Settle on food and drinks
“Most of the happy hours have a combo, which is a beer or a lager with a tequila shot, or a dark beer with a whiskey shot,” said Yolanda Baez, a bartender at Broken Shaker near Gramercy Park in Manhattan. To get into the happy hour spirit at home, she recommends creating your own version of this classic happy hour staple. Cocktails like an Old-Fashioned and a bramble are easy drinks to whip up at home, she added. And mocktails like virgin mojitos, piña coladas and margaritas can be good options for those who aren’t imbibing alcohol.
Many groups improvise with a “Quarantini,” which is basically a mixed drink containing whatever liquor you have on hand.
Ms. Lynch shared a cocktail recipe for a drink called the Smoky Irishman before her virtual happy hour so people could get supplies and drink along if they wanted to. While she didn’t have everyone in attendance drink or eat the same thing, she did name her virtual bar Steve’s Irish Pub ahead of time. The virtual location influenced people’s food and drink choices, she said.
Go for the grid
There is a variety of platforms you can use to get everyone together: Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Zoom, to name a few. Ms. Lawlor chose Zoom to host her virtual happy hour. She recommends using the grid view in any teleconferencing software, as it will let you see everyone at once in equal-size boxes.
This also allows her to see everyone’s facial expressions more clearly. “It truly felt like we were sitting around a table at a bar or restaurant,” she said. Because Zoom outlines the person speaking (or making noise), it became a helpful visual cue to let others know that someone was about to speak, which minimized people talking over one another.
Be a good listener
Mr. Summers encourages everyone who attends a virtual happy hour to be prepared to listen. “Everyone will try to talk and there will be rooms full of people and you can only really hear one person at a time,” he said. Let everyone participate.
[Read more: How to Be a Better Listener]
Keep the conversation light
As chief experience officer of the Westfield, N.J., dinner club Fat, Drunk and Fancy, Kim DiGiovanni tried to introduce as much levity as possible while hosting her virtual happy hour. To get the conversation started, she encouraged people in attendance to share three new things that had happened in the last 24 hours that they were grateful for.