Our calendars have been officially flipped to June for 6 days now, and so even though the weather has been decidedly gloomy and unseasonably cool, we have officially declared it summer in our hearts. Summer in New York means a lot of things: sweaty subway seats, hot garbage smell, throngs of tourists in matching t-shirts. But it also signifies one of our favorite times of year: rooftop season.
Since quitting Bushwick for Crown Heights nearly two years ago, I have found myself blessed with a beautiful rooftop. It’s not the fanciest pad in the world, but it’s big and it’s quiet and it has a view of the skyline from the Battery to Central Park. When the weather gets nice enough, it becomes my private retreat — a place to run away with an iced coffee and a good book and escape the hustle and bustle of the world for a while (perks to working a weird schedule: the neighbors rarely interrupt my me-time). I love it so much, I even wrote a post about it. But while most of my roof time is spent finishing my latest book club assignment or thinking up topics for blog posts, my dream is to one day throw that most New York of fêtes: a rooftop party.
See my roof, while lovely, is jinxed. My roommates and I have tried to throw housewarming parties, and Derby parties, and birthday parties, and meetings of the aforementioned book club en plein air, and every single time we have been foiled by the cold and the rain. This past weekend was no exception. I awoke to sunny skies and an optimist spirit. Maybe this would finally be the day! I texted Scout and our fellow book clubbers: “The weather outside looks roof-friendly! So plan your outerwear accordingly.” But a mere two hours later, as we began to assemble, so too did the storm clouds. By the time we were all present, it was full-on raining, and we had to settle for my living room floor.
But still I dream of BBQ’s and coolers of beer, big-batch cocktails and music by twinkly light. And so I have assembled this guide to how to throw the best rooftop bash ever, which I fervently hope to test out this summer…if the rain ever lets up.
Make sure your guests have somewhere to sit. You can go the table and chairs route or stick to picnic blankets, but make sure that whatever seating you have is waterproof and/or portable. I am personally a big fan of Target’s picnic blanket selection; they come in a variety of adorable patterns (I’ve been lusting after these pineapples for weeks), and fold up into a conveniently portable package, complete with shoulder strap. If outdoor furniture is more your jam, IKEA or Amazon are your best bet.
Every party needs a good soundtrack, which means you will need to procure speakers of some kind. Take this moment to assess your roof’s outlet situation, as this will determine what kind of audio equipment you can use and how much pre-party charging of said devices you will need to factor into your timeline. Also important, lights! My roof is lacking in outlets of any kind, and while New York kindly provides enough light pollution to keep it from being pitch black, some electronic assistance is recommended. In the absence of plugs, I recommend battery-operated twinkly lights: festive and convenient!
Maybe you’re among those lucky few New Yorkers to live in a building with an elevator, which will convey you, your guests, and a feast swiftly skyward. But if, like me, you must climb several flights of stairs in order to reach the promised patio, portable is the name of the game. Anything that requires plates or silverware means more for you to haul up, and back down at party’s end, to stick to finger food. Pigs in a blanket, good. Spaghetti or salad, bad. On my festive to-cook list: cauliflower feta fritters, lemon raspberry pie crust hearts, double chocolate cake doughnuts.
Much like with the food, the key with rooftop booze is to minimize the amount of stuff you have to cart up and down. This means nothing that requires individual assembly (a good rule of thumb for parties in general). Big-batch cocktails are your friend here — think punches, sangrias, anything that can be poured in a drink dispenser. I recently made this blueberry mint lemonade from Joy the Baker and think it could only benefit from the addition of gin or vodka. Make sure you bring disposable cups, and a couple garbage bags for people’s empties (do not be the neighbor who throws a party and leaves trash all over the roof). And if you’re also going to have beer, bring a cooler or bucket and a couple bags of ice to keep it cold. Bonus: The cooler or bucket will have to be brought back down, but the ice can be dumped out to melt at party’s end!