What is the Cocktail Hour?
What is so different about the Cocktail Hour that it should not be confused with the more modern Happy Hour? They are two completely different concepts, although the Happy Hour was modeled after the Cocktail Hour.
The Happy Hour is used by bar and nightclubs to reduce prices as an inducement to stay longer. Often snacks are put out to curb your hunger. Some states have laws governing Happy Hours. Happy Hours can be anytime that the owner chooses although most take place in the early evening. I have seen Happy Hours at midnight. There are often themes to Happy Hours by clever owners attracting the visitor to stay longer. Often the entertainment starts at the end of Happy Hour, after conversation has been engaged, in hopes that the patron will feel more likely to stay and spend more.
The Cocktail Hour is a more refined pleasure. It is that breather after working hours but before dinner to relax and to whet one's appetite for the meal to come. The Cocktail Hour can be as intimate as a solitary dinner, or as big as the beginning of a corporate banquet. It can be meeting for drinks before dining out or the gathering time before a dinner party. It is a time to unwind, to refresh the mind and ready one's self for the evening to come after dinner.
Often during dinner parties, it affords the "Johnny Come Lately" not to miss out on the main course, however most of the latter mentioned have probably ruined many a dish not wanting to miss out on their apéritif. Thus, the more timely guests receive another cocktail and are then less apt to notice that the soup is cold or that the main dish is now dried out, thanks to the late comer, however unfortunate for the host or hostess.
The usual fare is martinis and apéritifs. Hors d'oeuvres are sometimes served but only those that complement the dinner and very few of them so as not to detract from the dinner itself, and the hunger of those awaiting a sumptuous treat.
We don't know who invented it, but it is a warm thank you to the civilized soul that it came about. This is the hour that spells bon apetit!
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