In the era of social distancing, many drinkers are leaning into technology to stay connected with friends and loved ones. From virtual happy hours to online wine classes, and teleconferenced game nights to an Instagram Live nightclub, we’re finding new ways to socialize over a glass (or two) with our social circles even when we can’t be in the same place.

That’s the topic for today’s VinePair podcast, where Adam, Erica, and Zach discuss their own experiences with these and other methods of staying in touch in the time of Covid-19, as well as offering a few suggestions for how to liven up your own simulated soirees.

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Adam: From my apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I’m Adam Teeter.

Erica: From my apartment in Jersey City, I’m Erica Duecy.

Zach: And in my house in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the VinePair podcast — and guys, before we kick off today’s topic, which I’m pretty pumped to talk about ‘cause I think we all have some experience of social drinking in times of [coronavirus] now – online basically, the podcast [Covid-19 Conversations] that we’re dropping basically as often as possible. At least three coming out this week. If you’re just listening to the podcast today you hopefully heard yesterday’s really interesting interview with Esther Mobley of the San Francisco Chronicle. That was a super-fascinating interview, Zach.

Z: Thank you.

A: I really enjoyed that. And then coming up this week there’s gonna be two more people we’re talking to, Raj Parr and then Paul Mabray. So we’re focusing a little bit more on the West Coast this week, but we’re gonna hit up some people next week. I’ve already got on deck a conversation with the team behind the really successful wine bar in New York City – Ruffian. They also own the restaurant Kindred, and they also have just recently opened a dive bar where they’re doing really cool dive bar-esque foods [and] with them really crazy wines and stuff. So like, trying to figure out what’s happening to them, what they’re thinking now as a business that was clearly really growing pretty quickly right before corona and now how they’re sort of scaling back and what that means and how it’s affecting their employees and stuff like that. So we got a lot of that stuff coming in the future, if there’s anyone else you think we should talk to, please drop us a line at [email protected], as always. A bunch of you have been emailing in recently to tell us you really appreciate the additional episodes – things to listen to, please let us know any of your thoughts, right? If you have anything that sort of is moving you, that is affecting you during this time, you want us to talk about it, please again email us at [email protected]. You know and let’s all get through this whole thing together. Isn’t that right, guys?

E: Absolutely!

Z: Oh, for sure.

A: And then one other thing we gotta mention before we get too deep in this podcast which is, Erica you’re probably gonna remember better than me, but our marketing team is going to be featuring what people are drinking basically, on our social media channels over the next few weeks. So as loyal listeners to the podcast we’d love for you to snap a pic of yourself drinking whatever you are drinking in these corona times either send it to us at [email protected] – probably easiest, or you can tag your photo @vinepair if you wanna post it on Instagram first, and we’re gonna try to share as many of those over the coming weeks. Just to…again show we’re all in this together, so if you got a great wine that you discovered that you wanna shout out to, if you’ve got a cocktail you’ve been making, even better if you’ve got a cocktail you’ve been making and you wanna not only send it to us but share the recipe for that cocktail, we’d love to share that on Instagram stories as well. So just whatever you are all up to we’d love to see what you’re doing. So, guys how are you doing?

E: Zach you first.

Z: Oh me first, OK. You know, doing OK. It’s um…I’ll save the complaining for…never, ‘cause all of us are in the same boat. I will say that the thing that’s been really interesting to me on a drink-specific thing in this period of time is, and I think Adam you can probably talk about this ‘cause I just happened to notice on Instagram that you guys are getting into the rosé tasting, and I found myself really missing rosé. It’s been nicer in Seattle than I think it has been in New York and I was like just… we’re getting to the point in the year when I would have been buying rosé normally. But I don’t have very much of it, I don’t keep a lot around the house over the winter and I was like, man… you know the last couple of days it has been nice out and it’s just like the 184-thousandth thing on my list of things that I miss, but I was like, “man I really wish I could just like go to the store, get a nice cold bottle of like 2019 rosé, something super fresh,” and I guess I technically still could but, the sort of unadulterated pleasure that I’ve taken in that time and those first few rosés of the year, I’m unfortunately not able to get. But some very thoughtful friends of mine in the wine industry have sent me a few…[they] have told me they have some bottles in the mail for me, so I will keep an eye out for that. And maybe I’ll post it on Instagram and tag VinePair and you all can see what rosé I’m drinking.

