The Whimsical Roots of Happy Hour: A Jaunt Down Memory Lane

The Whimsical Roots of Happy Hour: A Jaunt Down Memory Lane

When the day winds down, we cue the party with the pop of a can, the liquid symphony of a pour, and the cheerful clink of ice in a glass. Happy hour is our magical portal to unwind with friends and colleagues, savor drinks and nibbles on the cheap, and break free from the daily grind. But hey, it wasn't always rainbows and cocktails.

It started with the US Navy

In 1913, a group on the USS Arkansas, known as the “Happy Hour Social,” organized biweekly “smokers” (informal parties). These events became known as “happy hours” among the crew. During these early evening gatherings, sailors enjoyed watching movies and music performances and engaging in boxing or wrestling matches. The concept gained popularity, spreading to naval units across the Atlantic by the early 1800s.

Prohibition Made it a Thing

The enactment of the Volstead Act in 1920 caused a transition in drinking venues from restaurants to speakeasies and homes, where individuals would convene for a few drinks before dinner. (It appears that facing your future in-laws was equally daunting in the 1920s.) Although one might picture these hidden bars starting their evenings around 10 p.m., they were actually bustling in the early evening. At that time, eager crowds flocked to these establishments to enjoy drinks before dining at alcohol-free restaurants.


After the end of Prohibition and the legalization of alcohol, the idea of happy hour began to evolve into a more commercial concept. Bars and restaurants capitalized on this by attracting customers during quieter times, usually in the late afternoon to early evening, before the dinner rush. The 1950s and 60s witnessed a surge in this practice, with venues providing special offers to entice patrons.

📸: Trinity Market Happy Hour

In Conclusion...

Happy hour is not just about cheaper drinks and food; it symbolizes the human desire to relax, bond, and discover moments of happiness in daily life. Originating from naval roots and spreading worldwide, happy hour endures as a beloved custom, offering a brief opportunity to celebrate life's simple joys. We’ll raise a can to that.

📸: Vanessa Cassar

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