With Memorial Day weekend fading into memory as quickly as Heidi Montag's natural breasts, recent grads and college-age Bros from around the country are flocking to New York City to embark on summer-long internships and set up shop for a post-grad job. Many transplants quickly discover drinking in New York to be vastly different from drinking anywhere else: 24/7 public transportation means you'll never have to get behind the wheel; "closing time" is virtually non-existent; and getting you and your intended hook-up trashed can cost almost as much as a liver transplant, depending on your nightlife habits. Although the Hudson River view at Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort or the Empire State Building panorama at 230 Fifth is just as much of a sure thing panty dropper as a Kenny Loggins cassette tape in 1984, there's no need to blow the bank on an overpriced bar tab and skyline view, particularly when you're living on a modest stipend -- if you're lucky.
Summer intern season is now in high swing in New York, so I've slapped together a handful of useful resources and tips interns and recent grads can use to get completely blitzed for free — or at least cheaply — in one of the most expensive cities in America. It's no guarantee you'll leave with a BAC that would make Rip Torn break into a bank, but it's a pretty good start if you're trying to get your bearings on New York's ritualistic culture of after-work/weekend imbibing without committing a felony (i.e.: robbing a liquor store) or walking out on a bar tab. For the most part, it's intended for new New Yorkers, not booze hounds who have lived in the five boroughs for a couple of years. However, you're more than welcome to chime with your own tricks in the comments.
Booze Party is perhaps the ultimate booze guide to Bros planning on living the lush life in New York. First of all, you know this thing is a goldmine of information since the header image is the infamous guy in a snap-back puking face next to some tool holding a plastic cup. Whether it's an open house party or a bar with a free tequila promotion, Booze Party promises and delivers the goods when it comes to free parties in the City. A word to the wise for the casually late: Booze Party has developed a rabid following over the last few months and the open bar booze promos usually don't last long. Your best bet is to show up as early as possible to guzzle free drinks before the bar or party runs dry.
Befriend a bartender or bar owner, club/liquor/beer promoter
Besides being born as a chick, befriending a bartender or — better yet, a bar owner — is always the easiest way to drink for free, no matter the location. Obviously this takes patience, diligence, and enough repeat trips for the bartender and other regulars to identifying your barfly loyalty and begin sneaking you pro bono drinks. Sure, it's going to be somewhat of a self-serving friendship, but that probably won't be a problem the first time you manage to get hammered without cringing at a hundred-dollar tab.
If your only goal is to drink as much as possible without denting your wallet, check out Drink Deal. This impressive database of happy hour specials is perhaps the biggest and best maintained on the Net. Best of all, users can search for freebies by neighborhood, so you quickly discover a bar where everybody knows your name without the crosstown cab ride.
If you're plugged into Twitter, and located in New York, start following @pulsejfk right now. The person behind this thing blasts out drink specials, free open bars, free food, and free concerts 24/7.
Liquor and Wine store tastings
Depending on the neighborhood, most liquor stores plan weekly or monthly in-store hooch tastings. Just ask whoever is behind the counter and save the date. Most tastings are typically casual walk-in, walk-out affairs to promote a varietal of wine or liquor, so you're not going to leave inebriated and probably don't want to roll in with a 25-deep crew to pre-game before hitting a bar on a Friday night. If you plan it right, a free tasting can be a mellow start to a cheap weeknight date. That said, you won't win any bonus points when trying to woo her back to your place for being an el cheapo.
Two years ago, Free NYC boasted an impressive array of raucous open bars and reigned king as the premiere resource for free firewater. Now Free NYC mostly focuses on free gallery openings and concerts. Occasionally a beer or wine freebie pops up, so it's worth throwing in the rotation of websites to prowl daily for an inexpensive alternative to get shitfaced on a budget
Movie/TV Premieres and Wrap Parties
While interning over a few summers back, one of my craziest weeknight benders began knocking back free Chivas with a bunch of Belgian journalists at the after party for the premiere of an obscure doc*mentary film. Things got weird. Advice to recent grads and interns: it's not advised to show up to your corporate internship wearing the same clothes you were wearing the day before and reeking of Jenever.
- A. Movie/TV Premieres and After-Parties: For the most part, after parties at movie premieres are almost always a free bar, unless it's some existentialist indie horror art house flick by a director who thinks he's the next Brett Ratner and a cast of acting school no-names who try too hard to be the next Peter Sarsgaard. Even major doc*mentary premieres and Adam Sandler's latest family comedy has a kick-ass after party. Even if you weren't invited, there's still a pretty good chance you can get in by walking the walk and talking the talk. If you're hassled by overzealous doormen, the key to getting in a D-, C-, and even B-list ragers is being able to name-drop key players associated with the film (i.e. cast, director, producer, screenwriter, etc) or party (i.e. the catering company or alcohol brand sponsoring the event).
- B. Wrap Parties: There's lot of tediously dull and monotonous work in making a feature-length film or TV series. When the director calls it a wrap on weeks or months of shooting, everyone usually wants to celebrate their combined effort by getting as f*cked up as possible and blurring the boundaries of a professional relationship by hooking up with each other. If you have friends slaving away as interns or coffee-fetchers in New York's TV or film industry, don't hesitate at a chance to attend a wrap party, where the liquor flows as free as the botox injections on Sarah Jessica Parker's face.
Book/Fashion/Magazine/Art Gallery/Website Launch Parties
Whether writers and artists admit it or not, drinking's pretty damn important to New York City's identity as a cultural Mecca. After all, it's where Dylan Thomas bragged about drinking 18 straight whiskeys from a West Village watering hole (The White Horse Tavern) and the spiritual home of the Bloody Mary and Manhattan, among other cocktails. Thus, when a book hits the shelves, a fashion designer launches a new label, or an artist showcases their latest work, everyone typically wants to celebrate with an open bar blowout — or at least a bunch of booze. Keep your antennas tuned in to Time Out New York, New York Magazine, NY Art Beat, Flavorpill, and all the aforementioned online party aggregates to stay in the know about when and where these events are occurring.
Much to the chagrin of many a Bro, Myopenbar pats itself on the back for getting "many a hipster soused." It's enough for a Bro to gag in one's mouth while squeamishly reaching for a Busch Lite. If you have no plans for happy hour and don't mind drinking in Williamsburg or the Lower East Side with women wearing second-hand bras from thrift stores and ironically mustached men who look like they just got kicked off Barnum and Bailey's circus train, check out their daily party listings.
Thrillist, Urban Daddy
Befriend your babbling, drunken neighborhood bum
I guarantee you a man who sleeps on a bench, steals stale, three-day-old donuts from Tim Horton's, smokes discarded cigarette butts off the sidewalk, rants about the end of the world, and chases Boones Farm by chugging down shots of mouthwash is an expert at getting f*cked up for free. It might be a little depressing, but at least you'll have a drinking buddy.
Remember to tip your bartenders. New Yorkers, if you have tips for getting shitfaced for free, sound off in the comments. D.C. interns, you're also welcome to share your own tricks for getting trashed inside the Beltway.