Who doesn't love Happy Hour? If you're like me, you welcome the opportunity to try out a new bar or restaurant or revisit a favorite haunt. Bargain prices and smaller crowds are always a bonus, of course, but perhaps the very best reason of all? You can be safely home and in your sweatpants by 8 pm. The illusion of a bonafide night on the town without the flash of regret that comes when the lights flicker on at last call. Really, what could be better? I've taken it upon myself to scope out some of Santa Fe's best happy hours at a few of the city's beloved locales.

La Boca

Tapas at La Boca

There's something delightfully sinful about ducking into a bar at 3 pm while the sun blazes overhead. If you want to catch the happy hour specials at this little gem of an establishment, that's just what you must do. 3-5 pm on weekdays you can experience the renowned tapas appetizers and fresh sangria that this award-winning restaurant is known for. With its simple, unpretentious decor and intimate seating, La Boca is all about quality ingredients and adventurous flavors.

I justified the early hour by ordering the light and citrusy kale salad and hummus trio, both of which were fantastic. The blood orange sangria paired perfectly with the Mediterranean flare and slight spice of the hummus, making this a fab late-afternoon treat. Happy hour menu includes a selection of half-price appetizers, $5 sangria, and other beer and wine priced $4-7.


Tasty cocktails at Secreto

Secreto is one of those places where I could linger all day and into the night. I've always had a love for hotel bars, and Secreto, located in the historic Hotel St. Francis, is up there with one of my faves. Popular amongst tourists and locals alike, this is no humdrum lounge. On a nice day, the action is on the patio.

Sitting under the grand arches that face Don Gaspar, I watch as smiling guests unload from shuttle vans, stopping for a beverage before even checking in to their rooms. Groups of girlfriends lean in for chips and salsa while sipping on artfully inspired cocktails. Bicyclists dismount and head in for refreshments. There is a special liveliness here, a kind of artsy-traveller-vibe that gives the atmosphere life and energy.

And, oh, those aforementioned cocktails! Who could resist the signature margarita, the "Agave Way"?  It's an award-winner made with red grapes, New Mexico green chile, Espolón Reposado Tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar. The fresh ingredients make good on the "Garden to Glass" credo that the bar is known for. The use of seasonal spices and herbs such as basil, sage, and rosemary are combined inventively with local produce to deliver wholly original (and dangerously delicious) libations. If you're feeling sassy, ask one of the talented mixologists to surprise you and delight in the creativity of these concoctions. Happy Hour at Secreto is every day 5-7 pm. All specialty drinks $7, all appetizers $7, 16 oz. draft beers $5, $1 off wines by the glass.


Grown up drinks at Agave

Agave is hip and modern with an elegant nod to the southwest in decor. The low lighting and deep tones of wood and leather are inviting and relaxing. Located inside the Eldorado Hotel, this place is serious about fresh ingredients and has perfected the blending of tequila into some mighty fine cocktails. If you are a tequila aficionado, Agave is your dream come true.

I chose the jalapeño-infused "Picante." It had just enough bite, but smooth and not too sweet and the fresh-squeezed lime juice paired perfectly with the tequila. This is a grown up margarita without the syrupy, sugary mix and I loved it. I made the very wise decision to order the spinach artichoke dip. The use of tangy feta melted in was a divine touch. The warm pita made it all the easier to clean the plate.

Happy hour is daily 4-7 pm and includes $3 draft beer, $5 house wines and cocktails, and half-priced appetizers. If you are out late, Agave is one of the handful of places serving until midnight and, as a bonus, they do a reverse happy hour. If you come in after 10:30pm, the happy hour pricing is good until closing. Win-win all around!

Blue Corn Cafe

Chile Mac and Cheese at Blue Corn Cafe

Just steps from the bustling Plaza is the Blue Corn Cafe, a welcome respite from a day of shopping and sightseeing. Tucked upstairs in the Plaza Mercado, the restaurant has an open, airy feel with the windows open to let in the breeze. The decor is subtle, in earth tones of ochre and Saltillo.

The happy hour special that day was the house margarita ($7.25) and the green chile mac and cheese. When in Rome, right? I situated myself so I could see people walking along the street and feel the cool air. The drink came (and went) quickly. It was served in a tall glass, but wasn't too strong or sweet. The mac and cheese was sinfully rich with just the right spice level. A decadent midday treat, to say the least. I made a promise to myself to only eat spinach for dinner after this stop.

If you love beer, check out their other location, The Blue Corn Brewery, for fresh, local taps and happy hour specials as well.

The Living Room at Loretto

Lounging at the Inn at Loretto

The aptly named bar inside of the Inn at Loretto, The Living Room, is tailor-made for socializing. The inviting and comfy sofas and chairs, the dark wood and copper, and the crackling fire all combine to make this a perfect place to gather with friends.

The "happy hour and a half" from 5-6:30 pm gave me an extra half hour to enjoy my $6 Cabernet. If you’re out late and get the munchies, The Living Room offers a reverse happy hour 9-10 pm. Drink specials are available, along with discounted appetizers like buffalo sliders, garlic shrimp with chorizo, red chile BBQ ribs, tortilla soup, chips + guacamole, as well as the famous carrot cake. Hey, no one says you can't bar hop back to where you started!

From lively and arty, to polished and refined, Santa Fe offers ample opportunity to experience great deals and innovative cocktails and cuisines from a diverse array of eateries. Get out there and discover why Happy Hour is so appropriately named.