Over the years, I've kept up the tradition—with some tweaks. When my wife, Jennifer, and I were first married, we'd do tastings of different wines, slice a pear or two, turn on some romantic music. Now we have four boys, so it's a lot more chaotic—doors slamming, kids pushing each other to get to the food. But we still embrace it. Can I make fancy hors d'oeuvres? Yes, some mini chicken empanadas or hamachi tartare would be no problem. But lately, my kids' favorite happy hour snack is popcorn. I've found it's a surefire way to get them into the kitchen, since they're mesmerized by the sound of it popping. Often we make kettle corn on the stove, with just oil, salt, and a few spoonfuls of sugar at the end. But sometimes I'll improvise and add, say, a sprinkle of curry powder to vanilla caramel popcorn. Or I'll make "pizza" popcorn—which is a lot healthier than actual pizza—using Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and tons of oregano. Popcorn is easy that way. Just walk into the pantry and ask yourself, "What do I need to use up?"
When the last kernel's popped, I give each of the kids his own bowl; when they're done and say they want more, dinner's ready. They get milk or iced water in their favorite Elvis glasses, and Jennifer and I open a bottle of Cabernet. We don't have happy hour every night, but we try to do it several times a week because we're teaching our boys to enjoy being together—and that shouldn't happen just on weekends. Nothing about it is stressful or a lot of work: After all, there's a reason we call it happy hour.
Next: Cat Cora's popcorn recipes