Happy History Behind Happy Hour

A little “happy hour” never hurt anyone. Happy Hour, Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant, Enfield and Stratford, CTIn fact, happy hour can be one of the best times of the day!  Whether you’re looking to unwind, or you’re looking to socialize, happy hour may be what you need to top off a day.

You might have wondered during happy hour, “Where did happy hour begin?” You may also be asking, “When is the best time to take advantage or happy hour?” or, “What are the right tactics to carry out a successful happy hour?”

These questions may seem silly, but when you read the answers, you may have a better view of happy hour. Cocktail expert A.J. Rathbun shares the history and beauty of happy hour on

The True Meaning of “Happy Hour”

Today, the term “happy hour” is ingrained in communal cocktail thought, but its origins are unclear. Although a few facts are available, it’s fairly difficult to pin down the definitive history of how those two words first came together. In the 1920s, the phrase “happy hour” was used by the Navy for a period of scheduled athletic activity or other entertainment. 

The first mention in print of “happy hour” in this context came in a 1959 Saturday Evening Post article. But it was earlier, in the 1920s, thanks to the failed experiment called Prohibition, when brave citizens gathered for pre-dining hours specifically focused on consuming then-illegal cocktails at a speakeasy or home bar. Eventually, the ideas merged, and people began using the phrase frequently to refer to a jolly time had when drinking with friends during the late-afternoon and early-evening hours. But I believe the notion of ebullient tippling with pals and gals before dinner dates back even farther. For example, in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, enthusiastic imbiber Falstaff says, “Come, I will go drink with you, but I cannot tarry dinner.”

It only makes sense that such a time would be revered. You’ve just completed a hard day’s work and aren’t quite ready to head home or to weigh yourself down with a meal. But you need to shake off the day and kick up those heels. What can possibly be better than going into the perfect establishment to partake of cocktails and convivial chatter?

Picking that perfect place, though, can be a little tricky; it must be a bar, lounge, saloon, tavern or watering hole that meets some very specific criteria. For one, the bartender must be approachable and amiable. Second, that bartender must make a dandy drink—one that doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds, but rather, entrances, and one that isn’t served in a trough-size receptacle. As celebrated wine writer André Simon wrote in his 1948 book, Drink: “The cocktail is intended to be like unto a bugle call to meals.” Third, the place in which you’re spending a happy hour should allow for conversation both intimate and joyous. And, finally, the establishment should have a different atmosphere at happy hour than at other times, adding to the uniqueness of those hours. The downtown lounge that’s cuddly early on and a cattle yard later, the out-of-the-way nook that’s candlelit after work, but then hosts (shudder) an open jazz night, and the hip restaurant bar that shifts to serious food service after 7 p.m.—they all call to me and rarely disappoint during those peak hours of cheer.

If you’ve had a bad day at the salt mine, happy hour must lift the weight from your shoulders and put you right for the evening. If you’re getting ready to have dinner with a set of new in-laws, happy hour is necessary to steady the nerves. Happy hour has to remind us that whatever came before or whatever might come afterward, right here and right now, for these few hours, all is well—and well shaken—with the world.

Especially in the Northwest, where the very atmosphere outside can seem to be against us with pelting rain and unrelenting clouds, the right happy hour is a beacon of light and laughter. Remember, as Joseph Spence said a few hundred years ago, “There’s always sunshine in a pub.” Just be sure to pick the right pub.

Dating back to the early 1900’s, happy hour was a time for rejoicing and enjoying beverages, illegally. Overtime we have formed a new revelation of the term happy hour. The words “happy hour” rings friends, cocktails and laughter in our minds. However, there’s more to happy hour than selecting your next cocktail. Creating a “happy” hour includes finding a place that brings up the spirit. Your atmosphere affects your mood immensely. Your selected happy hour destination is complete when you have found a bartender who knows how to balance the amount of alcohol they put into their drinks.

Are you looking to relax, socialize, or just enjoy some drinks? Whatever your reason for happy hour is, the two Acapulcos locations in Connecticut are great places to make your happy hour that much happier (or any hour for that matter!). (Unfortunately, Massachusetts does not allow happy hour drink specials, so you will have to visit our Enfield or Stratford, CT locations to take advantage of drink specials.) Our experienced and enjoyable bartenders are here to prepare beverage to your liking.  If you have any questions about our beverages feel free to contact us! We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Have you ever visited a happy hour event? Was it for drinks, or did you attend one of the popular food happy hour events commonly found in states with laws prohibiting sales on drinks? We’d love to hear more in our comments section below!

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