Let’s face it. We live in a pretty restricted world.
We can’t (legally) steal that Vanity Fair from our local Duane Reade. We can’t (legally) strip down naked and run through Times Square. And we certainly can’t (legally) drink rum straight out of the bottle in the middle of the street.
Often, however, many of our restrictions are self-imposed. I, for one, have never tried bacon and probably never will, since I (sort of) keep kosher. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been curious. Oh, how much easier life would be if there were a kosher equivalent to that crispy, smoky slab. I’ve tried vegan bacon, and I’m almost positive it’s nothing like the real thing.
Even just being a college student comes with a whole slew of restrictions—money, time, age, and the list goes on. But how does one maneuver around these limits? How does one bend the rules without actually breaking them? I’m on a quest to find out.
My first challenge was to find how to drink for dirt-cheap in the city. During the process, I learned two important things about Manhattan: First, that it’s extremely easy to get drunk for under $5, and second, that it’s even easier to get drunk for free. For a college student whose only income comes from an occasional baby-sitting gig here and there, this recent revelation proved even more valuable than my freshman-year discovery of CULPA and Hewitt pizza.
Manhattan caters fairly well to the frugal drinker. Bars all over the island offer very reasonable drink deals and not only during happy hour. Monday nights at The Stumble Inn (1454 Second Avenue, at 76th Street), draft beers are only $1. A bit closer to home, Jake’s Dilemma’s (430 Amsterdam Avenue, at 81st Street) specials range from Saturday Power Hour ($1 drafts and $2 house shots) to Thursday night’s $12 Bucket of Beer (5 beers altogether, $2.40 each). At The Gin Mill (442 Amsterdam Avenue, at 81st Street), also not far from campus, the entire bar is half-off for Columbia students every Thursday from 8 p.m. to closing. In Morningside, Lion’s Head (995 Amsterdam Avenue, at 109th Street) offers $1 beers on Wednesdays.
Bring some friends, roughly $5 (depending on how much you’ve eaten and how high your tolerance is) and you’ll be golden by the time 11 p.m. rolls around.
Now, if spending money really isn’t your thing, there’s another option out there: winning a free happy hour. At MJ Armstrong’s (329 First Avenue, at 19th Street), drinkers can sign up and enter their names into a lottery, and the bar contacts them if they’ve won, sometimes up to a month later. The winner can indulge in a free open bar from 6 to 9 p.m. and friends get half off drinks.
The Village Pourhouse’s (982 Amsterdam Avenue, at 107th Street) deal is even sweeter. Simply joining their fan page on Facebook automatically enters your name into a lottery. When you win, you get to choose the date and time of the happy hour, and up to 40 people you invite can drink for free.
The best and probably the quickest way to drink for free in New York is also one of my favorite ways to spend my free time—gallery hopping. On a Thursday or Friday night, Chelsea is bustling with artists, celebrities, and art critics. It’s also overflowing with free booze. (Some of the big-name galleries like Gagosian don’t serve alcohol, but many of the smaller ones do.) Two weeks ago, I went downtown to Chelsea to the opening of a new photography exhibit, and, in addition to the exhibition, the gallery offered a very nice drink selection. The margaritas were delicious and strong. For the less adventurous hoppers, the staple red and white wines were available. Everything was free. And of course, I went up for at least three refills.
So embrace your liberty, keep your change, and remember, have no shame. Get that extra refill and take that $1 shot.