A: That would be dope, you know…I feel that, I feel that. What about you Erica, how are you doing?

E: Yeah, I’m doing all right. But hey, I gotta say living in the New York area in a tiny apartment when you’re cooped inside with two kids and a husband in what – about 800 square feet or so – is no treat. So I know that there’s a lot of listeners around the country who are probably in very similar circumstances and just know that we’re with you. It is a really sucky time for everyone and I think one of the things we can do is just look for small projects that are going to help us take our mind off of this self-isolation that we are experiencing. Later in the week on we’ll be posting some cocktail projects that you can do over the weekend – simple hacks and tips and tricks to make your afternoon cocktails a little bit more fun. So everything from oleo-saccharum to making bitters. We were just brainstorming this morning. So, I think anything that you can do for a little bit of an escape is the thing to get on your calendar. As we discussed before, one of the hardest things for people working from home is just turning off and feeling that you can actually have that escape, and that you don’t need to be in front of your computer all the time. So we’ll be coming up with some tips for that.

A: I dig, I dig. I’m gonna share my bathtub gin recipe, get ready. So, what we wanna talk about today is this sort of phenomenon that’s popped up over the last week, which has been pretty insane. Which is, there’s a wide variety of things we all sort of have had experience doing one or two of them. But that’s, first of all we all live in Zoom now. Which is crazy. But you’ve had either cocktail, wine, beer classes pop up. So people in the industry who are going onto Instagram live or asking people to join their Zoom and teaching classes. I know Zach you’re doing something sort of like that with wines you’re picking and talking about.

Z: Mmm-hmm

A: And then having people go back and forth with you, which is cool. We also have the phenomenon of Zoom happy hours. So people all getting together… I’ve mostly seen these happening either among really close friend groups or networking. I haven’t really seen them happening like sort of from a… I don’t know, just “hey, let’s all show up at this random place” kind of bar setting, if you will. I do know people who are going on dates on Zoom, which is really interesting. We also had obviously the crazy party this weekend, run by DJ D-Nice where he had 100-thousand people on his Instagram live and he DJd a party for basically like five hours and people were literally sending him, via Drizly and Minibar, bottles, like you would normally send to a DJ in the DJ booth. But you know he had tons of celebs join the Instagram live. He had Michelle Obama join the Instagram live. And sort of like, just be there partaking. People were saying it was like the best club they’d ever been to, which was pretty crazy. And then you have people getting together for game nights and stuff like that. So I wanna talk about all that today, sort of as a way to find some sort of social outlet. ‘Cause I think obviously, being alone and drinking alone is fine, right? In these times. If you need to have a glass of wine at the end of the day, we totally hear you. But drinking together is a lot more fun. So ways that we can all have some sort of communal experience while we are all in this isolation as we are socially distancing is amazing. So Zach, what’s up man, how have these classes been, what made you decide you wanted to do it, what are you doing? Tell us!

Z: Well so for me I think the impotence was two-fold. One, a lot of my function in my restaurant job was wine education and it’s something I really love – and education around drinks in general. And I was missing it and I was trying to think about, “OK, well what can I do?” And it just sort of made sense to me to think about trying to take some of that and put it online. And to say… for me it was this question of, OK, what kind of format makes sense? And so to me, at least so far what’s made sense is to not do something like a happy hour or Zoom where it’s multiple people kind of video chatting. It’s more me live-streaming and then trying to take questions or comments from the people who are watching. And I think the hard part for me is, despite what you all might think, it’s actually a little bit weird to sit in front of my computer and just talk at it for half an hour. So, even though I’m used to teaching classes…

A: Really?

