Happy hour is one of those phrases where the words come together to paint a picture all its own. Mention happy hour and everyone will have a vision of that flexible hour .....or two....... or three between late afternoon and dinnertime.
It's not necessarily an hour but, thanks to special drink prices and free snacks, partakers are happy. But where did the name come from?
Contrary to popular thought, the concept originated in France, not the U.S.A.., and it's not a new one. It crystallized in the 1700s when a Dr Pierre Ordinaire claimed that absinthe, a strong alcoholic mixture of fennel, wormwood, and green anise was guaranteed to cure whatever ailed you. Absinthe, because of its alcohol content ( two to three times as strong as brandy or whiskey) soon became the non-medicinal drink of choice. Due to its strength, drinking more than one was frowned upon and since it was also believed to stimulate the appetite, it became customary to have a pre-dinner aperitif between the hours of five and seven. The French so looked forward to their green cocktail that the pre-dinner period became known as l'heure verte or the green hour.
The American Version
Like absinthe, Happy Hour in America was not initially associated with drinking. It was a post-World War I naval term referring to a period of time set aside each day for sailors to let loose and partake in boxing, wrestling matches or other athletics that would boost their morale and break the monotony of life at sea. Meanwhile in civilian life, Prohibition ruled - or not. Those intent on drinking were not deterred. They resorted to gathering in speakeasies or homes for a pre-dinner cocktail and Happy Hour became the code word.
The term went unused for a few decades before being revived by the bar industry in the 1970's to signify its present incarnation - drink specials, often 2-for-1 deals and free finger food. While happy hour san diego to the Jersey Shore and many places in between, it's not allowed everywhere. Twenty-three states have laws in place against offering fixed price drinks during a specified period of time. But this has not taken away from the ubiquity of the word. Perhaps encouraged by Jimmy Buffet and his lost days in margaritaville,a popular t-shirt worn by true believers proclaims "It's Always Happy Hour Somewhere".