Not All Happy Hours Are Created Equally

Whether travelling to new destinations, revisiting cities we love, or simply getting out of the house for a bite and a drink, we always like to find some fun places to enjoy happy hour.  While it is true that saving a little money is always nice, it isn’t just the discount that you receive for patronizing a restaurant or pub during what would usually be a slow time, that makes us return to the places that we love.  Some things that will make a happy hour stand out for us is whether or not they allow their bartenders to make their own specialty drinks, whether they offer unique pub or happy hour items that can’t be found on their regular menu, and whether you’re able to dine off of the full restaurant menu.  The more special the happy hour menu and drink selections, the more likely we are to revisit them, even if we’re only in a city for a few days.

Obviously, whenever we go anyplace, it is all about the people and for happy hour that usually starts with the bartender.  We enjoy chatting with and learning about the bartenders and wait staff wherever we go.  They will always give you the best advice on places to see as well as other places to eat and drink like a local.  So, when we go to a happy hour, we love to be able to taste a drink that is the bartender’s own concoction, it is another way to learn about their personality and their passions.  And like the farm to table movement in restaurants, so too is that true in a lot of the better happy hour destinations, where bartenders are able to take local, fresh ingredients and make sumptuous and sometimes devilish creations.  For example, The Kitchen just lists a specialty cocktail on the “Community Hour” menu (their version of happy hour) and the lead bartender makes up a new drink every day based upon what is fresh, available, and is in line with the current season.  Also, just the other day, one of the places we like to visit, Cowboy Star, recently had a contest where each bartender made their specialty drink and the winning cocktail will be added to their menus in Colorado and California.  Congratulations to Michelle for winning with the “Velvet Revolver” cocktail.

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Although the cocktails are the stars of happy hour, we can’t forget the food (or we will regret it in the morning).  Happy hour is no longer about peanuts and pretzels, some of the most interesting and delicious small plates are served during happy hour.  We like items that can be shared so that we can order several things and everyone gets a taste.  Having the choice to order a full meal off of the menu is always nice.  Even though we tend to nibble through the night, there are times when having full meal is a must, but we’d prefer to have it at the bar where we get attentive service and don’t have to wait for the waiter to stop by and check on us to see if there is anything else we need.  Needless to say, that is only true of a location where happy hour isn’t so crowded and noisy that enjoying a meal isn’t really an option.  The more that a location is willing to change their happy hour menu, the more interesting it is to go back and try them again.  There is nothing like going to a place with an atmosphere that you like, people who make you smile, and the food is always new and exciting.

Whether just grabbing a drink after work, heading out with friends for an inexpensive time out, or bouncing from place to place to enjoy more of what a city has to offer, make sure you don’t let price decide where you go the next time you go out.  Look for places with interesting menus and where the bartenders have the freedom to express themselves mixology-wise.  Other places that we frequent and have happy hours that we love are El Padrinos and Southern Hospitality because we also enjoy locations that specialize in a certain flavor of food and that have a great atmosphere.

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