How to Host a Hamptons Clambake

Lobster clambake
Photo: Michael-john Wolfe/Hemera/Thinkstock

Phenomenal East End sunsets, delicious seafood, friends and family gathered together—late summer is the perfect time to host a beachside party in the Hamptons.

What is a clambake?
Picture this: clams, lobster and other seafood, chicken, potatoes and sweet corn, steamed in a pit over heated stones, under a bed of seaweed, with the fresh salt-scented air of East End beaches and the sound of crashing waves.

“The perfect clambake is great food and drink, with great friends, on the most beautiful beaches in the world,” states Marc Miller of Hampton Clambake in East Hampton.

Jean Mackenzie of The Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton describes the essence of this event. “A clambake is perfect weather, hay bales around the bonfire, steamed-on-the-beach lobster, corn, clams, mussels and, for dessert, watermelon, with an afterparty of s’mores and cognac.”

What you need to know:
When preparing for your own beach shindig, Captain Phil Gay of Southampton’s East End Clambakes recommends releasing your cares and concerns to the professionals. “Do get someone who has been in the business, and has a great reputation. Let the caterer take care of all the particulars. This is not a time to save a couple of bucks,” says Gay.

Miller says, “Don’t try to do it yourself. It may seem easy, but pros do it better.” Miller suggests hiring a company that knows the area. “Certain beaches are better than others. Hire an expert. There’s a fine art to cooking great food on the beach, and Hampton Clambake has 25 years of events, ranging from 20 to 300 people.”

Mackenzie advises to take the weather into consideration. “You need to have a Plan B! Whether it’s a tent or a move inside.” She cautions to keep in mind the older guests on your list. If you’re on the beach, are they able to walk to the party or restroom?  If not, you may need to put down walkways and have a 4×4 available for transporting guests on and off the beach. She recommends for those having beach or park clambakes to look into portable bathrooms for their guests.

You need to know your guests’ dietary preferences and allergies. Another thing to keep in mind, according to Mackenzie, is having extra sweatshirts, sweaters or wraps on hand in case the weather cools off or the wind picks up. Mackenzie offers up a party favor suggestion as well, “If your clambake is on the beach, flip flops are a nice touch. Your guests will be able to take them home as a memento of your clambake party.”

Making your clambake memorable:
Mackenzie recommends coming up with a theme for your clambake. “Do have a reason for your party. Create an atmosphere using lighting, linen choices and table decorations and write out a rough outline of the menu you would like.”

Celebrity clambakes on the East End have included concerts, mariachi bands flown in from Mexico, low tables with white tablecloths, hurricane lamps, tiki torches and bonfires. “We do one annually in front of a private home in Sagaponack. The décor is beach chic with great linen, chairs, lighting and flowers. The food is always a hit. Another big, fun party involved lighted tables, bars and lounge areas. It looked awesome at night,” recalls Miller.

Above all, “Do come ready to have a great time. There’s nothing more quintessentially Hamptons than a clambake with the roar of the ocean in the background,” says Miller. “We like to say the beach is the star of the party.”

Begin planning your end-of-season clambake party today!

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