1. Have a Plan
We all have different comfort levels, but when you're hosting in COVID-19 times, you get to set the ground rules for everyone and enforce them - almost like the bouncer of your own backyard happy hour. It all starts with a plan that you feel comfortable with based on your health needs and personal tolerance for risk.
On top of all the usual entertaining considerations (like themes, decorations, or music), think about how you'll reduce risks. Outdoor entertaining is safest, but you'll also want to think about:
- Seating arrangements - What's the best way to spread folks out?
- Cleaning and sanitation - How can guests clean their hands? Masks - Are these required or optional?
- Sharing - Is it a BYO everything party, or are some items shared?
These are unusual times, and there are no right or wrong answers for socially-distanced entertaining. If you're stricter around health, you might keep everyone outside with a mask on unless they're eating or drinking, require hand sanitizer upon entry, and not allow guests to use your bathroom. If you're taking a more relaxed approach, you might consider alternatives to these requirements.
Decide what you feel comfortable with, then plan for how to execute the best party possible given those limitations. Most people will appreciate the chance to socialize after so much time apart and will respect whatever guidelines you set.
2. Be Selective with Invites
Guests love to feel like they scored an invite to an exclusive cocktail party, and keeping the numbers small reduces everyone's risk. Invite a few friends from different households who have been as careful as you (say, wearing masks everywhere if that's what you've been doing when around crowds). Don't invite folks you know to be immunocompromised or anyone who's taking risks you wouldn't feel comfortable taking. Communicate your happy hour plan to your guests when you invite them, so they can prepare. They can either accept or decline your invite, depending on their own comfortability. It's all about mutual respect.
3. Portion Food and Drinks for Guests
The safest way to provide food and drinks for your guests is through portioning in advance. This will reduce the amount of contact everyone has with shared items. As a host, you might purchase several bottles of your favorite Chilean wines (our rose is perfect for summer, and our Chilean Malbec is an anytime crowd pleaser) and pre-pour the wine into disposable glasses for everyone to take. Rather than serve communal fare, like a cheese plate or chips and dip, find food that can be portioned individually (maybe every guest gets a bowl of chips and a baby hummus to dip into).
Larger serving bowls are okay, so long as you avoid scenarios where every guest is putting their hands on something, like a shared serving spoon. If you're putting out party-sized food items, provide each guest with their own spoon or fork, which they'll use to serve themselves. You might take on the role of wine steward for the night and pour wines for everyone so the bottle isn't passed from hand to hand.
Don't let the rules constrain you. There are so many creative ways to gather while being smart about the health risks. Good wines, good food, and good friends are a way to lift your spirits, and we'll raise a glass to that!