Docktail Hour: At-the-Ready Snacks for Spontaneous Fun

docktailaIf you hear the roar of a motor or the squeal of a skier approaching your dock as the sun begins to fade, you know it’s your turn for “Docktail Hour”! All it takes to up the ante with delicious snacks and drinks while making your life easier is a little planning ahead.

There’s nothing more fun—and more vacation-like—than enjoying drinks with friends. It always feels better to be able to yell “Come on over!” than to duck and hope no one stops by. If you think it through, and your pantry is stocked, you’ll be ready to host a crew every night!

It all begins with having a plan. Start at the grocery store with a pantry-filling run. There are great things to keep on hand that will be good for a week or two (or are shelf stable) that make great appetizers. Start with the easy stuff: trail mix, a wedge of cheese, olives and nuts. Make sure you have some good jam to pair with the cheese—like a fig and ginger flavor—or fruit to add to the platter, and a nice salami (they last for months unopened). Then add in some fun snacks that are easy to assemble, like those we’ve included here. Another think-ahead tactic: If you’re grilling tonight, throw a few extra ingredients on the grill that could be part of your snack buffet tomorrow (like red peppers for crostini, or the peach and prosciutto slices).

To avoid the house-dock relay, have a basket of things for the dock ready. As soon as the wine glasses and platters come out of the dishwasher, put them back in the dock basket. You should also include napkins (cloth napkins are harder to care for, but don’t blow away quite as easily), a wine/bottle opener, spreaders and a few plates. For music lovers, a small wireless speaker that allows you to play music from your phone may be a great addition. Citronella candles or bug spray keep the party going longer, and a trash bag makes the clean up easier.

In the past ten years, there have been great leaps of progress in the area of unbreakable dishes and glasses. Loads of appealing patterns are available in dishes and platters—from large discounters all the way to high-end retailers. (We like the patterns at!) On the dock, stemless, unbreakable glasses are a must; one well-chosen 12-ounce cup can easily double for cocktails or wine. Monogrammed plastic cups come in smaller-than-keg-party sizes now, and can be imprinted with your last name, your house’s name, or the name of your boat, just for fun!

Pack a cooler too. Start with frozen water bottles and juice boxes instead of ice. Add other favorite drinks, or the ingredients for our blackberry lemonade, and any other foods you may be serving. Remember food safety: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Perishable food should only be kept out of refrigeration for a maximum of two hours (maybe even less on a hot, sunny day!)

Most of all, enjoy yourself! You’ve got a whole summer ahead. Happy hosting!

Bruschetta with chopped mango, basil and goat cheese on fresh baCrostini (each French loaf makes about 24)
Crostini is always a crowd-pleaser; do one big platter of the same kind, or pick a few variations and allow for choices.

French bread
Olive oil
Herbed cream cheese and chopped kalamata olives
Fresh mozzarella and roasted red pepper strips
Pimento cheese and chopped bacon
Ricotta cheese and sliced peaches

Slice the bread into ¾ inch slices. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Top with suggestions above or use your own combinations.

docktailfLayered Hummus (Serves 8)
Guests always love the standard seven-layer Mexican dip—you know the one: refried beans, tomatoes, cheese… This is a newer version, using flavors from another part of the world. I’ve included instructions on making your own hummus (it’s easy!), but you can always use store-bought hummus in a pinch.

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup tahini paste (read the jar carefully; ground sesame seeds are the only ingredient)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup crumbled feta
8 kalamata olives, chopped
3 scallions, sliced
¼ cup roasted red pepper, chopped
½ cup seeded cucumber, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Combine first six ingredients in the bowl of a food processor to make the hummus. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Spread hummus on a platter into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients. Serve with toasted pita chips and raw vegetables.

appetizer with grilled peach,Proscuitto-Wrapped Peaches (serves 8)
Make these the night before when you’re
grilling dinner, and refrigerate. They are delicious the next day, too!

3 ripe but firm peaches or nectarines
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
2 tablespoons honey
Fresh thyme

Slice each peach into eight slices. Wrap each slice with enough prosciutto to completely go around once. Insert a toothpick to hold the prosciutto in place. Grill over medium heat for a minute on each side, until prosciutto begins to crisp. Remove from grill, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with a few thyme leaves.

BlackberriesBlackberry Lemonade (for one)
If you know you’ll have guests, you can make this ahead by the pitcher. Bright and refreshing, it can pack a punch—or just a little fizz! In a pinch, you could substitute a tablespoon of good-quality fruit preserves for fresh fruit.

5 blackberries (or strawberries
or raspberries)
Mint leaf
3 ounces lemonade
1 ½ ounces vodka (or sparkling water)

Put the berries and mint leaf in an
empty glass and muddle (crush to release flavors). Fill glass 2/3 with ice. Add lemonade and vodka or sparkling water and stir. Garnish with an extra blackberry.