When sipping on a budget, there are myriad ways to pinch pennies without compromising flavor. For tips and tricks for getting a buzz without spending your whole paycheck on drinks, we asked Helen Buford, owner of Julius’ in NYC, for advice on how to get the best deals from your bartenders.
First, it’s important to know what not to ask. “There are questions that are asked of bartenders, like ‘make my drink stronger’ and whatnot,” Buford says. “I can tell you from an owner’s perspective, when people do that, they’re, in essence, asking the bartender to steal from the owner by pouring more alcohol.” While some bartenders may follow such instructions in the hopes of receiving a larger tip, most loyal employees will either make such patrons a regular serve, or charge them for the extra spirit.
If a boozier beverage is your goal, Buford suggests simply ordering a double. In that case, she says, “what you’re doing is you’re getting double the alcohol, but you’re also paying for that.” Another option is to order an extra shot on the side of your drink, which you can pour into your cocktail as you please. But beware: Adding extra booze to a cocktail will change its overall profile, which could throw off a precisely measured drink.
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If you’re only able to pay for a single serve but want something on the stronger side, Buford says, there are cocktails available on every bar menu that are naturally higher in proof. “If you’re doing a Martini, for instance, which is basically all alcohol, that’s a stronger drink,” she says. While popular drinks like the rum and Coke or vodka soda include non-alcoholic mixers, popular cocktails like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Negroni are made only with boozy ingredients, resulting in naturally stronger beverages.
Prefer lower-ABV drinks but don’t want to pay typical bar prices? “You can certainly look for happy-hour pricing, where you know you’re getting well drinks,” Buford says, referring to simple drinks made with bottom-shelf, “house” liquors.
While this may not be ideal for patrons with particular spirits preferences, it’s a great way to drink more for less. “You’re not getting the high-end stuff, but you’re getting well drinks, and you’re getting them at a discount price,” Buford says. Such deals are available at almost every NYC establishment, varying in hours but typically offered in the late afternoon, after the 9-to-5 workday.