As the weather warms up and we head back outdoors, it’s time to think picnics. All thanks to a certain pandemic, it’s safe to say our socialising energies this summer will be directed more than ever on the enticing possibilities of entertaining in the great outdoors.
As Susie Robinson, director of Melbourne-based picnic catering service Our Boys & Girls, says: “A picnic is lovely, it’s easy, all you need is your local park. It’s about embracing your own environment.”
So crack out the picnic rug and dust off that picnic basket — and don’t forget to bring your best alfresco attitude. Here’s our handy guide to the best picnic food and drinks to make your easy summer party in the park a day to remember.
If there’s one given at a summer picnic, it’s sparkling wine, whether Champagne or prosecco. But your artillery should also include rosé wine, which has been trending wildly for the past few years — the refreshing drink is perfect for hot days.
You can’t go wrong with white wines such as pinot gris and pinot grigio — the light, bright flavour profile dominant with citrus fruits makes them picnic-perfect.
Red wine drinkers don’t have to miss out, but you want to set the dial for easy-to-drink light reds that can be served lightly chilled, such as a beaujolais. Handy hint: make sure all your choices have a handy screw top.
Of course, a range of craft brews are equally important: IPA beer, wheat beer, dark lager and a light bodied, lower-alcohol craft beer make the perfect ensemble.
An increasingly popular summer drink are hard seltzers — low-alcohol sparkling waters — which are hugely refreshing and boast summery fruit flavours (White Claw in natural lime or mango is a great choice). Plus these pre-mixed drinks have maximum portability.
Even if summer picnics demand easy to drink options, you don’t want to miss out on mixed drinks. Enter: handy pre-batched cocktails such as Curatif’s artisan Bloody Mary and Mai Tai. Another great option for someone who likes fruity flavours? This canned vodka peach iced tea. It’s a great idea to use garnishes such as mint leaves, fresh raspberries, blood orange and other citrus fruits to style your drinks to the max.
And if you prefer a DIY drinks recipe, a gin and tonic with a splash of lemon juice — and perhaps with a few drops of Angostura Bitters for a sunset hue — is a delicious way to quench your thirst.
Of course, don’t forget the cool box, nor should you underestimate the amount of ice cubes you’ll need, especially for a hot day. “If you’re tossing up between four or five bags, get six,” advises Susie.
When it comes to picnic food, grazing platters are a great solution for feeding a group. A wooden board heaped with cold cuts such as Calabrian salami, prosciutto and bresaola, rounded out with a selection of artisan cheeses (include a hard cheese, blue cheese and washed rind for variety), olives, nuts and dried fruits makes a visual alfresco feast.
“Pre-cut everything and put it in plastic containers,” says Susie. “That way you’re not having to prep anything there.”
Other classic Aussie picnic food go-tos which are filling include potato salad and pasta salad, while homemade sausage rolls make excellent finger food, as do crust-less chicken sandwiches and mini quiches or frittatas — they are easy recipes to recreate. Add a quick, fresh salad recipe to the mix, and you’re all set.
What would be your idea of the perfect picnic? Beyond good food and drinks, it’s probably an Insta-worthy one. Susie’s number one tip for styling your picnic is to, “Make it gorgeous.” Proper glassware will help elevate the event into something special, while streamers and a few other rustic-style decorations will create a festive vibe. Add some lanterns, candles, colourful cushions, and if you want to go all out — fairy lights.
Not everyone likes sitting on a picnic rug for hours at a time, so take some folding chairs and style them with pastel throws. Above all, says Susie, “Don’t forget the portable speaker!”