Z: I know, right? I think it’s not being able to see the looks of either interest or boredom, depending on the faces of the people I’m teaching. But so far, it’s been pretty cool. It was interesting, I started with a wine that I think [is] a great kind of entry point for a lot of this, which is Sparkling wine by Gruet, a producer in New Mexico, and I’d like to highlight this wine because I think it’s this great example of like the cool things that are happening in American wine, American sparkling wine. It’s made in New Mexico which, we don’t think of as a wine place outside of Gruet really. And also just like, everyone needs more encouragement to open bottles of sparkling wine. It’s really affordable, I think the bottle I opened was like $14 at the grocery store. So it’s not like someone picking up a bottle is gonna be a huge issue. And so what I tried to do in putting this idea together was to send out a list of bottles that people could theoretically find relatively easily in their grocery store or in another setting and could basically open along with me if they want, or if they find something similar and want to open it. And talk about it. Talk about what’s going on in the wine, a little bit about the producer, the place it’s from. Talk a little bit about foods that go with it and, yeah. You know again, just have content that is as much as possible, [acknowledging] the circumstance we’re all in but isn’t dwelling on it. Because I think one thing that we’re finding in all of this is that once you get past that initial period of like, “I am just dealing with the shock to my life and the system,” you kind of have to move into a phase where there are things that you do that you enjoy. Whether that’s happy hours with friends or a big 100-thousand-person Instagram dance club or classes. I’m hopeful that for the people who follow along with it, it’s a break a little bit from, not just the stress of work – if you’re still working, but also the stress of a very scary situation.

E: Yeah. Definitely. I mean for me, I was running one of these virtual happy hours on Friday with some friends – one in San Francisco and one in Australia. So for me it was actually happy hour time, 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., and for my friend in San Francisco it was afternoon tea, and for our friend in Australia it was a brunch cocktail thing. So I think one of the things we can do is realize that the time and space component of cocktail parties is changing. So we can reach out to our far flung friends easier than ever before. This is the time to do it. And maybe that feels like kind of a treat, you know? Reaching out and getting connected with your friends that you may not be in touch with all the time since, hey – we’re all virtual at this point. It’s the small silver lining of this thing. Everyone now is virtually connected anywhere in the world. So let’s use it and try to have a bit of fun with it. And another thing, it’s not just having fun. It’s also for doing good. One of the fun things I’ve seen is, Belinda Chang for example, who is a sommelier and event producer in Chicago, she’s doing nightly happy hours and on Sundays “Boozy-brunch with Belinda.” There’s a guest at every one of these events who is a sommelier or bartender who’s been laid off from their job, and they come on and talk about their recommendations and so forth. At the Sunday brunch, Belinda had 100 attendees and they raised $1,000, and this person essentially worked a shift at the boozy brunch. So I think those ways that we can come together and have an experience where we are also acknowledging, and recognizing, and helping out someone in the industry is another good way to use these.

A: Those are cool, yeah. I definitely think, I’ve enjoyed connecting with old friends on it. What I haven’t loved are these forced networking happy hours that I see, that have been popping up a lot. Like on Zoom, for example. Like those to me have felt really inauthentic, if it makes sense. I’d rather just connect with one of you guys over Facetime or… hey guys, I brought back Houseparty. Houseparty is the best app ever right now. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you just download it, your friends can all have a house party, you can crash someone’s House party, it’s really fun. I’m really into those. A lot of these though, it feels like almost immediately like we had this great idea and then these brands started doing them. And that I haven’t loved, personally. Like the ones by the brands have felt kind of forced and always not what you expect, right? Like you have this big brand, whether it’s a media company or an Adidas or whatever, doing some big happy hour, and there’s not as many people there as you think would be there and everyone’s kind of networking, you also don’t know everyone, those I haven’t dug; I felt like those were kind of weird. I think when they come from individual people they still feel super authentic, right? So coming from someone like Belinda is amazing, and when it goes to a good cause I’m much more willing to do it, right? So that’s what I also like, I think part of the reason that they felt kind of weird to me recently is like a lot of them feel forced and like just for the gain of that organization if it makes sense? They’re not going to any charities. It’s just like, “hey, come do this with us because we’re this really cool company, why don’t you meet and network and like get to know a bunch of other entrepreneurs or whatever” and that’s bothered me. It should be something like, “hey we’re gonna do this networking thing, by the way we’d like everyone to give $5 or $10 and we’re gonna use it to support a local restaurant or a local bar or just a local business in general.” And so I think like that’s what no one’s doing yet that I would like to see happen in the next week is more of those. Because if not, those feel like not the thing I’m willing to join, but the game nights I’m really into. The game nights have been super fun.

