Even the sharpest tacks among us don't tend to leave happy hour having learned anything new about it. And even though learning isn't really the point, isn't it cool to know that happy hour's origins can be traced back to 18th-century Parisian medicine, colorful naval slang, and one newspaper article in Rhode Island? Well, it will be cool, once you read about it below.
More From The Happiest Hour
1. You can thank Shakespeare for the name
In Henry V, King Henry says, “Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour that may give furtherance to our expedition,” which translates: “My dudes, let’s not skimp on any good times that could help us get to where we’re going.” While Shakespeare didn’t coin this word pairing, he probably did ensure its durability, something you’ll need if you start your night with happy hour.
2. Who you bring to happy hour is determined by where you live
According to one 2014 study, the density of your town or city influences your happy hour company. For instance, those who live in the suburbs are more than twice as likely to happy hour with work colleagues than small-city residents, while those small-city residents are three times as likely to go solo than suburbanites. Meanwhile, big-city dwellers are the most likely to go to happy hour with friends, and the least likely to hit it up with coworkers.
3. When you say “happy hour,” you’re really just talking like a sailor
It’s thought that the modern use of the term began in the Navy during the 1920s, when it was sea-grunt slang for time away from duty, which was typically spent either boxing or wrestling. So, if/when you’re creating a cocktail menu, there’s your historical excuse to name all your drinks after wrestling moves (e.g. "Cobra Clutch" or "Haas of Pain.")
4. The act of happy hour drinking became a thing when drinking was illegal
It wasn’t until Prohibition that having a pre-dinner cocktail became en vogue. Eventually, the naval slang and trendy start-time merged.
5. Rhode Island is responsible for that merger
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a 1961 article in the Providence Journal sparked wide use of the term, when it referred to some Newport cops and their “happy hour at the cocktail bar.” Don’t say Rhode Island never gave you anything (other than coffee milk).
6. There are no less than a dozen major albums titled “Happy Hour”
From Morrissey-Mullen in 1968, to Tony Booth in 1974, and even Uncle Kracker in 2009, for whatever reason, musicians have been titling albums Happy Hour consistently for five decades.
Wanna know even more about happy hour? This just in: TGI Fridays now has Happy Hour Every Hour, so you can get more bottoms up for your buck, anytime. Featured food and drinks are $5 (or less), and you can get the party started, well, whenever you want to.
7. The whole idea of a “happy hour” is straight-up illegal in Ireland
On the Emerald Isle, it’s illegal for any bar to provide a discounted-drink window. While some countries have restrictions, as do a few US cities and states, no other country prohibits the very notion of happy hour outright.
8. A century before Americans drank during “happy hour,” the French had “the green hour”
Dr. Pierre Ordinaire was no ordinary Frenchman. In fact, the dude was Swiss, and he invented absinthe in the late 1700s, and declared the greenish swill a medical cure-all. By the early 1800s, when Napoleon was putting on his tiny pants, one leg at a time just like the rest of us, absinthe was the Parisian drink du jour. Both potent and popular, the custom then was to drink just one. Eventually, this single serving became a scheduled daily ritual, “l’heure verte.”
9. People really love the financial proposition
According to a 2014 study done by American Express and Technomic, the top two reasons Americans go to happy hour are for great prices on food and drink. The third most-reported reason was that happy hours are an “easy way to relax.” So, it’s business before pleasure, but still, that pleasure better be there.
10. When it comes to happy hour, Americans prefer domestic beer
As part of the same study, 59% of happy-hour attendees prefer domestic beer. On the other hand, only 9% reported preferring whatever beer was cheapest. So while most report that the low-costs attract them to the happy hour, once they get there, their taste (evidently) takes over.