The Mansion gin and tonic is $9 during happy hour.

The Mansion gin and tonic is $9 during happy hour.

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

On a Friday night, when there's a good band playing and the place is hip-to-hip with Guccied-up regulars, the clubby Mansion Bar turns into a fantastically swanky, slightly campy scene. As I left it behind for the sedate dining room, I couldn't wait to go back. And its happy hour seemed like the ideal, more affordable experience for a Smart Order column.

You don't need a six-figure salary to afford the Mansion Bar's new happy hour

But weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Mansion Bar may be the most ungenerous happy hour around. All of the food is still full-price. Only three cocktails are reduced to $9. Anticipating the crowd, I asked about reserving a table: It's a $75 per-person minimum. But no worries, because the music doesn't start until 7:30 on Thursdays through Saturdays, so there were plenty of seats.

At these hours, the bar is a quiet refuge, shared with a few other early arrivers and their $21 burgers, and the half-price wines by the glass are the best bet. Order the Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé for $16 ($160 a bottle on the menu) or the 2015 Bouchard Père and Fils Premier Cru Burgundy for $12.50 (still young, but with beautiful aromatics). You might even take a couple of friends and construct a DIY flight of three pinot noirs with California's Au Bon Climat ($8.50) and Lemelson Vineyards Thea's Selection from Oregon ($9.50) alongside the Bouchard.

Tell your friends the valet parking is free.

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