Happiest Hour 

James Bar

Claim to fame: A decidedly hip, urban feel with several enlarged, vintage chic, black-and-white photos featuring, among others, Janis Joplin, Keith Richards and a very young Willie Nelson. The outside front of the bar sports a long quote from Hunter S. Thompson, and the back of the building includes this Jimmy Buffett line: "We are the people our parents warned us about." The décor also includes dark wood beams with black trim, chandeliers with candle-like lights, a gas fireplace and cozy booths. Cozy, but definitely not a dive bar.

What you're drinking: Bartender Andrew Benson, pictured above, says the Lemonade James ($7) has summer flair, but patrons drink it all year.

How the barkeep makes it:

- One shot Effen Black Cherry Vodka

- Equal parts cranberry juice and lemonade

- A dash of Rose's Lime Juice

- Sugar rim

What you're eating: A full menu includes everything from sliders—you choose between lamb, lobster, bison, elk, pulled pork or beef—to smoked gouda mac and cheese. But the hottest item is something even simpler: tater tots with a side of ranch and ketchup.

click to enlarge Food_Happiest1-1.jpg

Who you're drinking with: Afternoons see younger regulars drinking, chatting at the bar or studying. When the lights dim in the evening, it's couples' night out. Large groups also congregate around the stump tables or in the sizeable plush booths. The crowd is usually swanked up a bit by Missoula standards.

Happy hour: Wine happy hour—$5 glasses—runs 2 to 5 p.m. Reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. features Pabst tallboys for $2.50.

How to find it: 127 W. Alder Street

Happiest Hour is a new column that celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail editor@missoulanews.com.

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