Guide to Summer, Part 1: Themed BBQs from ‘Mad Men’ to Ewoks


Summer is in full swing, and it’s got us doing our best to spend as much time as we can outside and enjoy it while it lasts. To help you make the most of the season, we’ve teamed up with Victoria lager to present a Guide to Summer, a four-part series presenting some of the best outdoor spots, events, and ideas in the country. To kick things off, we look at the fine art of the barbecue. Cultural mavens that you are, we know you’ll want to present something a little more culturally pertinent than your average backyard BBQ to your guests. So, with that in mind, here are some awesome themed party ideas for your next cookout.

Mad Men-Themed BBQ

Our favorite show on television isn’t returning until next year, but you can get a Mad Men fix this weekend by throwing a themed BBQ. Request natty ’60s attire from your guests and serve American staples that would make Betty Crocker — or at least Betty Draper — proud. May we suggest:

The classic (and enduring) Surf & Turf, cooked on the grill Teriyaki chicken skewers, for a tropical pupu platter (Hawaii became a state in 1959 and tiki parties were all the rage) Grilled oysters An “exotic’ fruit salad — with kiwi and pineapple! Deviled eggs Jell-O molds Onion-soup dip and potato chips

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Soundtrack: Oldies but goodies that appeared in the actual series, including: Chubby Checker, “Let’s Twist Again” Rosemary Clooney, “Botch-a-Me” Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon” Kyo Sakamoto, “Sukiaki” Ann-Margaret, “Bye Bye Birdie” Roy Orbison, “Shahdaroba” Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” The Rolling Stones, “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” Santo & Johnny, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” Doris Day, “I Enjoy Being a Girl” Simon & Garfunkel, “Bleecker Street” Sonny and Cher, “I Got You Babe”

Click through the links below for more themed BBQ ideas.

Pizza Party!

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You don’t need to be in old New York (or Italy, for that matter) to enjoy a good slice or four. Your standard grill is actually a great tool for making delectable, perfectly chewy pizza crust. Invite guests to make personal pies, topped with anything from fresh heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella to potatoes, speck, and sage, or even a ricotta-and-plum dessert pie.

Our favorite resource in grilling pizza has to be Last Night’s Dinner, which breaks it all down: The dough Assembly & grilling

Soundtrack: You’ve gotta go old-school Italian on this one, obviously. Leave Frank out of it, and instead pick up a couple discs (or downloads) of Louis Prima‘s greatest hits; you’re all set. Bonus: hang a sheet and snag a projector for an al-fresco screening of the Italian-American foodie classic Big Night.

Hipster BBQ

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Perhaps more like your regular BBQ than you’d like to admit. Make sure you’ve got plenty of gluten-free and vegan options, then head to your local hipster butcher shop (what, you don’t have one?) and procure top cuts of every single meat or meat product they have. If your friends aren’t already planning to, make sure they arrive properly kitted in plaid shirts, rompers, and headbands/headdresses. The sartorial cue here is to dress like you’re the most-loathed audience member at Coachella. For even more tips, check out our previous post on How to Throw a Hipster Barbecue in 5 Easy Steps.

Soundtrack: Use Turntable FM so guests can out-indie each other at the online decks. Rig some hefty speakers up to your laptop and consider the gauntlet thrown.

Ewok Party from Return of the Jedi

When we recently polled Flavorpill staffers on the parties on film they most wish they could have attended, editor Christina Richards voted for the awesome Ewok party in Return of the Jedi. Now’s your chance! Make sure to transform your backyard into an intergalactic rainforest with extra vines (kudzu is easy to maintain, right?) and shrubbery. Stake a tiki lamp every few feet, and instruct guests to come in their finest leather, suede, feathers, and bone jewelry.

The menu? Well, we’re guessing you aren’t going to be serving many Tauntaun burgers. In fact, Ewoks were mostly vegetarian creatures (no, we never imagined we’d one day be googling “Ewok diet,” either), so veggie skewers and veggie burgers are solid bets. Some great Ewok-friendly recipes can be found at:

Gourmet‘s vegetarian grill recipes Grilling veggies from A-Z Food & Wine‘s grilled vegetarian recipes

Photo credit: Rolulo Yanes

Soundtrack: After a raucous rendition of the “Yub Nub” song (preferably performed live), move past the soaring Star Wars score for something a little more party-centric. If you stick with Daft Punk, you’ll still get the futuristic, space-age angle, but with way more danceable beats.

‘Wich House BBQ

Flavorpill has had a tumultuous relationship with the musical genre known as witch house. But if we had to choose between a world with or without it, we’d want to celebrate its musical quirks. The punny party title of course alludes to the fact that you and your coven will be cooking up panini and grilled sandwiches. Guests are expected to dress in black, with bonus points for occult accessories. (Best they read up on the subject before arriving.) Save time for a magik show after dinner!

As for the sandwiches, riff on some of our faves from: Sandwiched SeriousEats Scanwiches

Photo credit: Tojosan via Sandwiched

Soundtrack: For pointers, check out our witch-house primer, and make sure you include some “festive” tunes that feel particularly appropriate for a grill-out: Salem, “Piggyhog” Zola Jesus, “Poor Animal” Tyler the Creator, “Sandwitches

What about you? Do you have an awesome BBQ theme up your short summer sleeves? Share it in the comments, and party on.