Z: Well I’m wondering you know, I think all three of us as people who are married might not be thinking about this, but you know one of the things that’s true is that bars in particular are…it’s changed obviously a lot in the land and world of online dating, but I’m wondering, are people using Zoom or whatever to go out? Not in a “connect with old friends” sense? And the real question I have is, have either of you seen anything about like, what I imagine some combo of an online happy hour plus chat roulette, where you get thrown in with random strangers who are looking to make a connection? I don’t know, someone out there should do that, if they’re not already.

A: I mean, I definitely have friends who are going on like dates on Zoom. Which I think is really funny and cute. And like they’ve been, “look, it’s a way to still meet people, and have like these one-on-one connections with them while you’re working from home,” which I think is awesome. But yeah, I don’t know if there’s… to me [there] isn’t an app yet that I’ve heard of, ‘cause you’re right, one of the cool things about going out is you can just randomly meet people. And I do understand that that’s why people are also pushing these networking sessions on Zoom. ‘Cause they’re like, “look, I used to go out to the bar and network to get clients or whatever, and now I’m not gonna be able to do that for the next few months.” But that feels a little bit weirder to me than what we already have, which is that people can match on Tinder, etc. and then just set up a Zoom call instead of a real dinner and at least get to know someone for the next 30 minutes to an hour. And the friends that I know that are doing it have said, at least this weekend were like, “oh, it was still fulfilling, I still felt like I got to meet someone, I’m moving my life forward,” right? As opposed to just saying like “Oh shit, there’s gonna be X number of weeks or months where I’m not gonna go out on dates and that’s not what I’m into right now.”

E: Yeah, I mean it’s…I think it’s gonna be tough especially for people who are living alone. Last Friday we published a story about tips for if you are going to host some of these parties. Maybe now would be a good time to go into some of those. So, the first thing for these virtual happy hours is to pick a software. Zoom is the one that I’ve universally heard to have the best experience. Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, I’ve been on a couple of those and those have been skipping, so watch out for that.

A: Totally.

E: Yeah, and I think another thing is, choose a theme. At one of mine, I was talking about doing riffs on a Martini. So there’s this Martini at a bar I love in Seattle called Canon….

A: Wait, wait. You did a happy hour?

E: Yeah, yeah!

A: And I didn’t get invited?

E: Next time, alright?

A: I didn’t know you did a happy hour! This is some bullshit Erica. So like now I’m learning about all this stuff like, I didn’t know Erica was doing happy hours! Zach did you get an invite?

Z: Uhh, I did not. Man this is like going back to college, like all the cool parties I didn’t get invited to.

A: I know…

E: Yeah, alright, well you know what? I’m going to do another Martini happy hour, I’m gonna commit to it here. And I think one fun way to use this….so for example, at Canon in Seattle. A bar that I love probably Zach loves….

Z: I do.

E: I was trying to do a riff on this Martini that they do: It’s kinda crazy, it’s called the Anning Martini. It’s a famous Martini where they do oyster-shell-infused gin, they do a mezcal rinse, so they have applewood smoked salt, it’s all this sort of crazy detail. But I actually was playing around with it this weekend and trying to make a home version of it. And I think getting people to get together to talk about the different riffs that they’re doing, if they’re working on their Martini, I think that’d be really fun. And then we can do a virtual tip jar for Canon, which can go through a platform like Go-tip-em or through Venmo. Maybe we can even get Jamie Boudreau, the owner of Canon, on with us to talk about that. I think something like that, choose a theme so that it feels like you have something to talk about other than this terrible circumstance that we’re all having to endure.

A: I think that’s… I mean, that’s an amazing idea. There are so many things like that that you can do, right?

Z: I think Adam, I think you and I need to have a battling bourbon vs rye Boulevardier happy hour.

E: Oh my God, I’m so in, don’t you dare do it without me.

A: We already know which one would win because there’s one that’s correct and there’s one that is not.

Z: Well there’s the question of whether correct or ‘tastes better’ is the more important function here.

E: Ooh….

