The Top Picnic Mistakes to Avoid, and How to Fix Them If They Happen, Plus Boozy Bubbles to Pack in the Basket

Plan the perfect summer outing with The Picnic, written by the masterminds behind the Portland Picnic Society.
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When it comes to summer picnics, you’ll be hard pressed to find better resources for tips, tricks and menus than Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker and Jen Stevenson of the Portland Picnic Society. They’ve assembled the only picnic guide you’ll ever need in their new book, The Picnic. The Picnic has everything from the rules for common lawn games and 99 uses for Mason jars to delicious recipes and menu ideas. The book is perfect for the novice picnicgoer, with guides for packing your basket and how big a blanket to get, and a list of essential tools everyone always forgets.

One of the most-useful parts of The Picnic is the crisis-aversion section of the book, where 10 common picnic disasters are triaged proactively for you. Planning a picnic before you can snag your own copy of the book? Keep the following details in mind.

1. Bathroom Break: Nothing ruins a picnic like having to go, with no relief in sight. Scout the state of your picnic site’s restrooms upon arrival. If they’re locked or loathsome, search for the nearest coffeehouse and inform your friends of its location.

2. Beat the Heat: If it’s a real sizzler of a day, surprise your fellow guests with a Mediterranean-scented cooldown: Add a few drops of rose, citrus or lavender oil to chilled miniature spray bottles of water and distribute them to the crowd. (Paper fans work, too.)

3. Battle of the Bugs: Summer bugs are a picnic plague. Bring an arsenal of citronella votives and bug spray. To keep unwelcome sweet-tea swimmers at bay, try this easy trick for transforming a Mason jar: Remove the lid and set it aside. Take a square of decorative paper, punch a hole in it, lay it over the lip of your jar, replace the ring and poke a straw through the hole. Drink elsewhere, bugs.

Bonus Disaster to Avoid: Pernicious Plants. Should you find yourself lounging in a verdant field that you suddenly realize is the mean kind of green — poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac — do not panic. Disinfect as quickly as possible with rubbing alcohol and paper towels, followed by soap and water.

All this is before The Picnic even digs into the food, and the bites are just as good as the picnic advice. The book is full of a wide assortment of recipes, covering everything from small bites and salads to main dishes, desserts and drinks. As a bonus, the book is full of little tricks and hacks to make portable meal preparation as simple and seamless as possible. Satiate your summer food cravings with dishes like Blue Ribbon Tomato Pie, Horseradish-Rubbed Flank Steak, Brick-Roasted Chicken and Vanilla Bean Shortcakes with Strawberries in Basil Syrup. The Picnic also assembles the dishes into wonderful theme menus, like The Dolce Vita (Italian themed) or Belles and Baskets (a Southern-inspired picnic extravaganza). No matter which menu you start with, you’ll want to top it off with one of the five bottled bubblers (recipes below), summery sips that pair perfectly with your favorite summer dishes. You can order your copy of The Picnic  here.

Five Bubblers in a Bottle

When our resident cocktail queen, Katie Burnett, brought spritzers to our picnic in tiny bottles, we were enchanted. Bottled cocktails are whimsical, portable, and — well, we’ll cop to it — effective when dodging the park patrol. (Not that we’d recommend anything but completely legal alcohol consumption.) See a tutorial on how to bottle your libations in Bottled Cocktails 101 (page 164 of The Picnic) and pack one of these five fabulous drinks (one is alcohol-free) in your cooler. Each recipe makes one drink.

1. Lillet Lift
3 ounces Lillet Blanc
2 dashes orange bitters
4 ounces Champagne
1 twist of orange zest

Using a funnel, pour the Lillet and orange bitters into a 187-ml bottle. Top with the Champagne, add the twist, and cap the bottle.

2. Americano
1 1⁄2 ounces Campari
1 1⁄2 ounces Cinzano Rosso vermouth
4 ounces club soda
1 twist of lemon zest

Using a funnel, pour the Campari and vermouth into a 187-ml bottle. Top with the club soda, add the twist, and cap the bottle.

3. Aperol Spritz
2 ounces Aperol
4 ounces Prosecco
1 ounce club soda
1 twist of orange zest

Using a funnel, pour the Aperol into a 187-ml bottle. Top with the Prosecco and club soda, add the twist, and cap the bottle.

4. Le Suzette
1 ounce Suze liqueur
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce gin
4 ounces club soda
1 twist orange zest

Using a funnel, pour the Suze, Lillet and gin into a 187-ml bottle. Top with the club soda, add the twist, and cap the bottle.

5. Pomegranate Fizz
Homemade grenadine
Makes about 1⁄2 cup
1⁄2 cup pomegranate juice
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Mocktail
1 ounce Homemade Grenadine
6 ounces club soda
1 twist of lime zest

To make the grenadine: Bring the pomegranate juice, sugar and pomegranate molasses to a boil in a small pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat when the syrup is clear. Pour it into a glass jar, or through a funnel into a glass bottle, and cool to room temperature. This recipe makes enough for 8 cocktails. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month to reuse in this recipe, or try it in a Singapore Sling or Planter’s Punch.

To make the Pomegranate Fizz: Using a funnel, pour the grenadine into a 187-ml bottle. Top with the club soda, add the twist, and cap the bottle.

Tips & Tricks: Bottled Cocktails 101

Most of your favorite cocktails can be bottled, and besides being just plain fun, DIY bottling is a decidedly practical means of portioning, transporting and serving drinks on the go. Purchase an inexpensive bottle capper, bottle caps and mini Champagne bottles, and in mere minutes you’ll have a bevy of bubblers ready to slip into the cooler. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Prepare cocktails in individual bottles using a small funnel.

2. Place a cap on top of the bottle and seal with a Red Baron bottle capper. Invert the bottle to make sure you have a great seal.

3. Ice, pop, and sip!
Extra Credit

Order bottle caps that are painted on both sides for a prettier look. Or take advantage of inexpensive custom bottle cap production (see page 185 of The Picnic for retailers) so you can design your own for a one-of-a-kind tipple topper.

Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2015. Illustrations by Emily Isabella.

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