10 Unbreakable Backyard Party Rules

David Saracino

No one would dispute the fact that summer is a great time to travel—but part of what makes summer the best season of all (another fact no one would, should, or even could dispute) is that it’s also a fantastic time to just stay put. And thanks to the magic of the backyard cookout, you don’t have to leave town to have a blast in the summertime. Backyard parties are pretty hard to mess up, but they do have some common pitfalls. To avoid them, and achieve maximum summer fun, follow these 10 ironclad rules.

No guests shall come empty handed

Sure, you may already know this, but this reminder is aimed at that person in your crew (probably Chad) who has somehow reached adulthood without absorbing this simple precept of human decency. It’s the first unbreakable rule of summer cookouts.

Backyard Party Rules - Ice - Supercall - Captain Morgan
David Saracino

The host must lay in ice, ice, and more ice

You’d be surprised how much ice is called for to make your average backyard party a success. You’d also be surprised at how important ice is to your beverage game. Finally, you—or more likely that person in your group who violates Rule No. 1—may be surprised at how fast ice, you know, melts, in the summer sun. All of which means: Load up on the frozen water. Then get more.

Hamburger meat, if served, must contain a minimum of 20% fat

Listen, fat equals flavor. Fat-free burgers are taste-free burgers, and they dry out too easily. In fact, you should go with a 70-30 lean-to-fat ratio if you can.

The difference between “grilling” and “barbecue” may not be clarified by anyone

This is like the “No 'Stairway to Heaven'” rule in a guitar store. We all know the difference between grilling and barbecue by now, and if you’re gonna come with the little-known facts, then come correct, like with these ones, or this one: If you go to Wofford College in South Carolina you can take a course in barbecue. It’s true. Or, roll out the best totally-not-true explanation for the origin of the term “barbecue”: It comes from a 1982 edition of TarHeel magazine, which claimed that a 19th century proprietor of a combination whiskey bar, beer lounge, pool hall, and pork emporium advertised his joint as “Bar-Beer-Cue-Pig.”

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Captain Morgan Watermelon Mint Rum Punch - Backyard Party - Supercall
Courtesy of Captain Morgan

Don’t Buy a Keg, Make One

Watermelon is summer’s superstar fruit for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s a multipurpose mofo: You can eat watermelon, blend it into your cocktails, and use it as the container for said cocktails. So batch up some Watermelon Mint Rum Punch for your guests, and house it within the walls of a magnificent melon—complete with actual keg tap.

No one is allowed to dispense tips, advice, or opinions to the grill person

That includes you, Mr. Put a Thumbprint in the Center of Each Patty, and you, Ms. Lemme Show You How to Get a Good Sear On That, and definitely you, Mr. Probably Wanna Flip those Now.

Dietary delicates must bring their own food/arrangements

That applies to vegan, raw, and gluten-free types. Standard vegetarians and those with legit allergies can make reasonable requests.

Backyard Party Rules - Watermelon Punch - Supercall - Captain Morgan
David Saracino

Beverage options must transcend beer and beer alone

You should include something along the lines of a tasty rum punch, or shandies, or other cocktaling options. (Did we mention rum? It’s the summer spirit, and you can build a punch of it in summer’s greatest fruit, the watermelon. Rum + watermelon = unbeatable combo.) There must also be alcohol-free options such as sparkling water (in multiple flavors), standard H2O, and soft drinks.

Guests should offer to help clean up—and then actually do so, while smiling, if taken up on that offer

Don’t be thrown off if someone calls your bluff. Roll up your sleeves—wait, it’s summer, you may not have sleeves now, but anyway, you get the picture: get right in there.

No one should leave with what they brought—or with anything—unless doing so would be a favor to the host

And it must be said, out loud, that you’d be doing the host a favor. Don’t just assume at the end of the night that you should take home that bottle you came with, or that tasty tray of blondies, or the last of that four-cheese mac and chee—put it down, Chad. Put it all down.

Drinking and fireworks shall not be combined.

Ever. The numbers on this are many; they are clear and they don’t lie: drinks and fireworks do not mix. Don’t add to the statistics.