You got the new client, or are in the middle of a brutal project, or maybe you and your gang just need to blow off steam at the end of a long week. Instead of hitting the local bar for after-work cocktails, get the gang together at your place with this easy happy hour that’s not only fun but a lot more affordable than a night on the town!
Start with the Invitation
Since this is an impromptu party, an emailed note or an E-vite will do the trick. Sending an invitation to your guests is important for several reasons. First, it allows you to define a start and end time so guests will know it’s not an all night event. If there’s a bar, some guests don’t know when to leave. Asking guests to RSVP will also let you know how many to plan for and will keep you from overspending on food.
You don’t have to have a “themed party” but you should definitely have a party theme for every get-together. It makes menu selection and decorating easier if you have a game plan to work from. For this after-work happy hour, I like the idea of a buffet style party with plenty of variety.
A Tex-Mex or Mexican inspired theme is always a winner. The food is not only inexpensive, but really filling! Who can resist chips and salsa? I know I always fill up on them in a restaurant. And everyone loves a margarita. A buffet with these items will allow guests to graze and talk easily, the key to a successful party. More importantly, since everything is self-serve, you can relax and enjoy the festivities.
After a long week, you want a party that you can pull together in minutes but still looks really festive. The easiest way to do this is to select easy “make-ahead” recipes like Mexican Pizzas and take some help from the store or a favorite restaurant where you can. Frozen taquitos are really good when you add homemade salsa. Bean and Corn Salsa, fresh Salsa Verde, or Cutting Board Salsa are all easy to make recipes and add homemade flavor to any store bought dish… And you can find delicious fresh salsas at most grocery stores today if you don’t have time to make one. Set up the salsas in a station like a caterer would: Use big baskets of chips in different colors and flavors. Use another caterer’s trick: Get out your serving pieces before the party and label them with a post-it so you can plate everything quickly. You won’t be scrambling through cabinets as guests arrive looking for one more bowl or platter!
At Happy Hour, the Drinks are the focus…. So keep it simple with one liquor choice and build your cocktail buffet around it.
Tequila is the key ingredient for cocktails for this party. Chill it in the freezer before party time so it is really cold. Set up your drink buffet with several options so guests can sample a variety of different drinks. A tasting station with mini tequila shots and some pre-mixed margarita recipes like this Strawberry-Banana Margarita, Frozen Mint Margaritas, and of course, a Classic Margarita will allow guests to try an old favorite or sample something new. Offer a variety of juices, rimming supplies, and garnishes so guests can get creative and make their own cocktail like this one, the Orange Beach It’s a spin on the classic Tequila Sunrise: blanco tequila, orange juice, cranberry juice, a squeeze of lime, with a little Grenadine floating on top. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Next, let’s work on the Decorations.
You don’t have to have decorations for this party; the buffets will pull double duty as décor. But you can add a little flair using a Mexican blanket as a tablecloth and inexpensive tin lanterns or glassware from Mexico. Use whatever you have around the house. Limes, lemons, and other fruit used in your beverage selections can also be used as decorations. Just fill a vase or a bowl with them and place it on your serving table and remember that using different textures and heights help create visual interest on a buffet. Use bright fiesta colors or use colors inspired by the Mexican Rivera like aqua blue or sea green. If you don’t have enough dishes, try the dollar store and don’t be afraid to mix and match your good stuff with cheaper items to pull it all together.
The entertainment for this party is the conversation… but some music playing in the background adds a little ambience.
Put together a playlist of tunes that can play for the length of the party so you don’t have to change the music. Keep it low key as not to drown out the conversation. It’s always fun to have an activity planned. You can get a DVD of salsa dance steps if you want to keep with the theme and have the space. Another idea is to put a basket full of playing cards and simple board games like the tower building game Jenga where guests can help themselves to the fun.
So don’t head to the bar next Friday after work; ask your friends to come over for Happy Hour! They’ll be delighted that you went to so much trouble for them and you’ll love knowing that you didn’t!
Photos by Arden Ward, Arden Photography