How to throw the best summer BBQ

It’s a tragically rare occurrence, so when the British weather decides to play nice, you better believe we’re going to make the most of it. The second the thermometer ticks into the low twenties, excited Brits across the country immediately turn to each other, message group chats, and summon their mates with some of the most beautiful words in the English language: ‘summer BBQ at mine this weekend?’

Whether you’re holding a family BBQ, having your friends round for a chill evening of grilling and good times, or throwing a full on summer BBQ party, we’re here to show you how to have the best BBQ garden party. From fun ideas to the best food and drinks to serve, we’re going to make sure your BBQ is the envy of the whole street.

Ideas for a summer BBQ

Wondering how to plan the perfect summer BBQ party? Here are a couple of ideas to get things cooking with gas…

Make sure you’ve got your grill all set up

Whoever’s doing the grilling, make their job nice and easy by making sure they’ve got everything they need – use our handy BBQ checklist to get it all set up and ready to go by the BBQ:

  • Grill tongs or grill fork
  • Metal spatula
  • Barbecue mitt
  • Skewers
  • Basting brush
  • Oil
  • Apron
  • Matches
  • Charcoal or gas
  • Towel
  • Aluminium foil

Some other items you might want to add to your BBQ checklist such as an instant-read thermometer (to check your meat is cooked) as well as a fire extinguisher (which hopefully won’t be needed!).

Also, make sure you have plenty of serving bowls, plates, serving spoons, and napkins. Being super prepared means you’ll be able to enjoy the BBQ at the same time as hosting.

Get your grill ready for a summer BBQ

Plan lawn games for kids (and adults)

Kids will love to get involved with games like Twister, giant connect 4, jenga, or even something simple and easy like a DIY ring toss game! And honestly, who are we kidding, when it comes to BBQ party ideas for adults, games can be great too! Make sure you’ve got enough games to go around and everyone is bound to have a good time!

Throw a special birthday BBQ

A summer BBQ is the perfect way to celebrate a special summer birthday, and a great excuse to gather everyone round for a party! And what would a birthday bash be without the perfect birthday card?

Pick some summery tunes

Crank up the volume, and throw on a super summery playlist. Need some inspiration? Check out our positive playlist for plenty of bangers with some real feel-good vibes, or search Spotify for the perfect crowd-sourced BBQ playlist. You can also invite your friends to join a Spotify listening party, so you can all collaborate and throw your favourite summer tracks into the mix!

Set up a drinks bar

No matter what kind of drinks you decide to serve at your summer BBQ (and keep reading to find out our must-have suggestions for perfect summery drinks), make sure you’ve got a one-stop station so your guests can serve themselves.

No more dashing around trying to keep everyone’s glasses filled – let people mix their own drinks, or set up a cooler filled with ice and bottles! You can also serve non-alcoholic drinks for kids or for teetotallers who might feel left out at a boozy BBQ – make them an all-singing all-dancing mocktail station instead!

Serve ice-cold drinks at your summer BBQ party - perfect for keeping cool on a hot day.

The best food for a summer BBQ

There are countless BBQ recipes for a gourmet grilling experience, so we won’t try to reinvent the wheel here – but if you’re planning your summer BBQ shopping list, here are some of the things you might want to pick up for the main event:

BBQ shopping list

  • Sausages
  • Burgers
  • Chicken thighs or wings
  • Hot dog rolls and burger buns
  • Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, red onion, burger relish
  • Cheese slices
  • Skewers of meat, fish, and veggies
  • Meat substitutes
  • Corn on the cob
  • Baking potatoes
  • Coleslaw
  • Potato salad
  • Mayo, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, and any other condiments

There are various items you might want to add to your shopping list for a BBQ, so make sure to take some time to carefully consider what food your guests will enjoy!

Make sure you include veggie options at your summer BBQ party!

Delicious drinks for a summer BBQ party

There’s nothing like a refreshing, fruity drink on a hot summer day while enjoying delicious grilled food! We’ve got a few ideas for larger crowd-pleasing suggestions, but if you’re looking for single-serve cocktails, check out our guide to easy summer cocktails you can make at home.

Top tip: plastic glasses are your friend. They might not be quite as elegant, but nothing curtails the fun of a summer BBQ like glass everywhere.

Summer sangria

While a red wine sangria is traditional, we’d suggest switching it up for a summer BBQ with white wine and plenty of summer fruits. The sweet, fruity taste and lighter profile pairs perfectly with grilled food and plenty of sunshine!

Chop, slice, and freeze plenty of fruit; chill some big serving jugs; and let your friends serve themselves. You can really change the flavour based on the fruits you add here – for a tangier sangria, pick pineapple, lime, oranges, and nectarines, or go for a sweeter flavour with peach, strawberries, watermelon chunks, and raspberries. Make it ahead of time and let the flavours get to know each other!

Summer sangria recipe:

  • Lots of mixed fruit, pre-sliced, and frozen
  • Mint leaves
  • Your favourite white wine – Pinot Grigio, Moscato or Sauvignon Blanc are good picks
  • An optional extra liqueur, like Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • Sugar syrup, honey or cordial
  • Bubbles – take your pick of something like sparkling water, lemonade, or Sprite
  • Plenty of ice

Let people make their own yummy cold drinks

Build your own margarita bar

Ice-cold, tangy, and synonymous with summer – you can’t go wrong with margaritas. And even better when you give your guests the chance to customise their drink!

Plus, margaritas are easy to make – no complex muddling or pouring, just shaking together the right ingredients. Go big and really stock the bar with pretty bright bottles of fruit juice so people can really make their margarita their own. You could also make a margarita mocktail station for non-drinkers and kids!

Pick your favourite flavours to add to the bar, but we’d suggest bright, summery tastes like pineapple juice, mango juice, lime juice, and cranberry juice. You can also freeze and blend fresh fruit like watermelon, raspberries, and peaches to create a selection of super-fruity flavours!

To build a make-your-own margarita bar, you’ll need:

  • Plenty of fresh fruit juice, syrups, or blended fruits
  • Your favourite tequila
  • Triple sec liqueur
  • Lots of ice
  • Fruit slices and berries for a garnish
  • Salt for rimming margarita glasses
  • Swap out the tequila and triple sec for white rum and soda water and throw some more
  • lime juice and mint in the mix, and you could also have a make-your-own-mojito bar, equally perfect for warm summer weather.

You’ve got everything you need to make the most of the British sunshine with a classic summer BBQ, so make it legendary. For more party planning ideas, check out our guide to organising the perfect garden party, and head to the thortful blog for more all-season inspiration!