The History of Happy Hour — Your Favorite Post-Work Event
Today, happy hour refers to the weekday hours of specials. Usually held sometime between four and eight in the evening, this hour features drink and food specials and is a popular way to socialize. Restaurants and pubs use it to help draw in customers, and workers love the idea of being able to relax before heading home.
With discounted drinks, good friends and discounted small plates, it’s no wonder this is considered “happy hour.” But did you know that the term does not refer to the relaxation to be had from unwinding after a long day at work?
Why Is It Called Happy Hour?
You may think it’s because getting great food and cocktails for less is always a happy occasion, but in fact “happy hour” was originally a U.S. Navy term. First used around 1914, this set hour was a time for sailors to take in a show, see moving pictures or get involved in a boxing or wrestling match. These diversions helped keep morale high and generally disrupted the monotony of long days at sea. By late 1914, alcohol was banned at these events, although happy hours continued in the Navy into the 1920s.
The History of Happy Hour
From 1920 to 1930, the sale, manufacture and transportation of most alcoholic drinks was banned in the United States due to the Volstead Act. This period of history, known as Prohibition, did not stop the consumption of alcohol. Instead, Americans found new ways to drink.
Some drank at home or made illegal alcohol at home, using potatoes and other ingredients on hand. Speakeasies and other illegal businesses imported alcohol from Canada and other locations covertly. When gathering to drink, some Americans called their gathering happy hour, a term they borrowed from the Navy.
Even when Prohibition ended, the practice of getting together for drinks continued, although, in the 1950s and 1960s, the term was used less often. The use of “happy hour” as an idea was picked up by restaurants and bars in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was used to refer to afternoon drinks and appetizers on weekends.
While happy hour is popular across the U.S., some states have restricted or banned the practice of discount afternoon drinks. In Ireland and parts of the UK as well as other parts of the world, the same ban is used to discourage binge drinking.
However, happy hour also has a long tradition outside of the United States. In France, in the late 1860s and 1870s, aristocrats would drink absinthe in the afternoons in a practice called the green hour. In Quebec, Canada, the term “7 a 5” is used to designate happy hour.
Where Can I Find a Happy Hour Near Me?
Today, many restaurants still allow happy hour, and if you want to enjoy this tradition, stop by Bricco between 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. We’re considered the best happy hour in downtown Harrisburg, and when you try our cocktails, wines, small plates and artisan cheeses, you’ll understand why.