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8 Tips for Hosting Happy Hour at Home

From decor to drinks, here’s everything you need to know about playing host for your next cocktail party.

The origins of happy hour span from 19th century Europe to World War II sailors’ merry hour at sea to the discounted drinks we all know and love at our favorite local bars, today. Through this varied evolution and blurred history, the mutual sentiment of the prefix to the hour remains–happy.

Happy hour is an excuse to get together with friends, colleagues, and family for pre-dinner drinks without all the stress of a dinner party. In fact, that’s why happy hour is interchangeable with a cocktail party–because drinks are the star of the show at this social gathering. 

How do you host a successful happy hour? 

It’s all in the planning! Before you can successfully host a happy hour, you need to plan out the details, including what you’re going to serve (both snacks and drinks), what you’ll have guests bring (if anything) and the music, activities or entertainment you’ll offer as the host of the hour. 

You should also probably put a cap on the timing of this cocktail hour–do you want to stick to a true 60 minutes or are you up for a multi-hour party?

What to serve for happy hour at home

Quality cocktails are the most important element for hosting a successful happy hour. However, making intricate cocktails can be time-consuming and thus take away from the guest experience if they have to wait for you to make a new cocktail every time they want one. And as a host, it can certainly drain your energy. The solution? Batch your cocktails. 

Punch bowls, like Calirosa’s Jalisco Punch prepared with our Rosa Blanco Tequila and fresh pomegranate, offer a gorgeous centerpiece and a DIY option for guests to seamlessly serve themselves. 

You can also pre-batch our Rosatini: pour all the ingredients into a pitcher for the number of guests expected at the party. Line up a shaker and martini glasses so you just need to add ice when someone asks for this flirty pink drink.

“Allow guests 2 or 3 options to choose from so you can prepare in advance, have the right ingredients and make things easier on yourself overall,” advises Chelsea Davis, a San Francisco-based blogger. “Put up a few notecards explaining what’s offered.”

We also love displaying a bottle of Calirosa Añejo on the drinks table, where a note card would read, “simply add an ice cube and sip it like your favorite whisky.” Not all guests enjoy cocktails, so this anticipates a wide variety of wants from your attendees.

Another tip from Davis: “Make sure you have a lot of ice!” There’s no faster way to kill your happy hour vibe than warm beverages.

What type of food should I have at my happy hour?

Since drinks go down easy at a social gathering, you should have something for guests to graze on as they imbibe. “Have a spread of food that’s easy to eat,” suggests Davis. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy; in fact, the simpler the better as guests want to be able to hold their drink in between bites. 

Finger foods like sliced vegetables and dip, cured meat and cheese with grapes and crackers, or Italian antipasto are ideal light bites at happy hour, especially if this gathering precedes a dinner. 

Just like anticipating your guests’ varying cocktail requests, you should accommodate every palette, including vegetarians and vegans, says Davis. Be a good host: find out your guests' likes and dislikes ahead of time, specifically inquiring about dietary requirements before you make your shopping list for the party.

What should guests bring to a dinner party? 

After you’ve decided on what you want to serve at the party, think about what, if anything, you want your guests to bring to the party. For smaller gatherings, guests may just bring a token of appreciation like a bottle of wine, even if you tell them not to. However, for larger parties, you may want to ask guests to bring a small appetizer of their preference–this ensures you’ll have enough food and variety. 

If you’re uncomfortable asking guests to bring anything, there are other ways to get them involved: suggest they bring their favorite game or add a few songs to your shared playlist. 

What do you do as a host? 

Speaking of playlists, your job as host is to set the vibe and to make sure your guests are taken care of. “Make sure the playlist fits the mood,” says Davis, emphasizing the significance of music’s influence on the atmosphere of your cocktail party. 

When it comes to guests’ comfort and enjoyment, you want to prioritize this without actually asking them if they’re comfortable or enjoying themselves. A good host will perfect this by learning how to read the room, and being adaptable to switch the vibe at a moment’s notice should a guest's energy be lackluster. Bringing out food, changing up the music, starting a game or making a toast are all ways to do this without making a scene.

How do I decorate for happy hour?

Typically, happy hours and cocktail parties are fun, casual events with friends so you shouldn’t go over the top with decorating. Stick to a color scheme that brings out shades you already have throughout the house. Cute cocktail napkins and disposable plates will keep clean up easy. A few bouquets of flowers spruce up tablescapes for days to come after the party. Match your glassware to the appropriate drinks, like martini glasses to the Rosatini and lowball glasses for punch. 

If you are feeling extra fancy, make sure to inform guests about the theme or dress code so no one feels uncomfortable upon arrival.

Bring the happy hour outside

When the weather warms up in spring and summer, an outdoor happy hour becomes the norm. Whether you have a backyard, rooftop or small terrace, guests will look forward to basking in the sunshine of whatever space you have, all with a refreshing cocktail in hand.

Outdoor happy hours allow you to switch things up, relying on backyard plants and a seasonal flower arrangement to really connect guests to their surroundings. Just make sure to prepare for an outdoor event by having sunscreen and umbrellas on hand or alternatively, light blankets for guests to drape around their shoulders or over their legs should you have a place to sit. 

You need to prepare for the worst-case scenario too, with a backup space in case of a turn in weather.

The ultimate tip to being a good host

Make everything you do look easy.

As long as you've done the prep and anticipated guests' needs, from snacks to cocktails, you're on track for a successful happy hour. All you need to do now is to make sure the drinks are never low!

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