The 12 Best Virtual Happy Hour Ideas in 2021
The current pandemic has brought nearly all in-person events to a standstill. With stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures in place, we need to find new and creative ways to engage with friends and loved ones. If evolution has taught us one thing it’s that the willingness and ability to adapt is essential to survival. Rather than throw our hands up and surrender, we are heading online.
Thanks to virtual events, our social calendars can look like they did during pre-pandemic times (that is, if we want them to). Do you find yourself missing the after-work ritual of happy hour with coworkers? Then why not host a virtual happy hour of your own?
In case you may be struggling with how to go about planning a virtual get-together, not to worry. We’ve done the research so you don’t have to. From tips on planning to advice on etiquette, here is our essential how-to guide to virtual happy hour.
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- How to Host a Virtual Happy Hour
- Virtual Happy Hour Ideas
How to Host a Virtual Happy Hour
Determine a Theme
Today’s doomsday-esque scenario is reason enough to let loose with friends over an adult beverage (or two); however, you may want to consider whether there are any other factors, such as a special occasion, warranting your virtual happy hour.
Perhaps a colleague is moving on to another work opportunity and you want to send them off properly? Or maybe a friend has just announced their engagement, which is cause for celebration. Whatever the reason, identify what type of work or social event you are planning to keep guests informed and prepared.
Make a Plan
Any event, including virtual events, requires proper planning. And while an online happy hour doesn’t call for extensive arrangements, as host, there are some basic to-dos you should be checking off your list.
First, reach out to your guests a week or two in advance to get their availability. In terms of how many people you should be inviting, we find that a smaller group size of three to 10 people tends to work best as it allows for everyone to get some face time. Then once you have confirmed your guest list and guests’ availability, send out a calendar invite, an email or even a paperless invitation (if you’re feeling fancy) at least a week in advance.
Pick a Platform
While you won’t need to decide on a venue for your happy hour, you’ll still need to figure out which online communication platform to use. There are a lot of options to choose from — so to help you determine which one works best for you, we’ve broken down our top picks below:
- Pros: You don’t need an account to use it. It’s user-friendly and hosts can control who’s allowed into their meeting.
- Cons: Although video calls are encrypted, Skype isn’t end-to-end encrypted, which may stir some users’ privacy concerns.
- Cost: Free with other Skype accounts.
- Pros: Accommodates up to 100 people and users have access to a number of key features, including virtual backgrounds.
- Cons: Lately, users have experienced Zoom-bombing, or uninvited guests entering their meetings. (Tip: Join through your web browser versus the app since it’s quicker to receive any security updates.) Also, unless you have a business account, meetings of three or more users are capped at 40 minutes.
- Cost: Free for meetings of three or more attendees for up to 40 minutes. You can upgrade to a business account with unlimited meeting duration for $14.99 or $19.99, depending on the plan.
- Pros: Seamless integration with other G Suite features, such as Google Voice and Google Calendar. The former gives participants the option of calling into meetings directly from their phones without being charged for domestic calls. The latter allows organizers to send invitations to users who can easily join the meeting using a shared link.
- Cons: Requires that guests have a Gmail account in order to join.
- Cost: Free.
- Pros: Houseparty encounters are casual and spontaneous. Users will receive notifications if a friend is online (“in the house”) or wants to talk. The app also comes with a variety of fun and interactive games you can play with your houseguests.
- Cons: Anyone can see that you’re online, who you’re in a call with, and even enter your video chat. To avoid unwanted party crashers, ensure that you lock your room once all invited guests have hopped on.
- Cost: Free.
What's on the Menu?
Any worthwhile happy hour wouldn’t be complete without good food and drinks. To keep grocery trips to a minimum, consider using ingredients you already have in your kitchen when making a cocktail. You might even venture in trying a "Quarantini," a riff on the classic martini to be drunk at least six feet apart (or across a computer screen).
When it comes to cocktail themes, consider a wine tasting night, beer pairing, classic cocktails or even libations with a healthy twist. And in case you’re feeling unmotivated or merely don’t have the ingredients to concoct a quality drink, then the all-in-one cocktails in a can may be for you.
Next, you’ll need to decide on what cocktail party appetizers to indulge while you imbibe. Wine and cheese are a classic match, but there are also some under-the-radar pint and plate pairings worth checking out, too.
Thanks to its fun and informal setting, happy hour has become a preferred method for catching up with friends and colleagues. However, although alcohol is a social lubricant, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the conversation will be flowing for the entire duration of your happy hour.
As a host, you’ll want to remove distractions, actively listen and show interest as a means of keeping the conversation going. To help guide the discussion, ask questions to stimulate dialogue. And while it may be tempting to talk about work or the current pandemic, open yourself up to other topics of interest:
- Movies and entertainment: You’ve probably been spending more time in front of the TV than you were pre-lockdown. Whether it’s to binge-watch a series or tune into thought-provoking documentaries, TV and movies are perfect happy hour fodder.
- Food: Is there anything that brings people together like food? If you’re looking for some culinary inspiration, ask guests what they’ve been cooking lately or which good local restaurants are open for takeout.
- Hobbies: With less time being spent out, you or your guests may have taken up some new hobbies. Learning a new language, how to salsa dance or even practicing mindful meditation are great conversation starters.
- Art and culture: While museums have closed their literal doors to the public, a lot of them have opened up their doors virtually. Which ones do your guests think are worth checking out?
