New Orleans residents aren’t letting social distancing kill their buzz. Many are “gathering” in small groups via apps like Zoom and Google Hangout to celebrate virtual happy hours.
Metairie resident Molly Russell Doran was excited to join in the fun after she received an invitation from friend Tiffany Bergeron.
“My friend Tiffany texted me and asked if I would be interested in doing a virtual happy hour with some other friends. I said ‘sure,’ so I went and bought some beer and created a Zoom account. It was really easy. I’ve never done something like this before. We will see how it goes,” she said.
Getting together virtually is not only a way to catch up, but a way to connect with people that many New Orleanians might have typically seen at the corner bar, neighborhood restaurant or local festival. For Doran, the virtual happy hour will, hopefully, help bridge that gap between Jazz Fest jam sessions, at least until this fall.
“We are college friends. We see each other occasionally, like at festivals, so this is a different way to get together,” she said.
Bergeron arranged the virtual meet-up, gathered her group of girlfriends and created an outline with questions to get the party started.
“I was feeling helpless and trying to think of a way to use the skills I have from work to connect people,” she said. “We use Zoom, which is our platform at work, almost daily. I thought it would be a good way to gather my tribe, because I really need my girlfriends right now. What surprised me the most? It took me less than 10 minutes to gather a group of 10 friends who wanted to do this. It’s something I think we all need.”
Bergeron’s group of 10 women from across the country established a simple list of three questions to get the conversation started: a brief intro of each person, what are you reading or watching and what is something that has been helpful right now.
“I’ve never been to a book club, but I imagine it something like that,” she said. “It’s a way for people to get together and also maybe make new friends.”
For Bergeron’s Friday happy hour group, some of whom are old friends and some of whom are new to each other, the goal was to treat it like any other get together, but online, and to bring the community together — one party at a time.
“The goal, for me, was to do this and hopefully it succeeds, and then my friends go and do it with their friends and family. I hope it has a ripple effect,” she said.
Want to get your own party going? Here’s our NOLA Virtual Party Planner, with everything you need to throw a killer (virtual) cocktail party or happy hour hangout.
Apps to connect partygoers:
Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime – Pick a platform that allows you to see the people in your group (many have a grid set-up for including several people). This will make it easier to see when someone is talking or about to talk, or to minimize talking over one another. And of course, being able to see your party people is part of the fun!
*Tip: Make sure to send the sign-up details in advance so that everyone has time to download and set up an account with each app or program.
Who to invite?
Close friends and family, or friends you may not have seen in a while; this is an excellent time to get together online.
Co-workers – You’ve all been working remotely, so use this time to catch up and check in on office mates.
New friend groups – Gather a group of friends who may not all know each other but with something in common, such as crafting, sports or other hobbies, and discuss your interests.
Who is delivering?
Local wine merchants, such as Martin Wine Cellar, can provide curbside pick-up after purchase on-line; call your neighborhood wine and liquor store and ask what they are offering.
Many neighborhood restaurants that currently have food pick-up and delivery are also providing a menu of wine, beer and cocktails by the quart or gallon. Call your favorite spot and ask.
The delivery app Drizly will bring alcohol to your door from a list of some of your favorite neighborhood liquor stores for a delivery fee (which goes to the local retailer); you might get so used to using this, you will want to save for even normal NOLA party occasions.
*Tip: Be sure to tip your delivery person generously, pay online when possible and wash your hands after the delivery.
What to drink
Share a cocktail recipe that the group can mix up individually and share remotely or get something that makes you feel relaxed and happy, whether it’s a local brew, a bottle of bubbles or a fancy mixed drink.
The Quarantini – Mix together whatever you have on hand; channel your “Jungle Juice” days.
Beer – We like local brews such as Urban South’s Paradise Park or (appropriately) Coop’d Up, Jucifer from Gnarly Barley Brewing, NOLA Brewing Co.’s 7th Street Wheat and Abita Strawberry.
Wine – Stick to your favorite, this is no time to experiment, Sally!
Fizzy fun – Nothing makes a party festive like bubbles; try a light Prosecco or Cava, and be sure to pop the bottle when the hangout starts, because, let’s face it, what’s a better sound than that of a cork popping?
Cocktails – We like the basics best, like an Old Fashioned, a Sazerac or classic daiquiri, but also feel free to cook up something creative. Hey, it’s your party, so why not?
Here’s a link to one of our favorites, the E-Z Zombie, for when you want to kick things up.
*Tip: use the fanciest barware you have, garnishes, paper straws and accessories to make the event feel even more special.
Some questions to get people talking:
What is the weirdest thing (food or other) you bought with your “social distancing” shopping?
What are you watching, listening to or reading right now?
What games have you been playing during the quarantine?
Best work from home hacks?
What’s your favorite recipe you’ve discovered?
What place in NOLA would you like to be right now?
Many of us haven’t been getting out of our sweatpants these days, or even, ahem, showering daily. Take this as an opportunity to put on makeup, style your hair and even (why not?) put on something fancy.
*Tip: If you don’t feel like washing your hair, put on a wig! Get funky with it.
Keep the focus of the happy hour on the conversation. Background music is good and helps to set a fun party atmosphere, but keep the volume low, and maybe stick to instrumental jams or artists your group enjoys.
We like: anything by the Meters, the Euphoria soundtrack, and new material by Lizzo, Lana Del Rey or The Weeknd.
*Tip: Try a curated Spotify playlist, like “Feelin’ Good,” and past Jazz Fests recordings, or Pandora’s “Revivalist” playlist, for a variety of music without the hassle.
Pick a 1 to 2-hour block of time that will allow people to set aside time away from working at home, taking care of the kids (hello screen time) or other home activities. Keep the time short and sweet for the first few tries, and if it works, you can always plan more!
Tell us about your virtual cocktail or happy hours in the comments below. We’d love to hear your tips, what you’re drinking and how to keep the party going.