The profits of the booze trade during the Prohibition era went underground, building empires for crime lords and fueling corruption at every level of government — all without making America sober.
On Dec 5, 1933, however, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment signaling the end of prohibition. Liquor once again flowed freely and the date was enshrined as Repeal Day.
To capture the true spirit of the time, it’s only right to celebrate the repeal of prohibition by spending as little money as possible on alcohol. Here are seven ways to save money next time you go out drinking.
Drink From the Well
The most expensive liquors in the bar are also usually the most visible. Bartenders place the good stuff up high where everyone can see it, leading to the term “top shelf.” On the other end of the spectrum is well liquor.
Cheap and plentiful, well liquor is the least expensive gin, vodka, tequila, rum, bourbon, brandy, Scotch and whiskey that the bar serves. It’s often kept out of sight in the bartender’s speed rack, also called the well.
Here’s the deal: If you order a rum and Coke at the bar and the bartender asks what kind of rum, just tell him “well” instead of “Bacardi.” And boom — your bill goes down.
Go to Happy Hour
Happy Hour has been a thing since at least 1913, when the Navy still allowed sailors to drink on ships. Today, the term is associated with cheap drinks at odd hours when bars and restaurants sling reduced-price booze to draw a crowd at busy times. Referred to by Vinepair as “alcoholic Christmas,” happy hour allows for an almost frantic level of drinking on a budget before the bartender shouts the ominous words, “last call for happy hour.”
If you go to happy hour, consider drinking wine. According to the National Restaurant Association, patrons drink far more wine and far fewer spirits at happy hour than they do at night. Therefore, bar owners are encouraged to discount wine even further during timed day binges. Unlike margaritas and other common happy hour mixed drinks, wine can’t be watered down, which makes happy hour a great time to indulge in what can otherwise be a pricey glass — or bottle — of wine.
Get a Growler
You might not realize this, but your local brewery — which often includes a restaurant or bar — sells big half-gallon jugs called growlers emblazoned with the brewery’s name and logo. This is much more than a gift shop souvenir or brewery tour marketing ploy.
You buy a growler once and only once — upon your first fill. From there, you can take the empty growler back to refill at the brewery to drink at home for a lower price over and over again, provided your state permits it. In California, anyone can fill any growler with any label at any brewery.
Avoid Microbrews and Drink Domestic
Microbrews are defined by the Brewers Association as “a brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site.” These are often ales like IPA and stout, but microbrews can also be lagers. Either way, without the benefit of mass production in high volume, high costs get passed on to hip and trendy customers. A bottle of Russian River Consecration, for example, will run you $23.90. Another small-batch ale, Allagash Midnight Brett, costs $24.78 per bottle. A single serving of Lost Abbey Deliverance will set you back $25.29.
Instead, try drinking some more inexpensive beers. The 20 least expensive beers are all mass produced in large breweries right here in the U.S., according to data compiled by Priceonomics from BeerMenus.com. The top five cheapest beers, which range between $2.13 and $2.78, are Busch Light, Natural Light, Old Milwaukee, Stroh’s and Hamm’s.
Pre-Game Before You Go Out
In states where the government has a monopoly on alcohol, beer and liquor is sold in state stores and ABC outlets, which mark up prices 25 to 45 percent from wholesale. Private liquor stores mark up prices as much as 50 percent. All of that is child’s play compared to bars and restaurants, which expect to make a profit of between 70 and 80 percent on adult beverages.
The solution? Drink as much as you can before you go out. A classic college money-saving move, pre-gaming could take place anywhere and consist of any alcoholic drinks. The idea is to consume as few drinks as humanly possible at the bar, where prices are highest.
Drinking a glass of water between drinks can help you slow down your buzz, according to Men’s Fitness, as well as the growth of your beer gut. But staying hydrated can also save you money. A glass of ice water with lemon is free essentially everywhere. You’ll be able to pace yourself, you’ll give your wallet a break and, perhaps best of all, you’ll likely reduce the severity of your hangover the next day.
Try Malt Liquor
Iconic, not-so-glamorous and hip in a retro kind of way, the classic 40 has long been advertised to the young and the broke, who are often the same people. Malt liquor (which is not actually liquor) is about 20 percent stronger than “regular” beer, and it generally costs significantly less.
Classics like Olde English, Cobra, St. Ide’s, Mickey’s and, of course, Colt 45 use heartier yeast and more fermentables in the mash. Brewers add enzymes to break down complex sugars in the ingredients, which results in more punch for less operating cost — and a cheaper buzz for you.
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Between 2006 and 2015, Americans bought around $220 billion worth of drinks — all thanks to the repeal of prohibition in 1933. Dec. 5 is a symbolic day for drinkers everywhere, as it represents one of the only times in history where the government acknowledged a mistake, reversed a law and legalized something millions of people were doing anyway. Today, celebrate Repeal Day by legally drinking as much as you want — but for as little money as possible.