Stress-free Happy Hour

Make it a Goal to Have a Stress-Free “Happy Hour” Cocktail Party Any Time of Year

The old-fashioned cocktail party is making a comeback, but to some, it can seem like way too much work to be worth the effort.  If you select happy hour, there is no expectation of dinner, or heavy appetizers.  Here are some simple ideas to help you host the perfect, simple, happy hour cocktail party.


  1. Pick a part of your house you don’t often use for entertaining


Sometime a change of scenery is all you need to make the setting special.  If you bought or rented your home thinking you would love to entertain on your deck, in your back yard or in your living room, but never use them, this is the time.  Seldom do we use the more formal spaces in our homes – everyone always ends up in the kitchen.  So, select a spot in your home that you would love to entertain in, and use it for your cocktail party.


  1. Choose your cocktails in advance


You don’t need to have a full liquor cabinet to have a successful cocktail party.  Wine and beer are the perfect “cocktails” for most events.  You can get creative with your selections – having some local micro-brews along with an old standard beer is always good. A great summer wine is a chilled rose over ice.  It has the feel of a cocktail but the ease of a good glass of wine.

If you want to serve a cocktail, pick one and make it in advance.  It is an easy way to add a little diversity to your offerings without having to have a fully stocked bar. 



This is a classic drink that never goes out of style and is easy to sip on a chilly evening. This drink calls for a maraschino cherry, and to make the drink extra special, I recommend Luxardo Maraschino Cherries – they are a bit more expensive, but really make the drink taste better.


Ingredients – Makes 10 servings


·         5 dashes angostura bitters

·         10 oz sweet vermouth

·         22 oz bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace or Makers Mark

·         1 oz of the juice of the Luxardo Cherries

1 cherry per drink


Mix the bitters, vermouth, bourbon and cherry juice in a pitcher.  To serve, add ice and a cherry to a double old fashioned glass and pour.




This recipe is a little labor intensive, but so worth it.  It calls for simple syrup, which can be purchased at most grocery stores, so don’t go to the extra effort of making that yourself.


Ingredients – Makes 8 servings


56 Fresh Mint Leaves

2 Lemons – Each cut into 8 wedges

8 Tablespoons Simple Syrup

2 Cups of Bourbon

Ice Cubes

Crushed Ice

Mint for Garnish


In a blender, pulse-mix the mint leaves, lemons and simple syrup.  Combine the bourbon and simple syrup mixture in the blender and gently pulse to blend.  Strain the drink into a pitcher and serve over crushed ice with a garnish of mint.


  1. Keep the snacks to a minimum


If you were going to a bar for Happy Hour, you would be fine with some mixed nuts, small bites or popcorn.  So why not apply that to your own cocktail party?  Offer a small selection of snack items in lovely bowls – sweet and salty –  set them out in advance and then close your kitchen.  It takes the pressure off you to try to accommodate special requests from your guests.  And if you do want a hot item to serve, select a warm dip that can be kept warm in a crock pot or with Sterno.  No fuss leaves you free to enjoy your guests.


  1. Select an easy décor that sets the mood


  • Have an outing to an antique mart or flea market to find an inexpensive set of vintage cocktail glasses and an ice bucket.
  • You can also pick up a retro flower vase or two to add an inexpensive touch of color to your table or bar.
  • Paper cocktail napkins come in every possible style, so hit your favorite gift shop to find those that fit your décor for the party.
  • Background music is a must for a cocktail party. Pandora has great party channels – select one that fits your style but won’t disrupt conversation.


Entertaining should not be daunting; it should be a way for you to connect with friends, old and new, and add grace and memories to your home.  If you take the stress off yourself, your guests feel welcome and at ease.