Whether you’re reading this after sheltering at home for months, or that isolated time is behind you, happy hours will always have a new twist.
What I mean is, by now, many of us are a few rounds in — to hosting or attending virtual happy hours, or coffee klatches if that’s your preference! And what a relief it’s been to be able to connect from a distance—with friends nearby and around the globe, in the comfort of our living rooms. To celebrate getting together no matter what, we’ve gathered our own virtual panel of experts on how to host a virtual happy hour, and how to make the best Quarantini.
Of course virtual apps have made it easy for us to keep connected and made possible an option for a modern cocktail party, even if friends are across town or a plane flight away. There are considerations for organizing your space at home to make the most of this trend, and very special ways to fun up a video party with expert hosts and more.
“We are used to going to people’s houses, restaurants and lounges and I think this is the new modern cocktail party,” said Mark Addison, master mixologist and author of “Cocktail Chameleon.”
How to Organize Your Home Bar
If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to set up an area in your home or apartment for your newly acquired or ever-growing spirits collection. Or gourmet flavored waters are a great option too if your resolution is to be healthy and cut calories.
A cabinet with shelves would work perfectly to store your beverages and accessories such as napkins, stirrers, and glasses. Next, make sure there is counter space for the bottles and room to make your concoctions.
Addison abides by what he calls the Five Rule: make sure you have five essential spirits, five essential liqueurs (to add flavor and depth to a cocktail) and five essential garnishes.
Organizing your inventory helps you see what you have or what you may need for an upcoming call!
As Addison advises, you should have your drink ready before you start a virtual hangout. A fun elaborate drink can make a great conversation starter.
Selecting Best App for Group Video Calling
While quarantined in New York, Addison discovered a group video application you may not have heard of called HouseParty, which allows him to virtually meet new people, since friends can have their contacts join a call they weren’t initially invited to.
“It’s really about connecting with people that I haven’t connected with and that I don’t regularly hang out with,” he said. “It’s like taking the virtual cocktail party and just expanding it and meeting new people.”
While many of us are familiar with the platform Zoom. There are other options out there; it just depends on your needs:
• Zoom: Allows the host to schedule a time for the call, send out email invites, and (because of recent security issues) requires guests to login with a password. One of the benefits of Zoom is that it allows up to 100 invites, and with the gallery view, you can see every one of your guests. If you have the free option you are only limited to 40 minutes per call.
• FaceTime: Limited only to iPhone users, you just need to open the app and start adding names for the call. You can have up to 32 people on the call.
• Skype: You can invite up to 50 people with a link, and no special invite needed for a free unlimited meeting.
• Google Hangouts: Is free but the only downside is that it limits how many screens appear during a group video call.
• HouseParty: A mobile and desktop app which notifies users when friends are online to start a group video call.
Setup Your Surroundings for a Virtual Happy Hour
Addison says you must pay attention to the lighting and camera setup for your call . Consider propping up your computer camera and making sure you have ample lighting.
Also don’t be afraid to set up your calls in different parts of your home or apartment to set the mood and get away from your work-from-home space. For example, Seth Myers did that on his late night show, even taking the time to talk about the different rooms in his home.
“We’re getting together with different groups of people, and you want to mix things up and make things a little different,” he said. “I know people are challenging themselves and doing it from a different place in their house every time.”
No matter where you sit, be sure you have all of the snacks and drinks you’ll need (and not more!).
“It’s kind of annoying when people pop in and out,” Addison said. “Everything you need should be immediately around you so can be as engaged in your cocktail party.”
Bring In a Fun-Expert to Help You Host a Virtual Cocktail Party
Don’t feel like hosting means you have to come up with anything on your own. Alcohol delivery, even pre-mixed fancy drinks, are a handy option in a lot of communities. Believe it or not, other hosts in the know have turned to experts to help fun up their video soirees:
Wine Consultant Cha McCoy, for example, has been hosting a weekly live YouTube wine tasting event called “United We Taste” which invites people to learn a little more about a wine from a specific region. Each week features a different country and features guests from the region.
“Using virtual tastings gives people an opportunity to add a new grape to their palate,” she said by phone from New York.
Initially, it was something McCoy had done with close friends in the wine world, but she “wanted to spread out those good vibes,” and she’s also led private virtual tastings, including some with a theme and dress requirements, something that’s been fun to try.
John-Paul Ortega, founder of the Quarantini Recipe Project, has also led virtual parties for bigger groups and a corporation. Overall, hosting virtual parties has allowed him to practice his craft.
“I also love to teach, so it’s the perfect way to still be able to interact with ‘customers’ even though we’re not in the same room,” he said. “I have them ask questions or comment about the process, and I sprinkle in some Bartending 101, so they understand why we’re, say, stirring a cocktail instead of shaking it.”
Addison is doing things a little different, every Friday he hosts “Shaking Things Up” live on Facebook where he shares recipes.
Give the ‘Quarantini’ A Twist
By now, we’ve all seen the meme about drinking a quarantini — any cocktail that you drink alone.
Well, Addison decided to shake things up by creating the Quarantini Challenge. This international contest asked people to come up with their recipe using ingredients they already have at home.
“The quarantini should be unique as your quarantini experience,” he said. “It pushes the envelope of creativity, just as creative as we’ve had to be to entertain ourselves in these few weeks.”
And most of all, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s a perfect time since you’ll be the only taste tester.
Long before actor-turned-mixologist Stanley Tucci began holding Instagram masterclasses on cocktail drinks, Ortega was serving up classic cocktails with a twist. But the pandemic meant the Portland bar he managed had to suddenly shutter.
Ortega, who also owns Raise the Bar PDX, a concierge beverage company, has experience hosting private events and weddings. So he parlayed that knowledge and launched the Quarantini Recipe Project, creating a one-of-a-kind cocktail commissioned by an individual through his Instagram account.
Here’s the catch, they have to tell Ortega what ingredients they have at home for the recipe.
Knowing that many Americans were out of work, he decided to make the fee for the customer recipe pay-what-you-can. Then a portion of that would be donated to charitable programs helping service industry workers affected by COVID-19.
Ortega said it could take him as little as 15 minutes to an hour to come up with the recipe and directions for the personalized drink. It just depends if he is familiar with the spirit and or the ingredients.
“The perfect Quarantini is really in the eye, or in this case the mouth, of the beholder—it all comes down to personal preference. I want to get an idea of what flavors each person likes so I can then create something based on that,” Ortega said.
Try These Recipes at Your Next Virtual Party
We asked Ortega and Addison to provide us with a cocktail recipe, and they graciously obliged.
“One of my favorite cocktails is the classic Old Fashioned. There are countless variations you can do; however, I like to keep mine simple without the extra muddling and soda water added,” Ortega said.
JP’s Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned
• 2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
• 1/4 oz. 1:1 simple syrup
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1 dash Regan’s Orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice for 30 seconds. Strain over a large ice cube or sphere
Take the peel of an orange and spritz the oil from the skin into the glass, rub it along the rim, then skewer it and a cherry with a bar pick and place into drink for garnish.
As for Addison, his drink is inspired by his love for jams, specifically orange marmalade.
Mark’s Quarantini Recipe: Lady Marmalade
• 1 1/2 oz vodka
• 1/2 oz orange liqueur
• 1 oz pomegranate juice
• 1 tsp orange marmalade
• 3 dashes orange bitters
• Splash of brut champagne
• Orange peel rose garnish
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine the vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice, orange marmalade, and bitters. Shake until well chilled.
Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe and top with chilled dry champagne.
Garnish with an orange peel rose.
We hope you try these out and let us know what you think. Or better yet, share a photo in our comments!