Happy hour is a term that has become synonymous with discounted drinks and snacks at bars and restaurants. But the origin of the phrase is actually rooted in the American naval jargon of the 1920s, after World War I. During this time, happy hours were periods of time on naval ships where sailors could engage in relaxing activities to free themselves from the heavy lifting of life at sea. The first documented happy hours in the United States were organized by the Navy as early as 1914. A group aboard the USS Arkansas, which was part of an American contribution to the British Grand Fleet before the United States officially entered World War I, called themselves “Happy Hour Social” and organized a smoker twice a week. During these meetings, which took place early at night, the sailors watched movies, played music or participated in some rounds of boxing or wrestling. The idea became popular and, in the early 19th century, naval units on the other side of the Atlantic were celebrating happy hours.
The Navy officially sold out in 1914, so it is unclear whether or not there was alcohol in those early happy hours. However, it is known that there were cigars and cigarettes, as well as the odd ice cream and cake. When Prohibition was passed in 1920, people were forced to drink underground in speakeasies. People started calling these illegal pre-game sessions happy hours. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the concept of happy hour was maintained as a kind of cocktail hour, but it wasn't until the 1970s that bars became popular and began offering discounts. Today, happy hour is a marketing term for the time when a place, such as a restaurant or bar, offers reduced prices on alcoholic beverages.
Discounted menu items, such as snacks, are usually served during happy hour. This is one way for bars and restaurants to attract more businesses before or after peak business hours. The captivating history of happy hour reveals how this phrase has changed over time from a period of relaxation for sailors to a popular marketing tool for bars and restaurants. Whether you're looking for discounted drinks or just want to learn more about this interesting phrase, it's worth taking a look back at its beginnings.