MY YOGA CLASS ENDS WITH THE CORPSE POSE. Morbid, right? But as I feigned death at the conclusion of my Slow Flow Hatha yoga class at the Aztlan Center, I was thinking of another kind of “flow.” The kind that comes from the neck of a liquor bottle. OK, I was already relaxed. But it was 6 o’clock in Fort Collins, and now I wanted to be happy, too. According to some 192 drinking establishments in town, this was the hour for that.
And thanks to Christian L’Orange—sounds like one of the Three Musketeers, right?—there’s an app to help you find the happy hour of your dreams and your budget. It’s called the HHAp, and it was designed by L’Orange. He’s a research scientist at CSU’s Energy Institute and focuses on “engineering for public health.” Which is fortuitous, because I was so ready to hydrate after our yoga coach Heather wrung us out with her pretzel-logic yoga poses.
So I tapped the word “martini” into the search bar on Dr. L’Orange’s app, and it delivered me to Elliot’s Martini Bar, just .3 miles away from my yoga mat. And the app delivered the wonderful news that, during Happy Hour, Elliot’s sophisticated cocktails and gooey appetizers are $2 off.
I’d met Dr. L’Orange at the Snowbank Brewery — during happy hour naturally —so he could run through the R&D (research and drinking) process that produced the app. “We actually had the solution before we launched this project,” he says, sipping his Colorado Red. “We just had to find the problem to solve with it.”
With his wife, Ashleigh L’Orange, who works in industrial health and safety, he had launched a side-hustle consulting firm. “We work well together,” he says. “Our neuroses balance each other out.” The L’Oranges had mastered a web-crawling bot that could aggregate information instantaneously. But what kind of information to seek?
As entrepreneurship often does, it came down to what sort of help they themselves needed. “We noticed that there were six out-of-date print and online sources for happy hours in Fort Collins,” L’Orange says, “but nothing that could instantly update you on deals in your area. Our app can do that.” It pays off their consulting company’s slogan—”sometimes you need an engineer”—in spades.
The app allows users to filter for the area of town, spend thresholds, and it provides icons for pet friendliness, spacious patios, ease of parking, and drink and food deals. And if you’re looking to hoist one without any kids around—or conversely, you want your kids to share the magic of discount cocktails — you can avoid (or seek out) the icon of two smiling cherubs.
HHAp is a free download on iTunes or Google Play; Google serves ads to the app and gives the creators a cut of the action. “It basically pays for our visits to these establishments,” says L’Orange. Since the app’s launch last August, it has been downloaded by 750 thirsty, thrifty, NoCo citizens. And based on that success, he and his wife also have launched an app to serve up deals at 289 Denver drinking spots, and they will soon do the same to help out bibulous Bloulderites. They even have plans for a Colorado Springs HHap, which makes sense; if you have to deal with Springs traffic, and culture, and politics, you’ve got three solid reasons to need a drink.
The HHap steered me right here in Fort Fun. Encouraged by the discount pricing at ritzy Elliot’s, I selected a Helvis bloody-tini, a dangerously delicious mix of house-infused pepper vodka, homemade bloody mix, celery bitters, plus and olive-and-onion swizzle, which harkens back to Christian’s public health emphasis: The Helvis contains vegetables! But I’m not sure it’s a good idea to sell this for $7. Over-indulgence could lead to Elvis-like dissolution, and who knows, carpet on the ceiling. You’ve been warned.
Elliot’s owner, Linda Leonhard, opened her joint in 1997; it’s been an intoxicating presence at 234 Linden St. ever since. “Back then, all you could get in Fort Collins was beer and shots,” she says. “We were the first to offer sophisticated cocktails. When we opened our doors, people went wild.”
The bartenders at Elliot’s strive to keep that hysteria going. Three times a year, they participate in an internal competition, presenting four new drinks using the bar’s signature infusions and flavored simple syrups. The winning libations make the frequently updated cocktail menu, and are all $2 off during happy hour, from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Just the thing to take the edge off after a grueling session of yoga.
BEST OF THE HAPPY HOUR APP
A web-crawling bot does the heavy lifting to update the HHAp, but Christian L’Orange adds the human element, vetting the Happy Hours himself. Herewith, his top picks for FoCo’s “five o’clock somewhere” crowd.