How to Host the Perfect Autumn Happy Hour

How to Host the Perfect Autumn Happy Hour


6 minute read

As soon as fall breezes roll in, our whole mood changes! Autumn has us cooking comfort food, mixing up cozy cocktails, and cuddling up with people we love. That’s why it’s a no-brainer to invite your crew over for a dinner party or happy hour—but what makes a good gathering? We’ve pulled together some of our favorite hosting tips from many, many happy hours that will help your next fall gathering go off without a hitch.

Our Best Hosting Advice

Nail the Invite

One of the most important parts of party planning comes before the event itself! A good invite sets expectations and helps to lay the groundwork for a stress-free evening. You don’t have to send paper invites, either—feel free to make a Facebook event or shoot a text invite to the group chat.

Make sure to tell your guests:

  • The type of event and how much food you'll be serving. If you say it’s a dinner party, guests will be expecting a full meal. If it’s a happy hour “with snacks,” they’ll know to make dinner plans before or after the party.
  • The window of time when the event will take place—not just the start time! If you’re hosting a “drop in when you can” happy hour from 5 PM-8 PM, you don’t want your night owl friends rolling up at 7:45 PM raring to go.
  • An idea of the dress code. We’re not saying to set a black tie standard, but a little note saying “come as you are” on the invite tells your guests that they can come straight from work without going home and changing out of their jeans. On the flipside, if you’re hosting a more festive weekend event, tell your guests to break out their party clothes so nobody arrives feeling underdressed.

Set the Mood

You don’t have to do a full Martha Stewart makeover on your living room to get the vibes right! Small tweaks to your everyday style are all you need.

Prep a playlist ahead of time so you don’t have to keep skipping songs. Consider giving the flowers a break and add a more autumnal touch with decorative gourds or a table runner. Pull out enough extra seats so all your guests have a place to plop if they want to. Oh, and obviously don’t forget to tidy up—but you knew that already.

Plan a Simple Menu

Whether you’re offering a full dinner or lighter fare, you don’t want to be chained to the stove all night. Choose dishes that you can prepare well before your guests arrive and pull out of the fridge or oven just in time to serve. (Bonus points if it’s all self-serve too!) For a happy hour, a charcuterie board or warm baked brie hits the mark. For a dinner party, a big tray of slow-roasted vegetables makes a great side dish or a topper for a warm salad to go alongside a steaming pot of hearty soup.

Prep a Signature Drink

The same logic applies to the drinks! It’s tempting to flex your mixology skills and pour drinks for your guests all night, but you’re there to be a friend first, not a bartender. Instead, simplify your night by picking a signature, big-batch drink that your guests can serve themselves all evening long. Bottle a batch or two of your favorite cocktail, set out a punch bowl, or have mulled wine or spiked cider staying warm on the stove for cold nights. (Check out our advice on nailing batched cocktails!) Make sure to prepare enough for each guest to have 2 drinks of a cocktail or 3 drinks of a milder punch.

You should also keep some other staple options on hand for anyone who’s not feeling the signature drink. Non-alcoholic options are a must, and you won’t go amiss with a bottle or two of wine on hand or some beers in the fridge.

Batched Cocktail Recipes Made for Entertaining

Here are three of our go-to boozy recipes that scream “autumn!” You’ve got options—one batched cocktail, one punch bowl, and one warm drink—and you can’t go wrong with any of ‘em.

Orange Bomb Boulevardier

Makes about 6 servings

9 oz Navel Gazer-infused whiskey
6 oz Campari
6 oz sweet vermouth
3 oz filtered water (or to taste)
Orange peels to garnish

Mix all ingredients well and pour into a bottle for serving. Put in the fridge and let the flavors deepen for at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks. When you’re ready to serve, pour 4 oz of Boulevardier into a lowball or coupe glass and twist and garnish with orange peel for a citrus explosion!

Autumn Harvest Punch

Makes about 12 servings

2 cups (1 whole kit!) At the Orchard-infused vodka
2 750 ml bottles of champagne
1 cup Cherry Heering liqueur
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 lemons, sliced
1 quart of fresh raspberries

Add all liquid ingredients to a large punch bowl and add a generous amount of large ice cubes. Float the fruit on top. Pair with a ladle and watch your guests come back and fill their glasses for seconds. And thirds. And maybe fourths…

Chai-der

Makes about 16 servings

1.5 cups of Bundled Up-infused dark rum
1 gallon apple cider
1 orange cut into slices
1 ginger root cut into slices
4 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
1 Tbsp whole cloves
2 Tbsp whole cardamom pods
A few cracks of freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Add all ingredients except rum to a Dutch oven or large lidded pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2-3 hours. Alternately, add all ingredients except rum to a crock pot and cook covered on “low” for 2-3 hours. When ready to serve, add the rum. Ladle into heat-proof mugs and take a sip—this one will warm your hands and your insides.

P.S. Looking for even more batched recipes? Here are a few that will take you right into holiday happy hours!

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