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.

The Best Happy Hours
Virgin Mood Ring | Credit Randy Schmidt

With a lush, secret garden feel in a centrally-located Lower Garden District location that is easily accessible to Uptown, Downtown and the Interstate, The Bower Bar’s Mon-Fri- 4-6 p.m. Happy Hour is an easy choice for after work libations. The space has the same look and feel of The Bower restaurant next door, along with a vibrant field-to-glass cocktail program from Beverage Director Mickey Mullins. For Happy Hour guests enjoy$8 signature cocktails and daily House Punch; $7 house wine-by-the-glass; and $4beer. Food offerings include discounted ($6-12) charcuterie plates, cheese plates, cacio e pepe, crispy cauliflower, whipped feta and warm Castelvetrano olives.

The Best Happy Hours
Credit Denny Culbert

In Midcity, Chef Isaac Toups’ eponymous Meatery rolls out discounted cocktails and bites every weekday from 3-5 p.m. The menu features $7 Rosé Spritz and Pekoe Tea Rum Punch; $4 off all whiskeys; $5 draft beers; and $6 select wines-by-the-glass. Small plates created by Toups include $4cracklins and cucumber salad; $6boudin balls and daily sausage; $7 deviled eggs; and a rotating choice of Covey Rise veggies.

The Best Happy Hours
Credit: Sam Hanna

New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant, Tujague’s just launched a new Weekend Happy Hour that takes place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 2:30-5 p.m. at the bar, parlor room, the courtyard and the expansive balcony overlooking the French Quarter. Signature cocktails, are $7, including theOld Fashioned, Sazerac, Paloma, French 75and aSeasonal Frozenconcoction. Guests can also enjoy $5 local craft beers; $7 glasses of rosé; and $7 glasses of Tujague’s Private Label red, white, and sparkling wines. Specially priced bites from Chef Gus Martin are also on offer – including Boudin Balls served with pepper jelly; Truffle Fries; Crispy Pork Belly served with parmesan polenta and pepper jelly gastrique; Tuna Poke – yellowfin tuna, red onion, orange, avocado, black sesame seeds, and a spicy hoisin soy sauce served over rice; and Crawfish Au Gratin – Louisiana crawfish tails with a decadent mornay sauce served with French bread crostini.

The Best Happy Hours

Rule the Roost Bar during Bubbles at Brennan’s Happy Hour from 9 a.m-2 p.m. on Mondays and 2-6 p.m. Thursday- Sunday. Enjoy deeply discounted bottles from top Champagne vintners and premiere sparkling wine houses, plus specially priced bubbly cocktails and delicious bar snacks.

Have a great weekend, everyone.