Bottoms Up: A guide to open bar crashing

February 18, 2010

It was Booker T. Washington who said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” Washington, master orator that he was, apparently never attended an open bar reception.

Well, I have—as recently as this past month, too. And though Washington’s dictum may be true in some contexts—when establishing a school for freed slaves, for example—I’m fairly certain that imbibing fine liquors on The Man’s dime is not one of them.

I have a fair bit of expertise in this area. In my formative years, when I served as a Senate intern, my disreputable friends and I made a game of seeking out the wettest lobbyist receptions that the Hill had to offer. Take, for example, the American Beverage Association’s get-together in an ornate Capitol room, at which a jovial Coca-Cola executive ordered me a rum and Coke—and a damn good one, at that.

Sadly, my attendance at open bar events has fallen off precipitously in recent years. In my time at Georgetown, I count three times when I became inebriated on Jack DeGioia’s dime. And one of them—a Senior Dis-O event stocked with Blue Moon keg after Blue Moon keg—hardly counts anyway.

Nonetheless, let me offer this warning to those hoping to labor their livers at a Georgetown reception. The bounties that an open bar on the Hilltop can offer are great, but a blunder can be cataclysmic. One second you’re coolly sipping your gin and tonic, ready to mingle—and the next you’re tottering towards the University president to compliment his tie.

To successfully navigate these shin-digs and avoid such an unfortunate fate, I offer a few pieces of advice:

Always bring an accomplice.

There’s nothing worse than standing alone while chattering guests around you mingle away. You’ll stick out like the thirsty, out-of-place college student that you are. Chat with your friend as you quaff refreshing vodka tonics until you’re feeling bold enough to talk to the adults around you.

Learn how to order your drink of choice in advance.

I spied the Johnnie Walker Black the moment I walked into the Alumni Association awards dinner a few weeks ago. Wisely, I called my dad before ordering to ask him the proper way to order scotch (neat, with a small amount of water, or, my preference, on the rocks). Unwisely, when my turn came to order, I coolly said, “Johnnie Rocker, please,” before registering my mistake. The bartender looked at me and I swear he shook his head. James Bond makes it look easy, but it’s not.

Don’t forget to pace yourself.

Knock back one too many cups of jungle juice at a Village B rager and you might wake up the next day with blurry memories of heaving into a foreign toilet and no idea how you got home. Needless to say, you’re expected to be slightly more mature at a reception because the potential for embarrassment a great deal higher. But as the event is winding down, don’t be afraid to speed up. I’ve been told vodka goes bad after it’s been sitting out too long, and wasting alcohol is a sin (or at least it should be).

So there you have it. May these lessons bring you as much satisfaction and satiation as they’ve brought me over the years—or, to be on the safe side, maybe just a little bit less.

Have Sam dirty on the rocks at ssweeney@georgetownvoice.com.


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