New Orleanians of a certain age may recall when local “happy” hours came in three basic forms with slight variations thereof: Sure-bet barf-inducing three-for-one well brand specials at The Boot, Friar Tucks, Hillary’s, and Shanahan’s; the Friday evening “Sippin’ into Sunset,” the all-you-can- drink for $10 booze fest hosted in the mid-80s at a certain downtown hotel where IDs were never checked; and 50 cent bottles of Mickey’s Big Mouth malt liquor and bowls of greasy peanuts on Wednesday nights at Carrollton Station.
By today’s standards those happy hours were, most assuredly, crappy hours. Restaurants targeted elderly diners with early bird specials featuring entree discounts or free appetizers, and bars offered cheap drinks and stale nuts, chips and popcorn from randomly scattered communal snack bowls. The revival of cocktail culture blurred the line between the two, blessedly allowing for the evolution of the modern, restaurant bar-oriented Happy Hour. In a city where restaurants have some of the best bars and bar food, this is as it should be and the offerings and specials are as diverse as the restaurants themselves. We turn to them for the happiest happy hours with exceptional food, cocktails and wine, usually at bargain prices.
Not that there was all that much impact on New Orleans but today we commemorate Repeal Day – the day that marked the end of Prohibition. In reverence to this occasion Barmaster Chris Hannah of Jewel of the South (1026 Saint Louis St., 504-265-8816, jewelnola.com) will unveil the restaurant’s new cocktail menu during a special l Happy Hour today from 4- 6 p.m. when imbibers can enjoy half off all cocktails. The new menu highlights seasonal herbs and spices including cardamom, allspice and nutmeg, while also staying true to Hannah’s classical technique and meticulous execution. New libations include Colts Neck Crusta , American Orange Punch (serving 2-3 people), Lost on the River, Christmas Springs , and Winter Waltz. Hannah’s signature cocktails like the Brandy Crusta, Jewel Sazerac and Night Tripper are still on offer. Happy Hour is offered Monday-Friday from 4-6 p.m. and drinks are half off.
Last year Chef Eric Cook opened Gris-Gris (1800 Magazine St., 504-272-0241, grisgrisnola.com) a chic but comfortable restaurant and bar in the triangular-shaped building at Magazine and Felicity with the tantalizing bonus of outdoor seating on the deep, graceful second floor balcony. If people watching and a long hang with friends on a beautiful day is your jam then this is your spot. Consider occupying the space with a three-course cocktail tasting flight for $19. New cocktails on the menu include Hot Buttered Rum, Apple Cider, Zombi Nog, and Kernion Cordial. The Zombi Nog is currently available for $6 daily from 4-7 p.m. during Happy Hour when $3 domestics, $5 wines on tap and $6 frozen daiquiris are also on offer.
Whenever it is cold outside, a cozy fire is usually blazing in the Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 504-899-9308). On a fine day the deep front porch overlooking the avenue is a popular gathering place especially during Happy Hour, which is offered every day from 5-7 p.m. with $4 wine & champagne, $3 well drinks, $5 martinis, and $1 off beers. A selection of appetizers and sides are offered for $2 off.
If you are destined further Uptown, Picnic Provisions & Whiskey (741 State St., 504-266-2810, nolapicnic.com) recently added a 3-7 p.m. daily Happy Hour to its offerings. Cozy up in one of the bright eatery’s signature plaid banquettes for $6 portions of signature bites including an excellent smoked fish collar dip and deviled eggs in addition to daily specials at bargain prices. House cocktails are $6, beers are $2.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love.