- Family: With schools closed, home life with little ones can sometimes be challenging. Perhaps a fellow parent can offer insight into what works for them and what doesn’t. You might get some helpful advice or just a moment to commiserate and know you’re not alone.
- Sports: While live sports are on hiatus, this might be the moment to watch sport classics you never got a chance to see or the new, much talked about The Last Dance docuseries featuring Michael Jordan and the 1997/1998 Chicago Bulls.
Play Virtual Happy Hour Games
Sometimes all you need to get the party going are some interactive games. Here are our favorites:
- Scattergories: Think outside the box with this category-based party game that rewards creativity. Use a Scattergories list generator and play for free.
- Two Truths and a Lie: A great way to get to know your party guests, each player will reveal three “facts” about themselves and you must guess which two are true, and which is false. If you’re looking to make this a virtual drinking game, every time you’re wrong, take a sip.
- Cards Against Humanity: This “party game for horrible people” is loads of fun. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card and the remaining players answer with the most (in)appropriate white card. You can download a free Cards Against Humanity PDF and make your own deck.
- Pictionary: Embrace your inner artist in this classic party game where your teammates try and guess what it is that you’re drawing. Use a Pictionary word generator to summon what you’ll be sketching.
- Heads Up: Heads Up involves a player having to guess the mystery word held up to their head based on the clues given by the other players. It covers a wide variety of topics ranging from “Icons, Legends & Stars” to “Animals Gone Wild.” But if you’ve exhausted all of the categories, you can purchase additional ones for $0.99 each.
- Charades: Chances are you’ve played charades before. In the online version, you can use a charades idea generator to choose your words and phrases. No equipment required, but creativity is highly encouraged.
12 Virtual Happy Hour Ideas
1. Virtual Mixology Class
You don't have to be a great mixologist to make great cocktails. Instead, sign up for an online mixology class taught by world-class mixologists in the comfort of your own home. From palomas to spiced margaritas, these classes will have you crafting next-level cocktails with ease.
2. Virtual Whiskey Tasting
Harness your inner scotch snob with a virtual whiskey tasting experience. With a talented scotch steward at the lead, your group will get to sample whiskey, bourbon and scotch selections from around the world while learning all about the history, distilling process and tasting notes of their favorite spirit.
3. Taco Tuesday
Tacos are a quick and satisfying weekday meal. Chef Mel’s Mexican online cooking class teaches you how to make authentic tacos and mango margaritas from scratch.
4. Virtual Wine Tasting
Bring the vineyard to you with a virtual wine tasting experience led by a world-class sommelier or chef! You and your guests can enjoy a masterclass in wine tasting plus you'll learn all about gourmet food pairings that complement each glass.
5. Tapas Night
The Spaniards got it right with their culture of tapas. These assorted small bites pair well with a drink in hand. Turn up some flamenco music for total Spanish immersion.
6. TV Watchparty
Find a comfy spot on your couch and enjoy a dose of reality TV, which never serves to disappoint. If you and your group have Netflix accounts, download Netflix Party and watch together simultaneously with group chat capabilities. Turn your watchparty into a recurring weekly event to keep the party going.
7. Book Club
Engage in lively, literary discussion with your fellow bibliophiles. Added points for anyone that comes up with a signature cocktail that pairs well with the book.
8. Paint Night
Any skill level can partake in paint night. Not only will it be therapeutic, but you’ll also have something to show for in the end.
9. Virtual Getaway
You may have had to cancel that planned vacation to Italy, but by rolling up your sleeves, pouring yourself a glass of Chianti and enjoying an authentic Italian menu, you can enjoy Italy at home. If you’re using Zoom, upload a travel-inspired backdrop to set the mood.
10. House Tour
Have you been meaning to visit a friend’s new house but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Welcome guests into your home, albeit virtually, and give them a peek into where you’ve be been holed up these past few weeks.
11. Stand Up Comedy
Looking for a laugh? Enjoy the full comedy club experience at home by attending a virtual show.
12. Seasonal Brews
Your local brewery might be closed, but you can still try what’s on tap with a beer tasting happy hour. Select a rotation of brews and create your own virtual tasting room.
With these tips and ideas, you are on your way to hosting an online happy hour with ease. For even more inspiration (and fun), check out interactive online mixology classes taught by world-class mixologists!
What is a virtual happy hour?
Virtual happy hour is just like a regular happy hour except that it takes place through a screen rather than in-person. It’s an opportunity to grab drinks, alcoholic or not, and catch up with friends and colleagues while maintaining a safe, social distance.
How do you host a virtual happy hour?
To host a virtual happy hour, you’ll need to pick a platform and plan. Regarding the former, we’ve outlined a few viable options above for video communication services that you may want to consider. In terms of the latter, planning involves determining your guest list, scheduling your happy hour and preparing music, games, food and beverages, and topics of conversation to set the mood.
What time is happy hour usually?
While happy hour typically follows the end of the workday (4 p.m. until 8 p.m.) on weekdays, it doesn’t have to. Check your guests’ availability to find a convenient day/time for hosting your virtual happy hour.
How long does happy hour last?
Happy hour can last for as long as you want it to, but it usually takes place over the course of an hour or two.
How do you make cocktail recipes at home?
To make a cocktail at home, aim for simplicity. If possible, try to keep liquors on hand that can be used in a variety of drinks. If you like gin, a negroni, martini, Gibson, and gin and tonic require three ingredients or less. Before you head to the store to buy any mixers, check your cupboard first. There may be some ingredients (honey, tea, jam and spices, to name a few) to make an easy, yet quality cocktail.