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A Brief History of 'Happy Hour'

It’s not just about getting sloshed on the cheap.
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Alex Saberi/

Around 6 p.m. on “thirsty Thursday,” any given sports bar in D.C. is sure to be packed with folks jostling one another to get closer to the counter. The place is humid and sticky and people down half-priced beers, cocktails, and batter-smothered finger foods while a TV blares in the background.

This is the modern happy hour ritual. (Though some states, like Massachusetts, are less enthused about booze-fueled bacchanals.) The tradition of happy hours—a time-pegged slash of prices—seems like a straightforward attempt to lure foot traffic as people leave the office, or to prime tipsy patrons to spend more money at the bar once the specials expire.