Enjoying a drink alone or with company at a plush bar can prove pretty pricey. Booze anywhere in the world comes with a heavy load of taxes and service charges, deftly woven into the cost of liquor and food. Sometimes, other esoteric sounding charges are piled on the final check.
The price of booze at bars and restaurants is often dictated by two factors: Location and ambience. If a bar is located in a swanky district and features chic interiors, you pay more.
Nobody drinks and dines at sleazy, seedy bars to save costs, especially when enjoying with family, business associates or colleagues.
Some bars have different charges for customer sitting inside and those relishing their drink and food under a parasol outdoors. Yet others charge a service fee if a beer or wine bottle is popped open by a waiter.
Here are some ways which can help you save a few bucks while enjoying drinks alone or with company.
1: Making most of the Happy Hour till the last minute
It is common knowledge that most bars offer cheaper drinks during the ‘Happy Hour’ every evening. Some bars have a ‘Happy Hour’ in the afternoons too. Drinks are served at prices that can be 20 percent to 50 percent lower than the menu rates.
Ordering liquor during the Happy Hour is indubitably the most common way to save costs while drinking at bars. You can order larger quantities of liquor during the Happy Hour and consume it after the discount period is over.
A word of caution: Pay for all drinks you order during the Happy Hour immediately. Some bars charge regular rates for liquor ordered during the Happy Hour but consumed later. For companions who join in after the Happy Hour, order their drinks in advance.
2: Difficult yet essential: Keeping tabs on drinks served
Keeping a record of how much liquor was consumed at your table can help cut unnecessary costs. Keep discreet tabs on the type and number of drinks ordered by each person.
People tend to forget the number of drinks they have consumed when enjoying in groups. And unscrupulous waiters are well aware of this lapse. Some utilize the situation to pad up your bill by charging for drinks that were never served.
Keeping tabs should be very discreet since guests can feel uneasy, taking away the pleasure from what was supposed to be an enjoyable time.
Sometimes a waiter may not be at fault: Guests might have ordered various quantities of drink during the evening. This can confuse restaurant staff during rush hour.
3: Be patriotic; stick to local brands:
Ritzy bars stock and serve imported liquor. A couple of shots of Scotch whisky or an exotic beer is sufficient to send your check soaring.
Several beers come in two variants- brewed at their home brewery abroad and those made locally. A can of European beer will cost almost twice of the same brand made locally. Beware of wines.
A bottle of excellent wine can cost phenomenally higher than rest of the drinks. While in Rome, live like the Romans, as the old adage runs: Ask the bartender or manager for good indigenous varieties of liquor.
With some luck you could find a great but little known brand for half the cost as your favourite.
4: Right drink does the trick:
Getting the proverbial kick sometimes proves expensive. Liquor and beer across the world comes with varying alcohol content. Some expensive whiskeys contain only about 32 percent proof alcohol while imported vodkas come loaded with a potent 90 percent.
Ask the waiter or bartender to show you the bottle of drinks your companions are ordering. It is compulsory for all distillers and brewers to indicate the percentage of alcohol on the bottle and can.
A companion on low alcohol drinks will need more booze while another will be battling to retain senses. The right choice of drinks not only saves costs but also helps avoid any undue embarrassment to the host.
5: Mixers, snacks and nibbles can eat into your pocket:
Starving guests while drinking is altogether a horrible idea. Everyone enjoys a nibble while drinking. Bars and restaurants are deft in cashing on this quirk: Their waiters suggest snacks that are priced fairly high.
Some bars offer free nibbles like peanuts or potato wedges. These are not entirely ‘free’ as one may believe: The cost is daintily embedded into the price of a drink in order to appear as gratis offerings.
Yet, these snacks help save considerably when compared with those featured on the menu. People enjoy their drink with various mixers and chasers ranging from plain water to fruit cocktail.
Ordering larger bottles of water and soda or packs of juice instead of single servings helps save considerably at bars.
6: Advance reservations to squelch last minute hiccups:
You can pre-order booze while drinking at bars provided you know the preferences and capacity of each companion.
Book your table and order the drinks in advance. Beer can be ordered by the carton and hard liquor by the volume or bottle. Restaurants gladly part with a great discount when you book table, food and drinks in advance.
Some demand a payment by credit card or cash up-front but the effort is worthwhile. This is not a great idea when inviting business associates or colleagues for a drink since people may wish to deflect from their usual brand when drinking outside.
If having a meal or dinner is inevitable, it is economical to settle for a buffet, if available.
7: Coupons actually work if you make them work:
Everyone offers a discount for everything everywhere. But you need to look for these great deals online. The great news is, the online discount coupon/ voucher system is booming.
A little effort to search the Internet for online discount coupons and vouchers will reveal a goldmine that can help you save considerably while enjoying liquor at bars.
These coupons have to be printed to reflect a barcode or QR code that entitles you to the discount or special offer. Tourism related websites of different cities and countries offer such coupons or advertise great deals available for visitors. h as passport or ticket to prove you are a visitor. With the advent of the smart-phone, some coupons can also be availed online on your handset and will come with QR Code.
8: Skipping the food: Literally
An increasing number of bars and restaurants are awaking to benefits of food served to clients. Some make it a precondition that drinkers are also required to order food- at least worth a certain percentage of the cost of liquor.
Tipsy drinkers cannot relish food since alcohol often tends to numb and flummox taste buds. Those who dine at bars will testify their lobster or steak did not taste as good while sober.
Bar owners are aware of this physiological frailty of humans and exploit it to the hilt when it comes to drinkers. Unless you are keen to feast on dull, dry, drab, uninspired fare churned out by a bar kitchen, it is best to avoid places that make ordering food mandatory as part of their policy to serve drinks.
The clause works in both ways- Medical science has conclusively proved that drinkers who consume heavy and usually high protein meals during and after their drinks do not become as boisterous as those who do not eat anything or make do with light snacks. A heavy meal can help prevent hangovers.
9: Smart payments that are not-so-smart:
It is customary to pay your check with a credit or debit card and, in some cases, with mobile e-wallets. Such payments are fine provided your bank or service provider does not levy service charges on a credit or debit card and e-wallet.
Most banks and e-wallet providers will charge a hefty service fee if you are paying a check in a foreign country.
You will also pay more by means of currency conversion meaning, if you are settling a check in Euros while your account is for US$, the bank will “buy” your dollars and “sell” you Euros.
The card user is at a disadvantage both ways unless you have an explicit agreement with the bank on foreign currency exchange on card purchases. It is best to pay cash.
10: Reward yourself richly with loyalty programs:
Check for discounts and benefits offered by your credit card and debit card issuers and frequent flyer programs. Most card users and frequent flyers are unaware of great deals they can avail daily.
Loyalty programs are designed to ensure your continued patronage of a particular brand and its promoters spare no effort to tie-up with commercial establishments such as bars and restaurants around the globe to offer discounts.
If such discounts are indeed available and using a credit or debit card far outweighs its disadvantages as said earlier, it is advisable to settle checks using plastic money. A whole world of loyalty programs that can be applied for online awaits your click on the Internet.
Customs and traditions at bars and restaurants vary according to their location. A little browsing to acquaint yourself with practices peculiar to any particular place can help save considerably while enjoying your liquor.