Happy Hour is one of my favorite excuses to rally friends and coworkers for a casual after work get together. While happy hour can turn into a longer affair depending on your bar or restaurant of choice, the best thing about it is that you can get a selection of discounted yummy drinks and plates. Trying new happy hour spots is something worth investing in (especially if you’re a foodie like me) although despite spending less than what you would during prime time, you’re ultimately still dropping hard earned cash on booze and snacks. If you want to take your HH obsession to the next level AND save money, try hosting a happy hour… from the comfort of your own home with TBN’s at home happy hour guide.
Quick history lesson: The term “happy hour” comes directly from the U.S. Navy and actually has nothing to do with discounted alcohol and snack consumption. In 1914, “Happy Hour” was a weekly program that incorporated live music, dancing, and movies to help entertain Navy SEALs that were bored of life on a boat. The term was later adopted by civilians actively protesting against the government during the Prohibition era. While the government did its best to limit the amount of free-flowing alcohol at restaurants and bars, civilians gathered at speakeasies and friends homes to knock back a few after work. Thus, our beloved alcohol fueled happy hour was born.
If you enjoy planning get togethers but are tired of the traditional happy hour at your local watering hole, block off a future Saturday evening for one of your very own. You’ll be sure to save money by hosting, and if you’re fully committed to planning a small menu there’s no harm in asking your friends for a small Venmo donation to cover costs.
Ingredients for a Fun Happy Hour
Your homemade happy hour will not only impress your friends but will help gather them together under one roof without the pressure of fighting rush hour traffic after work to get there. If you’re a few weeks out and have some extra time on your hands, design a cute invite with all the details. In order to throw a true happy hour, try sticking to the traditional 5 – 7 pm time slot, that way you don’t have to deal with your guests overstaying their welcome and have some time to clean up and unwind before hitting the sack (or getting ready to rally and attend your other plans). Here are a couple of handy event invite tools:
- Canva: Canva is a design tool that’s basically a simplified version of Photoshop. They offer a variety of layouts and templates that you can easily repurpose for your very own happy hour invite. Check out their invite templates here.
- Paperless Post: One of my favorite party invite tools on the internet. Paperless post is visually pleasing, easy to use, and has an array of adorable templates (like the one above). The best thing about Paperless Post is that it also acts as an event page –– after you send your invite to guests, they are directed to your event page which lists out details, guest list, and a comment wall. Check out their free cocktail party invitations here.
So you’ve set your happy hour date and have put together a cute invite. Now comes the main effort: planning your menu and gathering supplies.
Planning the Perfect Menu
To throw a solid at home happy hour you need a relaxed atmosphere and an easy and delicious drink and snack list. You don’t need to be a professional chef or bartender to craft the perfect menu as the beauty of happy hour is that it’s incredibly simple: think wine, beer, and a few mixed drink options for beverages, and two or three snacks at most.
See below for some great drink and snack options for your at home happy hour:
When planning your happy hour snack menu, look to the tried and true traditional charcuterie spread for inspiration. Charcuterie usually includes a selection of meats and cheeses but for the sake of keeping things fresh, we’ve curated a list of a few different options that you can serve your guests. Most of these snacks involve crackers or a sliced baguette, so you’re essentially halfway there after picking up these staples (Hint: you can find all of these ingredients at your local Trader Joes).
- Brie + Fig Jam: This combo is one of the yummiest in the history of charcuterie. The sweetness of fig jam naturally complements the creamy flavor and consistency of brie and pairs well with multigrain crackers.
- Roma tomatoes: Tomatoes are a healthy and sophisticated snack, especially when topped with high-quality EVOO or avocado oil, salt, pepper, and crushed basil. Your guests will be pleasantly surprised by how simple and delicious these are.
- Crudites + Artichoke Jalapeno Dip: The most simple and healthy snack of them all – veggies and dip. Slice up some carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower and scoop some of Trader Joe’s Artichoke Jalapeno dip into a bowl and you’re golden. This yogurt-based dip is spicy and delicious beyond measure
- Stuffed Grape Leaves: If you want to add a bit of substance to your snack list, pick up 2-3 tins of stuffed grape leaves. Stuffed grape leaves are a classic Mediterranean snack made with rice and spices, all wrapped in a soft grape leaf. They’re yummy and filling and you’ll most likely introduce a couple of your guests to a new snack they’ve been missing out on.
- Marinated Olives: What’s a happy hour without olives? This classic snack is the last item you need to round out your menu for the perfect spread.
Now that you’re all set with your snack platter, it’s time for the best part: drinks! There are a few staples that you should stock so you have drinks for everyone whatever they may fancy. Aside from having a selection of wine and beer, you’ll need some yummy carbonated beverages for cocktails. See our beverage recommendations below:
Wine: Depending on the size of your guest list, your best bet is to make your wine selection the focal point of your happy hour selection. Everyone likes wine, and it’s also the best complement to your snack menu or charcuterie board. When shopping for wine; pick up a couple reds, a couple whites, and one Rose. Don’t feel pressured to splurge –– here are some quality affordable options:
- Red: Decoy Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Cotes Du Rhone
- White: Archival Central Coast Pinot Grigio, Bonterra Chardonnay
- Rose: Whispering Angel, Cotes de Rose
Beer: Beer has definitely come a long way and is no longer the boring drink that it once used to be (remember Bud Light?). Make sure to offer a variety and not just craft options. Here are our favorite brewski options:
- Classic: Modelo Negra, Blue Moon, Coors Banquet
- Craft-ish: Lagunitas a Little Sumpin Sumpin, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Allagash Curiex
Cocktails: Last, but definitely not least, cocktails. The easiest way to prepare and serve cocktails at your happy hour is to simply provide all necessary ingredients and have your guests craft their own. Here are all the ingredients you need for your happy hour cocktail station (don’t be afraid to splurge on hard alcohol):
- Vodka: Grey Goose, Stolichnaya
- Rum: Bacardi Gran Reserva, Appleton Estate
- Gin: Tanqueray, The Botanist
- Italian Soda: Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda (found at Trader Joe’s)
- Club Soda
- Mexican Coke
- Citrus slices: orange and lime will do.
You can offer a variety of cocktail options with just a few ingredients like the ones listed above. Please see some of our favorite examples below:
–Vodka Italian Soda: All you need for this insanely easy and delicious drink are 2-3 ingredients; vodka, Italian soda (try blood orange), and orange slices for an added touch.
–Gin Rickey: Gin, club soda, lime juice, and a lime for garnish. A healthyish and refreshing option for your guests to enjoy.
–Cuba Libre: Rum and Mexican Coke (in lieu of regular coke) and your Cuba Libre will taste even better than what they serve at your local bar. Add a twist of fresh lime and you’re all set!
The very last thing on your list is something that you can skip, but makes all the difference when it comes time to clean up. Instead of relying on your own glassware, plates and cutlery, do yourself a favor a make a quick trip to your local dollar store for recyclable products that you can easily throw away at the end of the night. 99 cent stores have great selections of cute and colorful plates, cups, napkins… you name it. It beats having to wash dishes for an hour straight after your friends leave.
You’re officially on your way to planning the best happy hour you and your friends will ever attend (this may or may not be a stretch). Use TBN’s at home happy hour guide as a reference point and feel free to improvise in the menu and cocktail departments as there is no wrong way to happy hour. At the end of the day, you’re creating a special environment for your friends to gather and be merry and there’s truly nothing better than that.
Have you hosted a happy hour or cocktail party before? Let us know in the comments section below!