Food Stories

Happy Hour: An Infamous History

By Ashley Beck | March 8, 2013

Photo: Kenn Wilson

Happy Hour is the perfect time to relax and wind down from a long day at work. It’s a time to catch up with friends, meet new people, and get to know your colleagues in a more relaxed environment (not to mention a great deal on drinks and food). But the definition of happy hour wasn’t always this; it has an interesting history that starts in the Navy.

Photo: wornlimtv

In the 1920s, “happy hour” was Navy slang for the scheduled period of athletic activity or other entertainment on-ship. During this same time the passage of the National Prohibition Act, informally known as the Volstead Act, made liquor sales and consumption illegal. In reaction to this, citizens held “cocktail gatherings” at speakeasies like the Cotton Club in Harlem, and in their own homes, to secretly lift their spirits with cocktails before dinner. 

After prohibition ended, cocktail lounges continued the tradition of pre-dinner drinks. The term “Happy Hour” was used in a 1959 Saturday Evening Post article on military life, which then quickly raised its popularity, and it became the common term used for this cocktail time. Speakeasies and cocktail lounges starting using this term to lure people in and boost sales. The name was quite fitting as the word “happy”  was often associated with “slightly drunk”, and well-described the patrons cheerful state. Gradually, the term transitioned from being used to name a preface to the evening to the term used for today’s well-known after-work ritual. In the 1980s, bars began to  offer complimentary or half-off bar snacks during happy hour,  which was a response to the heightened enforcement of anti-drunk-driving laws.

Typically between the hours of 4-7, Happy Hour is the perfect time to unwind, enjoy a cocktail, a tasty bite, and good company. Now that you know the history, come enjoy the benefits of Happy Hour Monday-Thursday at Red Rooster, and share your newfound knowledge of its infamy!


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