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The ban on Chicago happy hours, which was established in 1989, has luckily been revoked—where now thirsty people on a budget can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail after a grueling day at the office.
With all of the options out there it can be easy to go overboard, leaving you groggy, hangry and ready for a 7pm nap. To enjoy your evening with friends and coworkers without the downsides of early evening imbibing, here is your guide to surviving happy hour in Chicago—because we Chicagoans know how to appreciate a good cocktail (or two).
Don’t Drink on Empty
Whether or not you have dinner plans later that evening, consider splitting appetizers with your party.
Browse the menu for items that have a good mix of protein and carbohydrates—something that is light enough to not spoil your appetite, but also substantial to soak up the alcohol. It’s always enjoyable to indulge in a visually appealing and creative dish with company, and it’s bound to make for a great social media post, too.
If you are celebrating happy hour at the Albert, try the pimento cheese with grilled sourdough bread or the general tso’s spiced nuts.
Try a New Drink
If you know what you like, ask for your favorite drink, but if you aren’t sure what to order or you’re in the mood to try something different, you can always ask your server or bartender for recommendations.
You may like a sweet wine, such as a moscato, or a cocktail that boasts unique juices or sweeteners. And, you might even try a mezcal cocktail—some people tend to enjoy a smokier flavor, which is complex and lingers on the palate.
Study the cocktail list and look for ingredients that spark your curiosity. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, whether it’s a liquor you don’t know of or you would like a food and beverage pairing.
Servers are often knowledgeable about local breweries, wine pairings, and purveyors of liquor. You’ll be impressed by their experience and expertise, and you’ll know a couple of interesting facts to share at your next happy hour.
Happy Hour is Not Your Therapy Session
While it feels good to unwind after work and de-stress, if you are drinking with co-workers, limit the amount of work talk. Use these opportunities to get to know your co-workers on a personal level, and keep it light. You never know if your words will make it back to the workplace. On that note, avoid work emails as well, tone does not translate!
If you are a regular at a particular happy hour, make friends with the staff. They’re working just as hard for half the money, it will make this happy hour extra happy for them, as well.
Summer may be coming to an end, but you still need to stay hydrated. Alternate between cocktails and water, where you’re not jumping from one drink to the next without replenishing your hydration stores. Of course, you can order another round, but be sure to hydrate throughout the evening.
A good way to monitor hydration is by drinking a glass of water for every boozy beverage or by taking a sip of water for every three sips of your cocktail.
Figure Out Your Transportation Ahead of Time
Drinking and driving don’t mix. So, figure out with whom you will be drinking and how you plan on making it home afterwards.
If you live close or are staying at a nearby hotel, and it is not too late, maybe you will enjoy walking back.
If you will be taking an Uber of Lyft, you won’t need to stress about it prior to happy hour—just be responsible when leaving and make sure you have enough battery on your phone.
Tip Your Bartender
Happy hour is a time where it is easy to show generosity. After you have fought your coworkers for the bill, don’t forget about your server. They enjoy serving you and providing a positive and unique experience that takes your happy hour to the next level.
As for how much to tip, it’s up to you, but an 20% to 25% is customary considering you are already getting a deal and of course, always appreciated.
Chicago Happy Hour Survivors
Now that you have all the tools to make it through your next happy hour, mark a few dates on your calendar and get excited. Life should be fun—so enjoy your time after work with friends and coworkers. These tips will help you make the most out of happy hour, with enough energy to carry on for the rest of your evening.
Interested in trying the happy hour deals at the Albert? Book a reservation.