Bonnie Tandy Leblang, a New York City restaurant reporter and theatergoer, may be sheltering at home alone in her one-bedroom apartment, but her social life is busier than ever.
She enjoys daily bridge games and five o’clock happy hours with different groups of friends. She is attending her book club gatherings and recently celebrated her granddaughter’s third birthday party—all by home computer.
Like many others, Leblang is staying virtually connected to family and friends through Zoom, a popular video conferencing platform.
“Making plans to connect with different groups of friends and having some structure to the day while staying homebound has changed my life,” she said. “Right now, any human contact that makes you smile is beyond uplifting.”
With restaurants and bars temporarily closed, virtual happy hours conveniently connect friends over food and drinks from the comfort of their homes. They can act a social lifeline for many people seeking a sense of community and camaraderie.
For a recent event, she said, “I delivered cocktail kits from my favorite bars to friends’ homes. We brought a bartender on-screen to help everyone mix cocktails. Everyone tipped through Venmo [a mobile payment app], so we were able to put a little income into the pockets of laid-off workers. We all felt comforted being connected and knowing we did some good helping someone in need.”
Set Up Your SpaceDownload a meeting app, such as Zoom. First-time users should take an online tutorial and practice to become familiar with the platform, including settings like “mute,” to manage conversation, and the “grid or gallery view,” to show everyone’s faces.
Place your laptop on a stand or a stack of books at eye level or slightly higher, at a distance that highlights your full face on-screen, without being too small or big. Make sure the room is well lit but avoid backlighting, which creates shadows. Use a desk or table lamp to create a soft glow. Make sure the space around you has minimal distractions.
Set the Mood“We are all doing this because we can’t get together right now in a restaurant or bar or at a dinner party at home, so why not make it as close to the real thing as possible?” said Chang.
Consider a theme. “We all need more reasons to smile and laugh. A dress code and a theme always make me excited for a party. Let people know in advance what you will be eating and drinking and encourage them to ‘bring’ something,” she suggested.
Create a festive digital invitation with meeting details to send to friends, including a link and code to RSVP. Keep it intimate: Smaller groups make it easier to manage the conversation.
What to DrinkSince everyone is dialing in from home, most virtual happy hours keep it casual and encourage attendees to “bring” their libation of choice, with or without alcohol. The focus is more on the spirit of camaraderie and connection, rather than what’s in your glass.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
- Club soda
- 1 ounce float of light green chartreuse (optional)
- Lime wedge, for garnish