How Did You Get Booze Before You Were 21? 

It was always a nervous moment, but also kind of exciting: the bell rings on Friday afternoon, high school lets out, and the quest for beer/wine/liquor begins in earnest. Sometimes it ended up with stolen parental vodka (warm!), sipped desperately from a smudged Tupperware container; other nights, the jackpot, somebody’s older sibling back in town from college, providing the parched masses with case upon case of beer? it hasn’t tasted so good since. The city’s barkeeps kindly shared with us their own tales of misspent youth.

Caren

Where she presides:Nightingale Lounge, East Village
Favorite drink: Martini straight up, a bit dirty

We asked older friends in college, and then I would go drink in their dorm rooms. You know, when you were like, 18, freshmen in college. We’d get in trouble sometimes with the RA when we got too loud ? you weren’tsupposed to have any alcohol in the rooms ? but that was pretty much the only problem.

Mike

Where he presides: Blue and Gold, East Village
Favorite drink: Beer

I just went to bars. I grew up in this neighborhood. No one cared. I’ve been drinking around here for 15, 16 years. I’m 33. I drank openly. Cops didn’t care, they had better things to do. I’d go to the Sly Fox, Sophies, McSorley’s, Grassroots, Village Idiot. Back in the 80s a guy standing at the door checking IDs was unheard of. It was nobody’s concern in the city.

Ruby

Where she presides: Soft Spot, Williamsburg
Favorite drink: Jameson with two
cubes of ice

My friends and I bought our first bottle of vodka when I was 13. It was never a problem. That was back when Mayor Koch was in office ? it was like the Wild West. We went to bars when we were 15. I never got busted and I never had a fake ID. There was this one jazz club Uptown called Augie’s where we could go drink. The owner knew all the kids in the neighborhood, and as long as we didn’t get out of line he didn’t care. He was like our drunken camp counselor.

Dave

Where he presides: Cedar Tavern, Union Square
Favorite drink: Patron Silver and a Bud

In all honesty, my Mom lived in Texas and my old man lived here. Out Texas way, we had to wait till someone would buy it for us. Here, though, it was never a problem. I mean, you couldn’t just go into a bodega on Fifth Avenue, but say over on Avenue A. Back then we used to call Avenue A, “Avenue Aware.” Then it was Avenue Beware, Avenue Caution and Avenue Death. Out in Brooklyn you could buy forties anywhere. The seedier the better. Also, in the 80s you could get great fake IDs. The Playland Arcade up in Times Square ? the nastiest arcade, but they made really great, realistic looking IDs. Which, for the record, I was arrested in Texas and I did have my ID confiscated.

Autumn

Where she presides: Finnerty’s, East Village
Favorite drink: Brooklyn Lager

Oh wow. I actually got arrested when I was 17 for stealing wine from Kroger. No, not a proud moment. Not my smartest hour. What kind of wine? Boone’s or something like that. Hey, we were 17! My boyfriend ended up bailing me out after about five hours. I remember calling my parents every hour saying, ‘Um, I’m not going to make curfew!’

Anna

Where she presides: Finnerty’s, East Village
Favorite drink: Autumn’s Margaritas

Well, I’m from California. What we did was stand outside the store and ask older people to go in and buy stuff for us. We never had any problems getting the alcohol. I could tell you some stories about drinking the alcohol though.


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