A: Wooow Zach…

Z: Alright folks, the gauntlets are being thrown down. Well, I was gonna say Erica, to your point that you were making though, and I think this is a good one too. You know, one slight silver lining in all this is that for people who are interested in home cocktail creation in particular but other things too, we talked about just as a sort of throwaway on a previous episode: home-brewing and stuff like that, most of us are spending a lot more time at home than we normally do. We probably have more time at least in a…. maybe not in a given day, but we’re able to do these sort of longer-term projects. And so now is a great time to think about if you’re going to start doing some infusions, you’re gonna make tinctures or bitters, you’re gonna make oyster-shell gin, which now I have to try. We were just talking about, my wife and I were just talking about getting some oysters ‘cause that’s a thing we miss that we usually have out more than we have at home. But that’s a great… this is the time to plan ahead with some friends, maybe you all kinda commit to trying to make some of these infusions or batch cocktails or whatever, and then you can… you may not be able to taste each other’s and see who did the best job, but you can at least kinda share your experience. And again have some fun and connection and I think that’s really what we’re all trying to get to in this, is really to find some ways to keep those social connections alive even if we can’t be in physical presence with most of the people we care about.

A: Yeah man and you can up your game for later. You know, so like you perfect it now and you’re ready to go later. Or look, you can just get together with people and just play some games. So like there are people who are actually figuring out how to play beer pong on Zoom.

Z: Oh my God.

A: Which is pretty hilarious. Which… like, look man, if that’s the way you wanna get together on a Friday or Saturday night, I think that’s hilarious. We played code names this weekend, which was super fun. So we got a bunch of friends together and like one person built the board – for those of you who listen to the podcast who play code names – they built the board in their apartment and then everyone…like the people who were supposed to be the two giving the clues got send a picture to their phone of like what their clue card looked like. So you had like a game master, almost like dungeons and dragons, but not ‘cause I’ve never played dungeons and dragons, I just heard there’s a game master. And then basically like we played the game over Zoom for like two hours, it was hilarious, everyone was enjoying drinks, we sent ahead of time…I sent some people some recipes of cocktails that I like to make that I thought would be easy for them to make during the game. And then we just went from there, it was a really, really good time. So I think there’s a bunch of ways that you can keep connecting with people. There’s obviously online games too that you can play where you can also still be on Facetime or Zoom while you’re both playing a game. There’s actually a really great game on your iPhone called “Pandemic,” I know that no one wants to play that game…

Z: It’s also an excellent board game itself.

A: Yeah, it is an excellent board game, and it’s a collaborative game which is fun ‘cause you’re actually not trying to beat people you’re like actually working together to do it. So I’m playing that with our tastings director Keith and his wife Gina on Friday, this coming Friday. So we’ve figured out how to make that work ‘cause they love collaborative games and they’ve turned us on to it. But like I think there’s like a lot of ways for people to sort of come together and be creative and that’s I think what’s made it super fun to watch. It’s like I think there are some things that, as I was saying earlier, that for me have kind of missed the mark. But then others that have completely hit based on people’s creativity, like who would have known that someone would ever figure out how to play beer pong on Zoom.

Z: Yeah. I would have guessed you would need a robot.

A: And yet like people did… no, and people did man, it’s crazy! Like, one person set up their board at their house, the other person set up their board at their house and they were just super honest with each other. Which is just really crazy.

E: I love that. I think, OK, so I have an idea here on the fly. So for all the parents out there who are starting to set up virtual play dates for their kids, how about this? Candyland, sorry, all of those games where you have to move backwards? That’s when you drink. So the parents drink and then the kids just keep playing, you know?

Z: Ohh….

E: So maybe you can incorporate some level of a happy hour experience to all those play dates that you’re getting invited to as well. I think my kids are on one with my husband right now.

Z: There you go.

A: I think that’s amazing.

Z: You might wanna make sure he’s not passed out.

E: Exactly.

A: That’s amazing, seriously!

Well guys, this has been another fun conversation in the time of the coronavirus. If you’ve been listening throughout the entire episode, please remember to first of all check out our [Covid-19 Conversations] that are dropping every day or so with people in the industry. As well as send us a pic of what you’re drinking to either [email protected] or to tagging us on Instagram with @VinePair so we can share in our stories, we would really love to see what you guys are all up to. And with that we will see everyone here again next week.

Z: Sounds great.

E: Take care.