The True Meaning of "Happy Hour”

Today, “happy hour” has come to be associated with cocktails, but in the past it meant something entirely different. During World War I, a “happy hour” was an allotted period of time on a ship where sailors engaged in various forms of entertainment to relieve the monotony of seafaring life. Most of the time, that meant wrestling or boxing matches, but included anything to boost morale. At the same time, the U.S. was going through the driest period in history: Prohibition. Instead of becoming teetotalers, many Americans gathered in secret speakeasies to consume illegal cocktails to wet their whistle before dinner. “Happy Hour” as an expression was soon picked up from the Naval slang and merged to describe these outlawed gatherings. Though Prohibition was later repealed, the term stuck.