I will inquire into no man's reasons for taking a drink at any hour except 6:00 P.M. They are his affair and he has a rich variety of liquors to choose from according to his whim or need; may they reward him according to his deserts and well beyond. But when evening quickens in the street, comes a pause in the day's occupation that is known as the cocktail hour. It marks the lifeward turn. The heart wakens from coma and its dyspnea ends. Its strengthening pulse is to cross over into campground, to believe that the world has not been altogether lost, or, if lost, then not altogether in vain. But it cannot make the grade alone. It needs help; it needs, my brethern, all the help it can get. It needs a wife (or some other charming woman) of attuned impulse and equal impatience and maybe two or three friends, but no more than two or three. these gathered together in a softly lighted room and, with them what it needs most of all, the bounty of alcohol. Hence the cocktail. After dinner you may, if you like, spend an hour or so sipping a jigger of whiskey diluted to any attenuation that matches your whim with soda or branch water. But at 6:00 P.M. we must have action. When we summon life to reveal forgotten benisons and give us ourselves again, we do so peremptorily. Confirm that hope, set the beacon burning, and be quick about it. So no water.
~ Bernard DeVoto (1948) The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto