The Bar Guide for Turning 21


Jenna Wiley, Editor-in-Chief

You’re finally turning 21. Gone are the days of relying on your older friends to buy you beer. It’s finally up to you to navigate the bar scene by yourself, hopefully without looking like a newbie or making too many mistakes along the way.



Over time, you’ll come to realize that it pays to be friendly with the doorman. Any time they give you trouble, it’s probably because he or she is just plain bored. I mean, just think of what their job entails: soberly sitting for hours, sometimes in the cold, ushering in young, drunken crazies until the wee hours of the morning. Not the most fun job, if you ask me. Instead of acting stiff and defensive with the bouncer, be nice, ask how they’re doing. Maybe next time, they’ll remember you and let you in free of charge.



Choosing your first legal drink can be a real headache if you aren’t quite sure about your preferences. While ordering, you’ll be faced with a number of questions: “Draft or bottle?” “Type of liquor?” “Open tab, closed tab?” And, if you aren’t ready, things can get complicated fast.

The moral of the story is to at least talk to your friends before approaching the bar instead of assuming you’ll pick your favorite drink on the first try. Chances are, discovering your drink of choice will actually take a while and a lot of taste testing.



Be forewarned, a night out on the town ain’t cheap. By the time you pay any possible cover fees at the door, two or more drinks for yourself and a round for your friends, you’re looking at … well, a lot of hard-earned money spent. How do you enjoy your 21-year-old self, while living on a student budget? It’s all about strategy.
Find the bars with no cover fees, specials on drinks and ahem… ladies, look for bars with a good male to female ratio so you can get a free drink or two. And, gentlemen, be sure to choose wisely when buying drinks for girls. Make sure the girl you’ve got your eye on won’t just run away with her cranberry vodka immediately after it’s handed to her.


Whether you like it or not, turning 21 means that everyone around you is going to try and get you a tad more drunk than you should ever be. Another shocker that most 21-year-olds forget: you can refuse drinks and go on to live a full and healthy life. Actually, I recommend it.

When I first turned 21 everyone bought a round of shots and I drank more than my newbie 21-year-old body should have drank. It’s OK to refuse drinks and shots that others buy you. They’re not the ones that will be suffering the next day with an agonizing hangover.