On the border of Milan, New York, visible from Route 199, there is a capsule-shaped oil tank painted half-green, half-off-white. Its side says “PROZAC 1,000,000 mg.” A sign above: “Don’t worry – Be happy.” Though the sentiment is sound, it’d be a Brobdingnagian pill to swallow. Thankfully for all, there’s liquid Prozac administered in the form of cocktails and beer. And it’s twice as nice at a reduced price in the early evening hours.
Happy Hour – what a concept! From whence did it hail? Some attribute its genesis to Ira M. Happy of the Veritas Public House on New York City’s Lower East Side, who offered two fingers of Prohibition gin for the price of one between 1 and 2 p.m. Others claim the father of Happy Hour is none other than esteemed Holy Roman bartender Tiberius. Some say that it’s such a good idea that a woman must have had it. Wherever it came from, can we all agree that Happy Hour can be a beautiful thing? And that we don’t mind when this hour clocks in at 180 minutes or more?
Here are a few Hudson Valley Happy Hours that I feel are worth your time:
Stissing House, 7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, (518) 398-8800, https://stissinghouse.com. Happy Hour: 5:30-6:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday. Drink discounts and tapas menu. A historic 1782 tavern with wraparound porch, the Stissing House serves classic Provençal cuisine and thoroughly modern cocktails – thanks to Sally Rich, formerly of Twist and Karma Lounge, whom I’d follow everywhere like the Pied Piper of Martinis. Right now this is the spot to get a Thai Chili Blood Orange Margarita mixed by the master. Coconut Cilantro Mojito, Fresh Strawberry and Black Peppercorn Martini and Pickled Ramp Gimlet are a few recent offerings. (Remember to salute the giant Prozac on your way down 199.)
Albany Post Roadhouse, 7100 Albany Post Road, Rhinebeck, (845) 758-2267, www.albanypostroadhouse.com. Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday. All drinks $1 off, making domestic beer just $2, which is cheaper than a soda most places. Recently reimagined as a casual tavern and restaurant, the Roadhouse reminds me of someone’s handsome living room: candles, comfy chairs, colloquial cartoons and “Rhinebeck” lettered in gold over the fireplace. The best part is that this is the other place to get Sally Rich signature cocktails. House-specific are the Roadhouse Rye Manhattan, Moonshine Mojito and Lemon Thyme Gimlet, with gin, fresh lemon juice, thyme syrup and a lemon twist, served in a stemless martini glass resting in a fishbowl of ice ($9 during Happy Hour).
The Gilded Otter, 3 Main Street, New Paltz, (845) 256-1700, www.gildedotter.com. Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 4-6 p.m. on food/4-7 p.m. on drinks, Friday; $5 appetizer specials, $4.50 pints (save $1.50). $5 margaritas, tequila sunrises, Bloody Marys and piña coladas Sunday. Cruising for a brewski? This is a solid casual brewpub, with New Paltz-named beers crafted on premises: Huguenot Street American Lager, Stone House Irish Stout et cetera. Fresh Blueberry Lager and Hefeweizen coming in June.
Gunk Haus, 387 South Street, Clintondale, (845) 883-0866, www.gunkhaus.com. There are Happy Hours – and then there are Happy Days. Happy Day: Monday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. The Gunk Haus is a terrific German restaurant with a deck that offers a panoramic view including the Shawangunk Ridge. There is no better place to quaff one of the ten on-tap beers curated by co-owner Dirk Schalle. On Mondays he pours half-priced glasses and pints (growlers excluded) from kicking kegs to make room for new brews – a/k/a Empty-the-Keg Day. There’s something exciting every week. Recently reduced selections included English ale Old Speckled Hen, Victory Street Boisterous Hellerbock and Warsteiner Pilsner.
Keegan Ales, 20 Saint James Street, Kingston, (845) 331-BREW, www.keeganales.com.Happy Day: 4-10 p.m., Thursday. Thursdays at Keegan Ales it’s $3 Mason jars all night. Selections include all the old faithfuls – Old Capital, Hurricane Kitty, Mother’s Milk – as well as specials and fan favorites on tap. There will be ten single-release beers in 2013 in honor of the brewery’s tenth anniversary. Helga Bohemian Pilsner is a current offering, along with Super Kitty, Keegan’s most-requested non-standard beer: an American barleywine made with hyper-local honey (as in honey from the roof of the building). Tommy Keegan is like a mad scientist of beer; I’m pretty sure that he has a degree in Microbiology.
Stockade Tavern, 313 Fair Street, Kingston, (845) 514-2649, https://stockadetavern.com. Every day is Happy at this place! Specials: catch as catch can. My favorite watering hole, set in a former Singer sewing machine factory, is the best place to tipple, bar none. Random, esoteric specials make it seem like a speakeasy: “Today, Thursday August 16 until 10 p.m., come in and say “Krueger’s Cream Ale” (the first canned beer sold, 1935) and get $2 off your first drink!” For Mardi Gras, there were $8 Sazeracs and a special Fat Tuesday Punch. Sidle up to the black walnut bar and let them mix you something special.