Are your searching for new things to do after being bottled up inside all day? How about hosting a virtual happy hour – an online meeting of your family, friends or even work associates with a spirited libation in hand, preferably one distilled in Ohio.
Think of it as tuning into your online work meeting, but with cool cocktail or a cold glass of beer. The first item of business is bringing people together. Here are a few tips on pulling off a successful virtual happy hour:
Choose your platform
There are several video conferencing tools you can use to hold your virtual happy hour. A popular one that you might already be familiar with is Zoom, which many schools have been using for distance learning. Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts also are popular.
Visit their websites for instructions well ahead of time so users can become familiar with them. We recommend using grid views so everyone can see everyone else.
Keep it small
You should limit the number of guests to a dozen or fewer. That will allow each person to show up easier on the screen. Also, it’s a lot easier to keep a virtual conversation going with fewer people than with too many friends trying to talk over one another.
Keep it smart
If you’re getting together with coworkers who suddenly have found themselves working from home, it’s advisable to dress in the clothes you normally wear at the office or work place. Do your hair, shave and look presentable.
Keep it quiet
Ambient noise can be a deal-killer for virtual happy hours. Imagine 10 people trying to talk over background sounds. So find a comfortable, quiet place to enjoy your friends, and encourage friendly banter.
Keep it light
Even if you’re with coworkers, keep shoptalk and (especially) discussions about tense topics to a minimum. How have you coped with staying at home? What are your plans for the summer? How about those drinks? It can be helpful to settle on a general theme beforehand.
Do the cocktails right
The other major ingredient to a successful virtual happy hour (some say the most important) is securing your cocktails.
While it’s fun to do a themed happy hour, in which everyone has the same drink, it’s also interesting to hear what other people made. If beer is your drink of choice, that’s easy – pick up something the next time you’re at the store.
If you want a cocktail, that’s a bit more involved. It’s possible for someone to do all the work for you if that’s your thing.
In early April the Ohio Liquor Control Commission passed a rule allowing restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic drinks for pickup or delivery. You’re limited to two, 2-ounce spirits drinks per order, so plan accordingly if you want to go that route.
For instance, when you order food from Condados Tacos, you can add two Margarita for $8.50 each. We would recommend looking up websites of favorite bars and restaurants in your area, as these deliveries are area-specific.
Many of Ohio’s distilleries are offering drive-through service or even delivery of their products. There are opportunities to order cocktails to go, or kits and mixes, and we applaud their ingenuity.
However, we prefer to make our own cocktails, without pre-mixed additives. We love to watch Molly Wellmann, a talented mixologist and author who hails from Cincinnati. Wellmann hosts a daily cocktail lesson on her Facebook page called “5 O’Clocktails.” Watch one in advance and gather the ingredients before your happy hour.
Even if you’re not a talented mixologist, there are many popular drinks that are super easy to make after paying a visit to your local liquor agency (and grocery store for basic garnishes).
Here are five, using Ohio-related base spirits:
2 oz. New Riff Bourbon or Rye
½ oz. simple syrup
2 -4 dashes of bitters (such as Angostura, Peychaud’s)
Combine syrup and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice and the bourbon. Stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a piece of orange rind squeezed over the drink.
If you’d like a different approach, use a sugar cube instead of the simple syrup, and add a slice of orange and a Luxardo cherry to the bitters. Use a muddler to combine what’s in the glass before stirring with bourbon and ice. We recommend using a basket-style strainer. You also can experiment with different flavors of bitters.
1 oz. Watershed Four Peel Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet vermouth
Combine gin, Campari and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with a piece of orange rind squeezed over the drink.
2 oz. Buckeye Vodka
4 oz. Cream soda
6-8 dashes Orange bitters
Combine vodka and cream soda in a tall glass over ice. Shake in the bitters and stir gently. Garnish with an orange wedge.
2 oz. Karrikin Spirits Blaze Agave spirit, or your favorite tequila
1 oz. Toledo Spirits Orange Tiger liqueur, or other orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
¾ oz. Lime juice
Add tequila, orange liqueur and juice in a shaker. Cover and shake. Pour into a glass with a salted rim. Garnish with a lime wheel.
1.5 oz. Western Reserve Silver Rum
1 oz. Simple syrup or agave nectar
4 oz. Piece of seedless watermelon
4 Mint leaves
½ oz. Lime juice
In a mixing glass, muddle juice, mint, watermelon and simple syrup. Add ice and rum, and shake to combine. Strain into tall, narrow glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
For a traditional mojito, eliminate the watermelon and add 4 oz. club soda.
*Story by Michael Pramik, photo by Wendy Pramik