Unable to attend St. Patrick’s Day parades and pub crawls this year, people throughout the country are instead finding ways to drink together, alone, online.
Raising a glass virtually is taking off as people are discouraged from leaving their homes or gathering in large groups because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Amid physical “social distancing,” friends and co-workers are instead turning to video chats to socialize at a time when friendly faces and breaks from nonstop news can be hard to find. They are getting together with their regular happy hour crew, or with family members and people they haven’t seen in ages. Some are finding new friends to bond with over their shared unshakable sense of dread and a fondness for mezcal.
There’s even a new cocktail emerging online: the “quarantine.” Although its recipe varies, it is best served chilled in front of a laptop or smartphone camera and enjoyed with a twist of levity.
Jennifer Kumiyama in Long Beach, Calif., is filling up her calendar with chats and her kitchen with wine from the nearby bodega. After posting the idea on her Facebook page, Kumiyama was quickly booked from 2 to 6 p.m. with a rotating cast of chat partners, some of whom she hadn’t met before. Kumiyama’s office has asked everyone to work from home, although her county hasn’t yet ordered people to self-quarantine.
“It was really great, because I feel like there was a mutual need to talk about stuff that wasn’t so dark and depressing,” said Kumiyama over a FaceTime chat with drinks.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has also occurred as people are more connected than ever, adding a new feeling of community in a time of crisis and potential isolation. Technology, including social media sites and smartphones, is enabling the quick sharing of information, memes and communication in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
As more people are choosing or are required to stay home, video technology in particular is providing a way for people to connect – even when there are glitches. It’s allowing employees to stay connected with work and the people they know, socializing across distances.
Alcohol is not a necessary ingredient for group video hangouts, of course. You can have a video coffee klatch, afternoon tea or, in some states, cannabis products party. The only necessary ingredient is a group of people stuck at home with time on their hands and a decent Internet connection. Right now, that is an unprecedented number of people.
Over just the past two weeks, virtual happy hours have become more commonplace, showing how quickly people can adapt to their new reality.
Video chat happy hours in particular are important to create “a breather and just talk about other things,” said Helena Price Hambrecht, co-CEO of Sonoma County, California, aperitif company Haus, which offers delivery. “It’s important for our sanity.”
On Friday, Hambrecht hosted the first of what she hopes will be weekly “virtual aperitivo hours” over video conferencing app Zoom. Around 60 people, a mix of friends, customers and Instagram followers, dialed in for the debut meetup, and everyone brought the drink of their choice. She plans on having the salons once a week with rotating guests to add variety.
Anything that makes it easier to get through the coming weeks of self-quarantine can aid the health care workers and hospitals hoping social distancing will lessen the influx of coronavirus cases. Especially on St. Patrick’s Day, when many people will feel pressured to go out drinking against the urging of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health departments.
In Northern California, Santa Rosa resident Dani Burlison has found ways to socialize with her core group of friends during previous emergencies like wildfires, gathering together at one another’s homes for food or drinks to avoid breathing the heavy smoke outside.
“This isolation is just different to what we’re used to here. We’re used to just banding together,” Burlison said. “It’s really hard to be going through this without those routine things.”
On Saturday, Burlison decided to host her weekly happy hour with five friends on Zoom. Most had wine or tequila, except for one person drinking a White Claw who was quickly mocked. Burlison is planning a coffee gathering over video this week, and she is moving a “Pens and Pints” creative writing event she has hosted for 10 years from the local whiskey bar to video chat.
Socializing, distraction and laughter may seem unimportant during a crisis, but they’re helpful for maintaining good mental health.
In San Francisco, residents were ordered this week to shelter in place, limited to leaving their residences only for essentials. Even before that measure, photographer Monica Semergiu invited 12 friends to grab a glass of wine and join a Google Hangout over the weekend. Originally from France and separated from much of her family, Semergiu said the chat was uplifting.
“It’s harder for me as a single person living with roommates and family in another country, not to panic in case I get sick. But at least chatting with friends and seeing their faces on this group chat can help me feel less isolated and alone,” Semergiu said.
That’s true for many of the new video chatters.
“Yes, it’s terrible that we’re being asked to stay home and isolate ourselves but at the same time, it’s giving us something there’s never enough of, and that’s time,” Kumiyama said. “Time for ourselves, time for friends, time to make new friends.”
How to make a “quarantini”:
What, exactly, is a quarantini other than something you drink during a quarantine? There are plenty of recipes floating around online, such as basic vodka martinis sipped from your sofa or more elaborate concoctions that add in items like Emergen-C.
Sean Kelley, a veteran San Francisco bartender of 10 years, shared his take on the quarantine drink:
1.5 oz of your favorite gin or vodka
0.5 oz Lillet Blanc
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
Stir and strain with a lemon twist
Of course, what you can mix depends on what you remembered to buy at the store the last time you were there stocking up on bread and toilet paper. Kelley says there’s plenty of room to improvise. He likes Lillet for its citrusy notes, but any other blanc vermouth will do.
“And if you don’t have that or orange bitters, just get dirty with 2 ounces of gin or vodka and a half-ounce of olive juice or pickle brine, or whatever else salty you can find,” Kelley said.