Virtual Cocktail Hour: It’s easy & you can do it in PJs
We’ve heard it all so many times, but I’m going to say it again: 2020 has been crazy. With more and more areas keeping restrictions in place over the holidays, it’s becoming more important than ever to find creative new ways to catch up with friends. Even cocktail hour has changed – no more patios, and definitely no drinks at a friend’s house. Over the last year, professionals and wine experts have moved their tasting parties online, so I figured, why not try a virtual cocktail party? It’s easy, it’s fun and I can do it in my PJs.
Invites & shopping lists
Cocktail hour isn’t truly successful without some friends. That means the first step is to invite people. Now, unlike the traditional cocktail hour, everyone attending it virtually will need to do the leg work – buying the ingredients and making sure they have everything on hand when the party starts. It’s important that you know which cocktails you’re making ahead of time.
The host (me in this case) should send the ingredients list and recipes a week (or so) in advance, so everyone can pick up what they need. Last month, I shared the five spirits you should always have in your home bar (and some alternatives). These five alcohols – plus a few others – make up the ingredients for all my virtual cocktail hour cocktails.
I’ve included the cocktail recipes at the end of this article, so you can send the article to your guests and they’ll have everything they need.
If you want to make the cocktails we made, here’s the full ingredients list:
- Grand Marnier (1 oz)
- Tequila (1 oz)
- Rum (2 oz)
- Whisky (1.5 oz)
- Gin (1 oz)
- Campari (3.75 oz)
- Aperol (½ a wine glass)
- Red vermouth (1 oz)*
- Dry vermouth (0.75 oz)*
- Lime juice, freshly squeezed (1.25 oz)
- Simple syrup (0.5 oz)
- Soda water
- Orange slices
*I only purchased one bottle of vermouth because that’s the way I roll. Also, there was only one type available at my liquor store.
Admittedly, there was a flaw in this plan. Even though it’s possible to get the small shot-size bottles of some spirits, it isn’t for all. I ended up with a full bottle of tequila, just so I had the one ounce on hand.
The work-around for said flaw. One guest didn’t buy the tequila. Instead, they just skipped that cocktail during the “party”. So, let your guests know ahead of time which ingredients are used in just one cocktail. They can decide for themselves if they want to hunt for a mini bottle, buy a full bottle, or skip it.
Glassware & recipes
Like wine, cocktails are designed to be enjoyed in specific glasses. Read over your recipes carefully and make a list of which glassware and cocktail tools you’ll need for the big event.
For my virtual cocktail hour, each person needed:
- Tulip glass
- Rocks glass
- Margarita glass
- 2 coupe glasses
- Wine glass
- Stir sticks (or spoons or whatever stirring device they want)
- Mixing jar
- Cocktail shaker
The one little flaw – not everyone has all these different glasses. I know I don’t. Good thing that, also like wine, you can drink a cocktail in any glass you want! If your guests run into this particular wall, they can pick the glass shape closest to the intended glass.
It struck me as being a lot of dishes for just one person. When I stopped to really think about it, though, if we had the cocktail hour in person, someone (probably the host, aka me) would have a lot of dishes to do. At least this way, if guests so choose, they can use the same glass for each cocktail – rinsed/washed out in between.
Cocktails & conversation
After a week of anticipation, we were ready for our virtual cocktail hour. I set my space up about 30 minutes before the designated start time. I gathered all the ingredients and glassware on our living room table, set up the computer so everything would be in the frame, and hosted the cocktail hour like I would any other video chat.
The “party” itself was a lot of fun. Everyone attending had different combinations of glassware, ingredients, skill and all that. We all laughed, chatted and tasted our way through the recipes. Some guests were cocktail purists, following the recipes exactly. Others were a little more experimental in their approach.
In the cocktail hours of yore, this purist vs experimental contrast might not have been as obvious. The bar is usually off to the side. No one really pays attention to how you make your cocktail. In a virtual cocktail hour, with the ingredients right there on the table and everyone following along to make the recipe, it’s all front and centre. You get to discuss the creation of the cocktail in between catching up on each other’s lives and laughing about that time you accidentally knocked your entire glass of soft drink onto your laptop.
Virtual cocktail hours, in my opinion, are a must do this holiday season – and really any winter when it’s too cold to go outside. I will definitely be hosting another one in the future. After all, I already have all the ingredients!
These six cocktails – listed in order of best to worst, according to my virtual cocktail hour guests – come from Campari Canada. Want more cocktail recipes? Check out Quench’s selection here.
My personal favourite of all six cocktails, probably because it was the most citrus-y. It has a diverse flavour profile that hits the palate with a symphony rather than a single note. It was the most fun to make as well, since it’s the only one on the list that requires a good shake. 5 stars. 10/10 will make it again.
2 oz Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve
0.75 oz lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime twist, if desired.
Aperol’s grapefruit and candied fruit flavours have free rein in the glass on this one. Since grapefruit isn’t my favourite taste in the world, I experimented with my ratios. My sweet spot for this cocktail is one part Aperol to two parts Prosecco. It’s very easy to make and delicious once you find the taste profile you like.
Fill a wine glass with ice. Pour equal parts Prosecco and Aperol into the glass. Add a splash (or dash) of soda and garnish with an orange slice.
Prior to this cocktail hour shindig, I’d had a negroni all of once before. I remember not having strong feelings one way or the other about it. The same can be said here. That being said, it received a four-star rating from my friends, so go with their review on this one! It’s easy to make and very smooth across the tongue. Definitely needs the ice though – so make sure no one skips out on that.
1 oz campari
1 oz gin
1 oz red vermouth
Pour all ingredients directly into a rock glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.
This was not what I was expecting when I saw “margarita”, and it was definitely not what I was expecting when I saw it called for tequila. It’s a smelly cocktail, that tastes like the post-tequila-shot lime. Overall, a decent drink and pretty much the only not-bitter one on the list.
1 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz Tequila
0.5 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
Stir all ingredients in a mixing jar over ice. Strain into a margarita glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime (salt rim optional).
Campari & Soda
Very easy to make. Not quite as easy to drink. This is for the bitter lovers out there. My favourite description came from a guest who said it tastes like “if there were a pine-flavoured jolly rancher, it would taste like this.” As with the Aperol Spritz, I suggest you play with the ratios until you find the combo that works best for your palate.
2 oz Campari
Prepare this directly inside the tulip glass. Pour the chilled Campari and top up with soda. Garnish with an orange slice.
The Old Pal
I feel bad saying this, as this is someone’s creation, but I couldn’t drink this one. I had to drastically change the ratios and recipes before I was able to enjoy it at all (and even then, I may have just numbed my palate to it from the frequent sip-tests). That being said, everyone’s palate and tastes are different. And it’s definitely worth a try just to see if you’ll like it, too. I can tell you that the ice is absolutely essential in this one.
1.5 oz Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky
0.75 oz Campari
0.75 oz Dry Vermouth
Stir all ingredients in a mixing jar over ice. Serve straight up in a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.