“Want to attend a cocktail party?” the email began. “It’s virtual.” Even as someone who admittedly loves breaking plans as much as making plans, this invite was intriguing. How does something like this work in a pandemic? I don’t even know how to make a cocktail. I don’t have fancy glasses or a muddler, jigger, or that crazy strainer thing that looks like a Slinky. But, I accepted the invite and as instructed, provided my address.
Turns out this was more than a party but a cocktail crafting workshop, and the premiere offering by Damaris Messina to launch her new business, YAY Concierge, where she packages at-home experiences complete with instructors, instructions, supplies, and Zoom log-ins. Based in Rhode Island, Messina was among thousands in the tourism
industry put on furlough due to COVID-19; she most recently managed a large portfolio for Marriott’s Luxury brands. It was during her downtime that she thought about her own skills, her wide network of talented connections, and the realization that nothing quite like this type of packaged service delivered remotely seemed to exist.
“I had always wanted to start my own business,” says the cheerful Messina. “I’m excited to leverage my hospitality background and the passion of my furloughed industry colleagues to curate virtual experiences that connect individuals with professionals to create engaging and sophisticated gatherings from the comfort of home.”
Next, I received a confirmation email with an attached PDF of clear instructions formatted like an elegant menu of what I would need to do to prepare. There was a shopping list of simple items like sugar and honey, lemons and limes, English cucumber, and fresh mint. There were recipes for making simple syrups the night before the workshop, details about our instructor – a noted mixologist and author – even best Zoom settings for participation. One afternoon, Aviation Gin and a six-pack of ginger beer arrived at my doorstep. I emailed Messina directly with questions and a panicked “I don’t have a shaker!” and she promptly responded with, “Don’t worry, Tupperware is fine!”
The day of the event, I cleared a space on a table in my home office for my laptop and a little space to the side for mixing and muddling (using an iced tea spoon). In lieu of cocktail glasses, I grabbed canning jars. In typical Zoom fashion, we all joined in one by one, said our hellos, and “met” Messina and our instructor Marshall Altier. Soon, all eyes were on Altier in his Las Vegas workspace leading us through the steps, all of us with our volumes on, giggling and joking our way through mixing three cocktails: Bee’s Knees, the East Side, and a Gin Gin Mule. Suddenly the hardware trappings faded and it didn’t feel as much like me sitting in my home office shaking drinks in jars; it felt like getting tipsy with a group of friends. The best part: no designated driver required.
Interested in joining a virtual event? Keep an eye out for a chocolate tasting in February. Visit YAYConcierge.com for more details.