One practice that never loses its popularity is the observance, or perhaps celebration is a better word, of Happy Hour, that magical mystical time that hovers on the cusp of the workday and the night that lies ahead. It's the time when bars and restaurants open their doors to workers and non-workers alike, the office-weary and the tourist, and set down libations and appetizers, often choosing to discount them by fifty percent. While many embrace and appreciate the hospitality of the observance, few agree on its origins.
As with all things fashionable, the French may have had a role in the matter, but, if so, they found it in Couvet, a town on the other side of the border France shares with Switzerland. This is where, in the 1700s, Dr Pierre Ordinaire prescribed absinthe, a green-tinged licorice-tasting liquor brewed from fennel, anise, and wormwood, as a cure-all tonic. Because of its high alcohol content, two to three times that of whisky and normal brandy, it soon shed its nature of tonique and took on the allure of aperitif, as it found its way to early Nineteenth Century Paris.
Food-loving Parisians, swearing that absinthe sharpened their appetites, began to designate the five-to-seven o'clock time slot to imbibing one, and only one absinthe-based green cocktail, due to its strength. However, while it didn't take long for that pre-dinner limit to be raised, its name, l'huere verte, or Green Hour, stuck. However this explanation fails to account for how Green Hour became today's Happy Hour observed in drinking establishments from San Diego to Sao Paulo to Staten Island.
Some credit the Navy with coining the term, although the naval brass had a different meaning in mind. For 1920s-era sailors, happy hour was a period in late afternoon when they could let off steam by participating in athletic endeavors.
Ironically, it may have been the Prohibition era in United States History, when alcohol was universally outlawed in the country, for the practice to take hold in America. Intent on having their pre-dinner cocktail, and eating too, Americans began to gather in homes or speakeasies to have a drink or two before venturing out to restaurants where the practice was taboo. Before long, the naval term and the popular practice were combined and the rest is bar history.
The Happy Hour Question with No Answer
As for what the preferred drink is, margaritas of all flavors and compositions would appear to be the perennial front runners, as would locally popular designated beers. But it's the choice of the bar management as to what they want to feature, and ultimately, the preference of the customer. However in the interest of preserving history, it can be agreed that happy hour San Diego is wherever drinkers gather to cast away the worries of the day, at least until the next tomorrow, then, with whetted appetites, stay put to order from the dinner menu, or head on home to a good meal.