game
There’s something to be said for simplicity, but that doesn’t mean your casual cookout has to suffer from banal ballpark condiments. Go beyond relish and yellow mustard with hot dog toppings like pimiento cheese and homemade salsa. And leave the ground chuck patties in the freezer in favor of crab cake sliders or pork banh mi–style burgers. Thankfully, we’ve planned the perfect end-of-summer cookout menu for you, right here.
2. Savor the Last of the Summer Produce
Farm stands are overflowing with heirloom tomatoes. Produce sections are suffused with the scent of ripe strawberries. And your local supermarket has ears of corn coming out of its, well, ears. We know—over the past couple of months you’ve probably been spoiled by a profusion of produce. But before you know it, you’ll be smack dab in root vegetable purgatory. So this weekend, celebrate the best of summer with a tomato tartlet, a refreshing corn and crab gazpacho, and maybe a strawberry mojito or two.
3. Party Plan Like a Pro
You know the adage about best-laid plans (probably through bitter, bitter experience). Sometimes, despite our best intentions, holidays can be stressful. But entertaining a crowd has never been easier thanks to Cozi, a free mobile app from Time Inc. that allows family and friends to share a calendar, grocery lists, to-do items—pretty much everything for pulling off a perfect party. Who’s bringing extra bags of ice and those burger buns you forgot? Don’t sweat it! Because your aunt, your sister, and the rest of the cavalry knows to show up with their assigned items.
5. Treat the Happy Hostess
And if you happen to be the lucky Labor Day bash attendee, we suggest graciously arriving with one of these lovely hostess gifts in hand—especially if the end-of-summer feast is hosted by a foodie. Delight the grill master with gourmet sea salt, a bloody Mary cocktail kit, or a South Carolina–made coconut cake, and secure your invite for next year.
4. Can it!
Puns aside, cans are cool again. The aluminum craze that swept through craft beer has gained momentum in the wine world thanks to a new wave of West Coast winemakers like Underwood and Andrew Jones’s Field Recordings. We’ll be toasting the end of summer with The Drop—a minerally, Lodi-sourced rosé (a blend of Syrah, zinfandel, and Chenin Blanc) that drinks like Provençal-lite. Just as refreshing as the can’s dressed-down, beach cooler–ready design and the wine’s crisp taste is its price: A four-pack clocks in at less than 20 bucks.
6. Mix Up a Taste of Paradise
But truly, the best way to bid a proper farewell to the hottest months of the year? An ice-cold, island-style cocktail. Food & Wine Editor Chris Hughes and test kitchen whiz Karen Rankin recently shook up a few refreshing tiki drinks that are sure to win over your weekend guests. The common denominator that makes these concoctions deliciously sweet and simple? Orgeat syrup. Grab the recipes for the homemade syrup and boozy beverages here.
7. Turn Up the Tunes
On Coastal Living Radio! Because no beach or backyard bash is complete without it. And it’s easier than piecing together a crowd-pleasing playlist. Classic beach songs and fun interviews with our editors (but mostly just great music!) make our radio station the summer soundtrack for appeasing the hot dog– and hamburger-eating masses.
More tips for your Labor Day weekend: