The Happy Hour Paradox

Happy Hour:  the working man’s reward for a hard day’s work, where you, your colleagues, or friends gathered to enjoy discounted beverages and unwind before heading home.  For young professionals and recent university graduates with limited budgets, happy hour’s discount is welcomed.  It provides a relaxed setting to socialize and network; a place where new drinkers can partake of simple cocktails and beer, and discover their own drinking preferences.

However, I’ve realized that for those of us established in our careers, with comfortable salaries and discerning, articulable tastes, happy hour is largely irrelevant.  I don’t mean to imply that drinking and socializing after work it isn’t fun; on the contrary, boozing with officemates may be the best way to build a cohesive  group – especially when friends engage in potentially compromising misbehavior.  No, happy hour – specifically the “specials” on selected beverages – is irrelevant to some for one fundamental reason: quality is more important than cost.

Happy hour specials – usually a dollar or two off rail or well drinks and domestic beers – are indeed enticing.  In some bars and restaurants – I’m thinking of microbreweries here – any discount on any beer (especially fresh brewed) is appreciated.  Yet in most cases, unfortunately, happy hour discounts only apply to cheap beer and cocktails made with bottom shelf liquor.  This is where my Quality Over Cost reasoning applies.

There is no exact date or event that pinpoints when I began valuing the quality of a drink over its cost.  But as I’ve grown older and earn a salary closer to what I’m worth, I no longer enjoy cocktails made with rail liquor.  Granted, even in my early days as a working professional, I only begrudgingly ordered discounted Budweiser or Miller Lite when out; I usually managed to find a decent microbrew or ordered my cocktails with medium grade spirits.  After all, what’s the point of a discount if you have to order rubbish?  The phrase “you get what you pay for” makes this point especially well.

Quality over cost is even more applicable when considering a more philosophical point: one’s purpose for drinking.  Happy hour is most certainly convenient and economical for those looking for a weeknight buzz or more.  But that’s not why I drink; while the hazy, blurry feelings are, of course, a nice diversion, they are neither required nor necessary.

Instead, it is the beverage’s flavor I seek.  And for flavor, one must often look to the top shelf or beer engine.  That is not to say one can never request anything other than high end liquor or cask ale.  However, my rationale is: if you’re out on a weeknight for a few relaxing pours, why not enjoy the best?  Is saving a few dollars really worth mediocrity or worse?  No, in my opinion; I’d much rather order what I want – based on my mood and taste, not my wallet.  So I’ll continue favoring quality over cost when I’m out, regardless of time, day, or drink.

And to those who have recent entered the workforce and still thrive on the happy hour discount, I say: enjoy yourself and your beverage, value the savings, and start learning what you like.  Because in a few years, you’ll be able to order what you like, when you like.  And you’ll fondly remember (and never again wish for) those former days when you pinched pennies for a finely crafted cocktail.

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Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 10:22 am  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Yo THF!

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more. I’ll gladly pay a few dollars more for a high quality beverage.

    Cheers!
    G-LO

  2. I could not agree with you more. Honestly the discount on appetizers often is more appealing than the drink specials.


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