Article contributed by Kacey Bradley, The Drifter Collective
The work day is over and it’s time for everyone to have a little fun at your establishment — happy hour.
While you can go with the usual beer specials and standard pub fare, why not wow your customers with an experience to remember? Choose food and drink pairings that will taste like heaven and complement one another. From tacos and margaritas to caviar and vodka, you can easily plan happy hour food pairings that suit your style and generate return customers.
1. French Toast and Hard Cider
Whether you’re planning a late morning event or want to satisfy a late-night sweet tooth, french toast shooters with a side of hard apple cider can be the perfect pick for your happy hour food pairing. The french toast sticks are simple to make and follow a classic recipe using eggs, sugar and brioche bread. For even more booze, you can substitute the traditional vanilla extract and instead use a tablespoon of bourbon. Once sliced into sticks and served with maple syrup, pair with spiked apple cider for the perfect combination of hearty warmth.
2. Tacos and Margaritas
Create a vibrant and festive event with a taco and margarita bar. Set up a DIY food station with ingredients guests can use to customize their tacos. Provide tortillas, shredded chicken, barbecued beef, guacamole, refried beans, fresh tomatoes, sour cream and more. And don’t forget the margaritas. Include a few different fruity options — lime, strawberry, blood orange, etc. — alongside toppings like fresh sliced fruit and large-granule sugar. Be sure to offer a non-alcohol option for those who don’t drink as well.
3. Beef Sliders and Bourbon
Nothing goes better with bourbon than a little beef. These beef and cheddar sliders are very simple to make, and guests will rave over them. Made with thinly-sliced roast beef, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, brown sugar and dijon mustard, they’ll practically melt in your mouth. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on top to add the right amount of crunch. And don’t forget the most essential ingredient — bourbon. Look for a traditional wheat recipe bourbon, which is said to be sweeter and taste softer.
4. Lobster and Bloody Marys
Take your appetizer game to the next level with a lobster Bloody Mary, a snack and cocktail rolled into one. It all starts with the traditional Bloody Mary ingredients, including tomato juice, pickle juice, vodka, and Worcestershire sauce. Then mix in extra juice from your freshly cooked lobster meat. Top the creation off with bamboo skewers of lobster meat, celery stalks, olives and cucumber spears.
5. Grilled Cheese and Spiked Tomato Soup Shots
Nothing says comfort quite like grilled cheese and tomato soup. It’s something we all grew up eating. But it can also be formal enough to be an elegant addition to your happy hour. The grilled cheese can be baked in the oven, allowing you to save time and make dozens at once. Cut sandwiches into bite-sized squares and pair with a shooter of warm tomato soup — either spiked or alcohol-free, depending on your customers’ preferences. To top it off, add a pop of color with a fresh parsley or basil garnish.
6. Caviar and Vodka
Looking for a higher end happy hour food pairing? Try a combination of caviar and vodka to host an event that’s refined in its elegance. Russian Caviar Blini makes the perfect finger food, a bite-sized appetizer topped with sour cream, fresh dill and salmon roe. Don’t forget to pair your caviar bites with ice-cold vodka. Remember — not all vodka is equal. Bottles placed on the top shelf at the liquor store are typically higher quality. As with most alcohol, you get what you pay for. Ask the clerk for recommendations on any small brand hidden gems.
7. Donut Holes and Coffee
If you’re fantasizing about a brunch happy hour, you can’t go wrong with a donut hole and coffee food pairing. Wow your guests with injectable donut holes, a sweet treat with a mini pipette holding chocolate or vanilla-flavored sauce. You can make your favorite doughnut flavors, whether it be plain, chocolate or cinnamon-swirl, and include sweet toppings like sprinkles, icing and fresh fruit. And don’t forget to offer fresh coffee with plenty of cream and sugar.
8. Cotton Candy and Champagne
This tasty delight, both cocktail and dessert, is the perfect way for customers to cheer the end of the work day. The cocktails are easy to make using a combination of cream, cake vodka, grenadine and blue curacao. To top it all off, stuff the top with a burst of cotton candy. If you really want to impress your customers, make the cotton candy before their eyes with a cotton candy machine. The process is super simple, flossing sugar into delicate, light-as-air strands.
Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online and more. Also follow Kacey on Twitter.