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Happy hour admittedly looks a lot different this spring. While the alfresco rosé at your favorite neighborhood spot and the cold rooftop drink might be off the table for now, with a little bit of innovation, you can still sip something festive once 5 p.m. rolls around. 

Now is a great time to put the contents of your bar cart to use, learning how to make a highball or two and setting the scene so that a beverage at home feels less like a drink for the sake of having a drink and more like something decadent. So we asked the pros in and around the alcohol industry how they’re making the most of their quarantine cocktail hour. Now that’s something to cheers about.

The Aperitivo 

Recommended by: Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht, founders of Haus.The strategy: We’re all about the aperitivo snack. Cured meat, cheese, olives, good bread. Alison Roman’s marinated anchovies have been on a regular rotation lately. Bar cart superhero:The best thing I’ve found recently is a passion fruit liqueur from Chinola. It is so good you can drink it on the rocks—which I do often—but it would be the perfect low-ABV base for a juicy tropical cocktail with a splash of rum. —Helena

Chinola Passionfruit Liqueur
Chinola Passionfruit Liqueur, Wine.com ($37)

The Slow Sip

Recommended by: Frank Graniero, founder of Strangers Wine.The strategy:Lately, I’ve been enjoying listening to the Byrds’ album Sweetheart of the Rodeo while drinking a lovingly, not rushed martini. A martini always makes it feel special. Bar cart superhero:Mulassano vermouth bianco—it’s a beautiful drink on the rocks with some club soda, citrus, and a sprig of the fresh herbs you’ve got growing on the windowsill. I drink it while I’m cooking and the windows are open.

Mulassano Bianco Vermouth
Mulassano Bianco Vermouth Di Torino, Bitters and Bottles ($30)

The Elevated Classic

Recommended by: Chris Vaughn, founder and CEO of Saucey.The strategy: Waterford crystal tumblers somehow make drinking any whiskey, bourbon, or scotch just taste better. It’s some combination of the weight of the glass that makes the moment feel special. Bar cart superhero: Michter’s rye, served neat.

Michter's US1 Rye
Michter’s US1 Rye Whiskey, Total Wine ($41)

The End-of-Week Toast

Recommended by: Helen Johannesen, founder of Helen’s Wines. The strategy: Fridays are the real happy hour moment at our house, since the work grind is intense for me during the week. Recently, my husband has been setting up two turntables and playing music mixes for Venice [California] radio station 99.1. It’s just nice to put the phone down, have a glass of some chilled wine, tune in, and zone out. Bar cart superhero: Obviously I love wine, but outside of that my bar cart is super-focused and edited. My friend James Bond recently gave me a bottle he makes called Wolves whiskey, and it is so decadent—I have that on special occasions.

First Run Whiskey
First Run, Wolves (Price upon request)

The Delivered Drink

Recommended by: Mark Lynn, founder and CEO of Amass.The strategy: I’ve been ordering to-go cocktails from my favorite bars and restaurants. I consider myself a pretty good at-home bartender, but some drinks are best left to the pros. Happy hour is really about connecting with people, so I make a point to share a virtual drink with my friends when I can. Bar cart superhero: When I do make my own drink, I always have the fixings for a Negroni—Amass dry gin, Campari, and some sweet vermouth, with an orange twist for garnish.

Dry Gin, AMASS ($55)

The Al Fresco 

Recommended by: Jason LaValla, founder of Casamara Club. The strategy:Lately, I’ll take my happy hour drink out onto my porch to read a little, say hi to people walking by on the street, and watch the sunset. Bar cart superhero: I always have an Italian-style aperitivo on my bar cart, whether that’s a classic like Campari or a new favorite like Forthave Red. I use these to make the usual suspects (Negronis, Boulevardiers, spritzes), but I also love adding a quarter of an ounce or so to daiquiris and whiskey sours. Not only does it lend some depth, it makes your drink a really pretty pink color. What’s more special than that?

Forthave Spirits Red Aperitivo
Forthave Spirits Red Aperitivo, Astor Wines ($37)

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